Right-Wing Deception Is Exemplified By Sarah
Palin And John McCain: A Case Study In Earmarks
Partially hyperlinked to sources.
For all sources, see the data
Sources you'll hear include, and
I almost hesitate to list these all, there are so many, maybe the longest list
ever-- here goes: the Washington Post, CBS News, CNN, newsmax.com,
mediamatters.org, the Seattle Times, politifact.com, the New York Times,
thinkprogress.org, commondreams.org, the Associated Press, the US Census Bureau,
Newsweek, politico.com, Rasmussen Reports, the Los Angeles Times, the Tax
Foundation, and the Wall Street Journal.
Listener Alex K. from Santa Fe
wrote in to ask:
Are you planning to do some kind of reassuring
podcast for those of us who are extremely concerned about the hockey mom as
I replied that I didn't know if
the next show would be reassuring, as much as a call to arms.
Here are the preliminaries to
your call to battle stations!
A mantra on Blast The Right is,
whatever a right-winger says, the exact opposite is true.
You've heard countless examples over the last three years.
The campaign '08 earmark issue
provides the perfect illustration. The
right-wing is utilizing its entire playbook.
Think you already know about the
But when I started to do some
research, I found myself in a much deeper, almost impenetrable thicket of
distortions, half-truths, outright lies, lies about their lies, and assertions
of a sequence of events that are impossible.
In other words, in
This podcast today is about
earmarks not because they're in and of themselves such an important issue.
They're not. They're actually
more of a distraction. More on that
Rather, this is all geared
towards giving you the ammo you need to take down any right-wingers you're
unfortunate enough to encounter when they bring up earmarks.
fighting-the-right tools, to help you identify and counter right-wing deception
on other issues in this campaign season and beyond.
Some earmarks may be for a valid
purpose, many are not.
A prime example of the latter,
and probably the most famous earmark of all, is the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska.
The Bridge to Nowhere was a
multi-hundred million dollar project to replace
the ferry service between a tiny Alaskan town, Ketchikan, and the sparsely
populated island, Gravina, where the town's airport was.
Here's Governor Sarah Palin at
the Republican National Convention:
Palin at RNC
the Congress "thanks, but no thanks," for that Bridge to Nowhere.
state wanted a bridge, we'd build it ourselves.
Wow, she's tough on the no
earmarks, being independent thing. So
in her prior political activities she must have been tough as well.
Let's take a look.
Let's trace Sarah Palin's electoral career.
From 1996-2002, Palin was the
mayor of Wasilla, a small Alaskan town of 5-7000 people.
Certainly Palin must have
disdained getting any earmarks for her town.
She and the townspeople, they're
Red State, proud, independent Alaskans.
These rugged individualists, why
they go out and shoot their own moose to make mooseburgers out of.
Surely such self-reliant people don't want anything from the evil federal
Let's take a look at the record.
Hmmm…Mayor Sarah Palin seems
to have sought and received earmarks big
She actually went so far as to
hire a Washington, DC lobbying firm to secure earmarks.
The firm was run by the former chief of staff to
Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens. Yes,
the one now under indictment in a far-reaching corruption probe.
Hired a lobbyist.
Palin raked in $27 million in
earmarks for Wasilla.
Twenty times the national
Even before she had secured that
amazingly disproportionate amount of federal pork for her tiny town, Palin had written
in the margins of a City Council memo about federal funds "We did
Now, even though Palin plunged
full throttle into the earmark game, surely as a conservative, Palin only
requested absolutely necessary projects. Nothing
any watchdog could criticize.
Who was that Senator, you may be
So I guess they'd sort of
crossed paths before, huh?
You see the picture that's
beginning to be drawn?
OK, Sarah Palin got a ton of
earmarks, and for objectionable projects to boot, but that was as a small-town
She told the nation -- and has
since often repeated
on the campaign trail -- that as governor she stopped the Bridge to Nowhere.
So you can be sure that when she
ran for governor, she campaigned against it.
At the time, it had already been the subject of national ridicule as a
In a debate, Palin pledged to fight…
for the earmark for the bridge.
