Maybe McCain needs a new hobby

MAYBE MCCAIN NEEDS A NEW HOBBY…. For quite a while, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has done his best to “prove” that the Recovery Act that prevented a depression was chock full o’ waste and abuse. His crusade would be more effective if he knew what he was talking about.

Last year, for example, he used Twitter to highlight what he considered “the top 10 pork barrel projects” in the stimulus, which McCain described as his idea of “a lot of fun.” Some cursory research found that most of McCain’s examples weren’t wasteful at all.

In one classic example, McCain blasted “$650,000 for beaver management in North Carolina and Mississippi,” asking, “How does one manage a beaver?” Hilarious. In Grown-Up land, $650,000 in stimulus funds hired workers to disrupt beaver dams, which in turn prevented significant flood damage to farms, timber lands, roadways, and other infrastructure in the area. The Arizonan neglected to do his homework, and ended up blasting a worthwhile project for no reason.

McCain’s still at it, hosting another press conference this morning to whine some more about alleged “waste” in the recovery efforts, and tout a “report” that he had some aides put together pointing to 100 examples of funds that shouldn’t have been spent. Jared Bernstein, Vice President Biden’s chief economist, found McCain’s work lacking.

Now, we’re always glad to take a second look at projects when concerns are raised. In fact, there’s never been a stimulus program of this magnitude with anywhere near the amount of oversight that’s been brought to bear on the Recovery Act. And when we find a problem, we fix it. We’ve shut down hundreds of projects that weren’t delivering the goods.

But the inaccuracy of McCain/Coburn in this regard renders this report just as unreliable as the last two. We followed up the projects in those reports, and found half of their claims to be flat-out false or misleading. Many of the others criticized worthwhile, job-creating projects. […]

In the current report, our review so far finds that five of the 100 projects are not even Recovery Act projects. And others are just blatantly wrong on the facts.

One of the programs McCain considered the most offensive — #9 out of 100 — was a power plant in Kern County, California, at a cost of $308 million. The program is still on track to create 1,500 construction jobs, and 500 long-term jobs in alternative energy at the plant after its completion. It’s even been endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce. But McCain apparently considers it a terrific example to prove his point because the plant isn’t finished yet.

What McCain may not realize is that he’s actually helping prove his opponents’ point. If the stimulus was so wasteful, he’d be able to come up with actual examples to bolster his argument, and not resort to making stuff up.

It’s possible the Republican senator is feeling pretty foolish about how wrong he was, so throwing tantrums is his way of coping with the embarrassment. That’s fine, I suppose, but the result still leaves McCain looking like a petty, partisan hack.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.