March, 4th 2009

I still love John McCain and think he's awesome

– Liz Mair

For much of last year, I spent almost all day, every day, working to elect John McCain, and I was proud and happy to do so.  McCain is one a of a handful of people in political life who I have consistently, proudly admired and frankly, the time he always made and interest he showed in bloggers (and people, generally) made my job a lot easier and frankly fun than it could have been.

One of the things I've always liked about McCain is his willingness to create a fuss in the name of principle, rather than sitting by and being nice to people he disagrees with when they're doing things that are, objectively or subjectively, objectionable.  And just months after the presidential campaign ended (unfortunately for him, and for me, in defeat), he's back at it.  On Twitter.  Saying things like this:

#4. All 13 earmarks for PMA group, which has been raided by the FBI for corruption, totaling over $10 million -THE BEST GOVERNMENT $ CAN BUY

Not subtle, is it?  Not cuddly and friendly, either, no?

Well, it's not.  But it's also sufficiently interesting and exciting to ensure that the former presidential candidate who was so often described (inaccurately, as is now totally clear, technologically-ignorant and/or technophobic) currently boasts 141,116 followers. (Oh, and Maureen Dowd is apparently saying nice things about him, too).

Not everyone is happy, though, as the Economist's Democracy in America blog makes clear:[intro]

Jonathan Chait is furious. "[Mr McCain's] technique," he writes, "is to focus on programs that mention animals or food, or anything that sounds silly." Matthew Yglesias accuses the senator of "substitut[ing] mockery for understanding."

DIA calls this out as misreading or mischaracterizing McCain's intentions, as indeed it is, and sadly so.  DIA also points out that just months ago, President Obama was sounding as though he was 100% on the same page as McCain on the subject of earmarks.  True enough (and for what it's worth, I don't think I'm the only one who expected that anti-earmark sentiment to fall by the wayside if/when Obama had to do business with Congress). Yet Cohn and Yglesias don't seem concerned about a) Obama's apparent full-on reversal of position (he's evidently OK with earmark-stuffed bills, so long as the press corps is capable of plausibly writing them up as "last year's unfinished business") or b) the basically objectionable nature of earmarks, not necessarily even insofar as wasteful spending is concerned (though often waste is involved) but insofar as questionable process (e.g., using federal dollars for local concerns, often with very little scrutiny by Congress) is.  It'd be great, in my opinion, if they'd focus on this instead of belitting efforts to cast some sunlight on earmarks contained in this big spending bill.  Chris Matthews thinks this is an important issue-- and he's right.


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