Here's literally what she said
during an October 2006 campaign stop in the Bridge to Nowhere town of Ketchikan,
which is in the southeast part of the state:
Part of my agenda is making sure that southeast is
That your projects are important. That we go to bat
for southeast when we're up against federal influences that aren't in the best
interest of southeast.
We need to come to the defense of southeast Alaska
when proposals are on the table like the bridge and not allow the spin-meisters
to turn this project or any other into something that's so negative.
The leader of those
spin-meisters was, of course, John McCain.
Does it sound to you like Palin
opposed the bridge? Not to me
Up next, more on the Bridge to
Nowhere, and Palin's ever-more-curious relationship to earmarks once she
actually became Governor.
Ok, here's an interesting
A year before Palin took office
as governor, Congress had killed
the specific earmark for the Bridge to Nowhere.
Congress told Alaska that it could still have the money and spend it
however it wanted.
Listen to Palin again:
Palin at RNC
the Congress "thanks, but no thanks," for that Bridge to Nowhere.
state wanted a bridge, we'd build it ourselves.
How do right-wingers fit so many
lies into so few words?
She makes it sound like she
refused money from Congress for a bad project that Congress was trying to foist
When in reality she had
supported the project.
And Palin couldn't have told Congress no thanks.
Before she was elected governor, Congress had already
told her state no thanks, we don't want to be associated with directing funding
towards this boondoggle.
And as far as "we'll build
it ourselves," Governor Palin kept all the money.
She did eventually discard the
Bridge to Nowhere project as its costs ballooned and the ridicule didn't stop.
But only, as you've just heard,
after vigorously supporting it.
And keeping the federal
government money anyway.
She took the federal money and
just used it for other things.
I love the way author and
columnist Joe Conanson put
Two years ago, she portrayed herself as a
straight-talking populist who supported the Ketchikan bridge. Now she portrays
herself as a straight-talking populist who stopped the same bridge.
So far you've seen that as a
small-town mayor, and gubernatorial candidate, Sarah Palin was a big, big fan of
earmarks, including some real bad ones.
But surely once she became
governor, she fell into line, and joined the anti-earmark crusade.
That's certainly what she's been
Charlie Gibson in her ABC news interview:
audio2: Palin ABC interview
The abuse of earmarks, it's un-American, it's
undemocratic, and it's not going to be accepted in a McCain-Palin
administration. Earmark abuse will stop.
Sorry , I can't tell you that
her actions match her words.
An indication of the truth might
be, that Palin hasn't yet even stopped a second
Bridge to Nowhere, in her own Wasilla home town region.
This one was also condemned by McCain back in the day.
But so far, Palin has only ordered a review of the project.
The cold hard truth is, Sarah
Palin is actually the Pork Barrel Queen of all governors.
Her current request is for $197
million dollars in earmarks.
This is more
per person, than any other state in the nation!
Among her requested earmarks
are devising ways to improve recreational halibut fishing, and "studying
the mating habits of crabs and the DNA of harbor seals."
very year in a newspaper column, Palin wrote
that "the federal budget, in its various manifestations, is incredibly
important to us, and congressional earmarks are one aspect of this
"un-American" she calls them, yet Sarah Palin is the biggest abuser of
earmarks of all!
you come away from this podcast with one fact today, let it be this: Palin is #1
in the nation in per capita pork barrel requests.
can ask your friendly local right-winger what he or she thinks about that.
if you're a long-time listener, you know I like to analyze how right-wingers try
to spin whatever issue we're talking about.
To paraphrase the wolf to Little Red Riding Hood, all the better to
sharpen your analytical skills, my dear.
let me tell you how Palin and the McCain campaign and other right-wingers are
trying to spin this unflattering fact, that she's the Pork Barrel Queen of the
nation, which of course flies in the face of the claimed "reform"
nature of GOP ticket.
by exaggeration, tripling her supposed earmark reduction rate.
to a local newspaper that she had cut Alaska's requests for earmarks by nearly
two-thirds, from $550 million to that $197 million figure.
turns out the prior year was only $254 million, so her reduction was about
one-fifth, not two-thirds.
in her lie, Palin's office said they would have to look into the discrepancy.
