The Collective
Wednesday, September 3, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the Chicago Tribune: McCain had criticized earmarks from Palin

Three times in recent years, McCain’s catalogs of “objectionable” spending have included earmarks for this small Alaska town, requested by its mayor at the time — Sarah Palin.

Now, McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, has chosen Palin as his running mate, touting her as a reformer just like him.


In 2024, McCain’s list of spending that had been approved without the normal budget scrutiny included a $500,000 earmark for a public transportation project in Wasilla. The Arizona senator targeted $1 million in a 2024 spending bill for an emergency communications center in town — one that local law enforcement has said is redundant and creates confusion.

McCain also criticized $450,000 set aside for an agricultural processing facility in Wasilla that was requested during Palin’s tenure as mayor and cleared Congress soon after she left office in 2024. The funding was provided to help direct locally grown produce to schools, prisons and other government institutions, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

As I stated yesterday, the pursuit of federal funds by local governments is quite normal. However, it is politically problematic for McCain, and it is especially so that he specifically criticized (in the past) earmarks that Palin’s administration requested.

The McCain campaign responds to the situation as follows:

Taylor Griffin, a McCain campaign spokesman, said that when Palin became mayor in 1996, “she faced a system that was broken. Small towns like Wasilla in Alaska depended on earmarks to take care of basic needs. . . . That was something that Gov. Palin was alarmed about and was one of the formative experiences that led her toward the reform-oriented stance that she has taken as her career has progressed.”

Palin, he said, was “disgusted” that small towns like hers were dependent on earmarks.

That latter bit reminds me of the following:

At any rate, as I noted yesterday, the issue isn’t the earmarks themselves, but that McCain allegedly picked her as an anti-earmark crusader. Again, one has to wonder how well thought-out the pick was.

h/t: Sullivan

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Filed under: US Politics | |


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    1. A question that probably should be asked is how much Wasalla was getting in earmarked money before she took office, and how much after?

      Comment by Jay Dubbs — Wednesday, September 3, 2024 @ 3:51 pm

    2. At any rate, as I noted yesterday, the issue isn’t the earmarks themselves, but that McCain allegedly picked her as an anti-earmark crusader. Again, one has to wonder how well thought-out the pick was.

      While I think that McCain could have picked a much more attractive candidate, the problem seems more how he and the campaign are handling legitimate questions about her record rather than Palin herself.

      Taylor Griffin’s explanation about earmarks is actually legitimate–but you’ve had the campaign (esp. Griffin) spouting off such nonsense over the last couple days that its no wonder anyone who isn’t in the Dobson-wing of the Republican party is still scratching their heads. [ Take a look at Taylor's exchange with Campbell Brown for an example of the campaign's insane incompetence]

      Considering that Palin did not have a national profile and that on issues such as earmarks and climate change [which, as I remarked in a comment here yesterday, we haven't seen ANY discussion about] she has a track record at odds with McCain.

      One would think that the campaign would have talking points at-the-ready to explain these things.

      Instead, they have sequestered the candidate, inserted the Bristol Palin thing into the press [which now it appears they are actually exploiting by circulating video of McCain greeting the teenage father], and today are trying to brush off all questioning of the inconsistencies in her record/views by saying such questioning is sexist.

      If McCain can’t even manage a simple thing like introducing his VP pick, imagine what kinds of messes he will get in trying to manage a complex bureaucracy that deals with often intractable problems.

      Over and over, he seems to favor recklessness rather than prudence.

      Comment by Ratoe — Wednesday, September 3, 2024 @ 4:02 pm

    3. Well, really, the first person to leave a comment was barking up a pretty good tree; that’s a legitimate question. As far as I can tell there is little public record electronically available about what Palin did as a mayor. There’s a lot about her record as a governor. Of the two, it would be nuts to think that the former is more important than the latter.

      To be fair, politicians, like everyone, go through learning curves, and adjust to their new jobs, accepted practices, and survival skill sets as needed. Anyone who is in politics for more than five minutes has changed their position on something; and someone who is to be a reformer (as Sarah Palin is being pitched) or a Change-meister (as Barack Obama is being pitched) has to have enough experience with the system to recognize that there is a need for change/reform.

      Sarah Palin’s political career is short enough that it will be as easy to dismiss her inconsistencies on earmarking as it has been for the Obama campaign to dismiss his inconsistent record on things like the war in Iraq. I forgive both their inconsistencies, because I understand that they are working within the context of a system that doesn’t allow for idealists to get very far. McCain is going to say that Palin’s past earmarking was something she “grew out of”. And that’s understandable, just like it’s understandable that Obama voted against funding the Iraq war and has since moved into a more moderate position. He’s grown out of that idealist nonsense and has come to the compromise table. I don’t see a problem with either individual’s growth.

      It’s even more reasonable to dismiss what she did as a mayor of a tiny town in terms of earmarking if what she did as a governor was different, and I think what the McCain campaign is probably going to do is focus on her short-term political career, as governor. There’s nothing unreasonable about doing that; it’s very much the strategy that the Obama campaign has used to dismiss his connections with particularly rabid characters like Jeremiah Wright, and to also address his inexperience. The line of argument goes that it doesn’t matter if he has little relevant experience before becoming a US Senator; look at what he has done as a Senator, and forget about the rest.

      If we apply the same logic to Sarah Palin, and look at what she’s done in her short career as a governor, one has to admit that there is stuff there to admire. She has an approval rating in Alaska that approaches 90%, with no gender gap. She has the approval of over 75% of democrats in Alaska. She unseated an incumbent within her party during a primary. Call it luck if you want to, but I say she must be doing something up there that people really like.

      You can look for the McCain campaign to focus on this. Just as the Obama campaign is orienting itself on what Obama can bring to the presidency and distancing itself on his past inconsistencies, the McCain campaign will dismiss Palin’s activies as a small-town mayor by highlighting her short but stellar performance as a governor.

      Beyond that - regarding her family life, her daughter, and the inclusion of that in the campaign - I just don’t see how that could have been avoided. If the McCaign campaign hadn’t made the announcement, it would have been in the media through some other means. They’re doing damage control like any political campaign would. Again, this is well within the norm of American politics, and probably you won’t see much more of this (other than perhaps a camera shot of the couple at the convention; and cute family moments are hardly something the Obama campaign can call out of bounds for convention behavior after he brought his daughters up on stage to tell America how much they love their daddy) if the harshest voices listen to Obama, who made it clear in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t think the children of politicians are fair game. I think it will fade into the background if it is allowed to. And if we believe what Obama said - that Bristol Palin being pregnant is not relevant to her mom’s qualifications (and I do believe that) - then it shouldn’t be something we’re worried on in terms of McCain’s judgement.

      So far I don’t see anything about Sarah Palin and the way the McCain Campaign is pushing her as outside of the realm of what is acceptable and normal for a presidential campaign. It’s quite within the standards set by the Obama campaign. Whether those standards are too high or low is something else.

      Personally - I’ve made it known before and will say again here that I don’t have a lot of confidence in our government, don’t see the political parties or candidates that they create as being very different from each other, and don’t believe that what we are watching play out before us has any more depth than a professional wrestling match.

      I do think it would be more interesting if people hit each other with folding chairs. . .

      Comment by Captain D — Wednesday, September 3, 2024 @ 4:46 pm

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