Palin has indeed cut Alaska's earmark requests by over 20% each of her first two
years in office.
is, she's still number one in the nation!
audio3: Palin ABC interview
We have drastically, drastically reduced our earmark
request since I came into office…This is what I've been telling Alaskans for
these years that I've been in office, is no more.
me a stickler for details, but "drastically, drastically," and
"no more" means you end the practice.
she's still #1 in the nation.
are some more real doozies of spin:
McCain spokesman said
in effect that Palin's prior experience as an abuser of the process is why
she now knows that earmarks must be stopped.
She was "disgusted" that her small town had to depend on
earmarks, and this
of the formative experiences that led her toward the reform-oriented stance that
she has taken as her career has progressed.
she was so disgusted by it, she jumped right in and became the best one of all
just as the small town mayor, but continuing to the present day as governor.
Lindsay Graham became even more graphic, likening
Palin's transformation to that undergone by John McCain after being tarnished by
the Keating Five corruption scandal.
With friends like this, John McCain doesn't need any enemies.
next, more right-wing spin, including trying to make out Obama as the worst
may enjoy listening to these further attempts by the right-wing to spin away
Palin's Queen of Pork credentials.
Carolina Republican Senator Jim Demint was amazingly got-everything-backwards
spin. He claimed that Palin
is one of the strongest anti-earmark governors in
America. If more governors around the country would do what she has done, we
would be much closer to fixing our nation's fiscal problems than we are.
If every governor requested earmarks at the rate Sarah Palin does,
earmark requests would soar into the stratosphere.
The award for lying, however,
goes to John McCain.
Not for merely claiming
that Sarah Palin has "learned that earmarks are bad."
it's for also claiming on the television program The View that Sarah Palin has
requested no earmarks as governor. He's
in an exchange with Barbara Walters:
McCain on The View
reform the government. Who is she
going to reform?
what she's going to ...
is it--you chose her just to reform?
Republican party, the Democrat party, even independents...she'll reform all of
doing what she did in Alaska...
is she going to reform specifically, Senator?
first of all, earmark spending, which she vetoed a half a billion dollars' worth
in the state of Alaska.
also took some earmark spending.
not as Governor, she didn't--she vetoed...the fact is, she was a reform
governor, she took on the Republican...
A McCain campaign spokesman said
If he gave viewers a mistaken impression, it
certainly wasn't intentional."
Oh, he just doesn't know what's
I said earlier if you come away
with one fact today, let it be that Sarah Palin is #1 in pork barrel requests
per capita of all governors. If you
come away with two facts, add this: that John McCain seems oblivious to that
Surely, with as sad and
embarrassing a record on earmarks as Sarah Palin has, you'd think she and McCain
would hesitate before criticizing others about earmarks.
You'd think wrong.
Listen to McCain recently:
an interesting fact. Governor Palin
just mentioned she vetoed a half a billion dollars in earmark pork-barrel
spending, and Sen. Obama asked for nearly a billion dollars in earmark
pork-barrel spending! 932 million
dollars, almost a million dollars for every single day he was in the United
States Senate. It's remarkable!
The cold hard numbers make a
mockery of what McCain said.
Ok, I'll do it for you.
What that means
is, Sarah Palin's earmark requests as Governor average $330 per Alaskan each
year. Obama's average $18 per
Illinois resident each year.
$330 Palin, and $18 Obama.
And McCain condemns Obama?! Is
McCain just confused again?
Second, for the next fiscal
year, Obama has requested
no earmarks, zero, nada, zilch.
Is Palin going to match that?
Indeed, along those lines,
McCain back in March called
upon Obama --and Hillary Clinton, who was still a candidate at the time -- he
called on them to ask for unspent earmark money to be returned to the Treasury:
requested earmarks, and they have used earmarks, some of them, in a manner that
I don't think the taxpayers would at all approve of, and in both cases, it's
hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that are absolutely, outrageously
think they should ask that those earmarks that they have asked for and obtained,
and the money hasn't been spent yet, ask them to turn that money back to the
… Ask that that money not be spent.
I call on them to say "Hey, don't spend that money."
Because they're earmarks; they didn't go through the proper process; and
the taxpayers can't afford them.
Ok, John McCain, why don't you
ask that of Sarah Palin? Return all
unspent Alaska earmarks. And pledge
no more earmark requests, just like Obama.
Now, you should watch out for a
cute trick. Palin has started
talking about "earmark abuse." Sort
of, some earmarks are ok. No, McCain
has made it clear, no earmarks are ok, even if he hasn't applied that standard
"If they're worthy projects they can be
authorized and appropriated in a New York minute," he explained on his
campaign bus earlier this year, before Gov. Palin joined the ticket. "If
they're worthy projects I know they'd be funded." [source]
Coming right up, in the last
segment, you'll hear me expand the frame to encompass the entire '08 campaign.
Let's expand the frame a bit,
with a couple of brief but important points.
I said at the top of the show
that I thought earmarks were essentially a distraction issue.
That's because the best estimate
of total earmark spending is $20 billion dollars a year.
The federal budget
is $3.1 trillion. Earmarks are less
than 1% of the federal budget.
Yet McCain goes around making
He's blamed earmarks for high food and gasoline prices and the trouble
people have making mortgage payments.
Less than 1% of the federal budget is causing all those problems.
McCain has even claimed
he can save $100 billion a year by eliminating earmarks.
Where he gets that number from, nobody knows.
Next point: this earmark issue
calls into question McCain's mental processes.
He's been railing against
earmarks for years. Yet he picked as
his running mate the worst earmark
abuser in the entire country.
And McCain doesn't even seem to
How can you reform Washington if
you can't even reform your own running mate?
Is he going to pick someone he
thinks espouses one policy, perhaps in a life and death issue, a war and peace
situation, only to find out the opposite is true?
Another important point:
Each year the non-partisan Tax
how much money each state sends to Washington, and how much it receives.
Can you guess what I'm going to
For every dollar Alaska sends to
Washington, it gets $1.84 back.
It's the #3 Taker state in the
country. And that's even though it's
with oil money, and has no state income tax or sales tax to burden its citizens.
And check this out:
Nine out of the Top Ten taker
states are red states.
And seven out of the Top Ten
Giver states are blue states. For
example: for every dollar that the evil liberal states of Massachusetts, New
York and California send to D.C., they get back only about 80 cents!
Subsidizing Alaska and the other
As a New York Times op-ed
Voters in red states like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming
are some of the country's fiercest critics of government, yet they're also among
the biggest recipients of federal largess. Meanwhile, Democratic voters in the
coastal blue states -- the ones who are often portrayed as shiftless moochers --
are left to carry the load.
The right-wing screams about
welfare. I get letters from
right-wingers about it all the time.
Yet they're the true welfare
kings and queens big time, on a multi-tens or hundreds of billions of dollar
Led by Sarah Palin, Empress of
A final brief point:
This earmark issue exemplifies
the current political climate, where lying seems to be ok.
Longtime political analyst
We have created a system where there is not a lot of
shame in stretching the truth
John Feehery, Republican
The more the New
York Times and The
Washington Post go after Sarah Palin, the better off she is, because
there's a bigger truth out there and the bigger truths are she's new, she's
popular in Alaska and she is an insurgent
As long as those are out there, these little facts
don't really matter.
Facts don't really matter.
Unfortunately, Feehery may be
Let's sum up:
Palin's a phony.
A liar. Not what she says she
In other words, a right-winger.
She turns out to be just another
in a long line of right-wing liars and hypocrites.
Liars and hypocrites who proclaim their own rugged individualism, espouse
a philosophy of personal responsibility. But
at the drop of a hat, will run to gobble up those earmark welfare payments.
And take far more from the federal treasury than they put in.
I guess it's my personal responsibility to pay for Alaskans to figure out
how to improve their recreational halibut fishing.
But -- does the public know
about all this? No.
You've heard me point out a
million times that Obama's tax plans only raise
taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year.
That's the richest 3% of the population.
Yet in a recent poll,
51% of voters said Obama would raise their taxes.
This is similar to what I
imagine to be the public's being unaware of the real story about Palin and
earmarks, not to mention a million other issues about the McCain/Palin ticket.
If the public holds views at
variance with the facts, where else can they have gotten those erroneous views
other than from watching and listening to the corporate owned media?
You and I have a lot of
educating and other work to do in the next several weeks!
Volunteer to phone bank.
Volunteer to register voters. Volunteer
to poll watch.
Just voting wont' be enough this
To your battle stations!
Move it on out!!