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"Mistakes do happen"

Mistakes were made.

That is one of the oldest refrains of modern politics, harkening back to one of President Ronald Reagan's memorable explanations of the Iran-Contra affair in the mid-1980s.

Most recently, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales used the phrase to describe the administration's process in terminating eight U.S. attorneys.

Last week, in a much more benign way, mistakes were made again.

This time, it was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and his accidental vote in favor of a $5 billion earmark for rural schools and counties in the $122 billion supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war. About one-sixth of the overall spending bill was devoted to domestic policy initiatives unrelated to the military.

As colleague Dana Milbank ably displayed in his Thursday Washington Sketch, Graham joined a band of GOP budget hawks this week in offering a series of amendments designed to strip some of the non-military spending provisions from the bill.

One of the more egregious provisions targeted was a proposed $25 million in payouts to spinach growers, which was the one successful effort made by Sens. Graham, Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and James DeMint (R-S.C.) to trim what they deemed pork from the military spending bill.

"I don't see how the asparagus-spinach problem helps us win in Iraq," Graham said Wednesday at a news conference. "This is a bill designed to help people that are getting shot at."

But, upon beating back the spinach lobby, Graham went to the floor and voted in favor of an amendment offered by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that added $5 billion to the spending bill's price tag. Clearly this was a contradiction to all his other votes of the day, which included cutting other farm spending and slashing $100 million from the bill to pay for the 2008 Republican and Democratic national nominating conventions.

By Thursday morning -- Milbank's Sketches are regularly among the most e-mailed features on -- Graham had realized the error of his ways and was on the Senate floor pleading forgiveness. "I voted 'aye.' It was my intention to vote 'no'. Therefore," Graham said, "I ask unanimous consent that I be permitted to change my vote since it will not affect the outcome."

Under Senate rules, such changes are allowed when it will not affect the outcome of the vote. And Graham's staff is adamant that it was an accident.

"He rushed to the floor, he cast his vote, and it was the wrong vote," said Kevin Bishop, Graham's spokesman.

And, yes, as the old refrain goes: "Mistakes do happen," Bishop said.

By Paul Kane  |  April 2, 2007; 2:00 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Hagel vs. Mentor: The Iraq War Debate
Next: The Iraq Withdrawal Debate, Part 1


Imagine you had a briefcase with a million dollars in it. Not a small amount of money, but not so much, either. Now imagine you didn't have just one briefcase with a million dollars, but 5,000 briefcases with a million dollars in each. Thats a whole lot of money. 5 billion dollars. Thats one collosal oops, Senator.

Posted by: Patrick Huss | April 2, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

How curious that last year those budget-conscious Republicans passed an appropriation bill for Iraq larded with pork, including monies for a railroad to nowhere... This year, however, they are piously screaming about pork... What a bunch of hypocrites!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 2, 2007 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Or you could say...Last year, the Dems were piously screaming about the appropriation bill being larded with pork, and this year they did the same thing.
What a couple of bunches of hypocrites!!

Posted by: Patrick Huss | April 2, 2007 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Senator Lindsey Graham's trip to Iraq with McPain provided glaring evidence of what a fool he is [like McPain]. Gee, Graham says, he was able to go to an Iraqi market [in body armor, an armored vehicle and lots of military protection he neglects to mention] and buy 5 rugs for only $5. His conclusion [and McPain's] from this fact?: Iraq is safer due to the President's surge. [Not that the economy is in such shatters that poor Iraqis must scrape for every penny they can. Forget about the horrendous continuing violence, death and destruction.]

It's logic and statistics like Graham's and McPain's that demonstrate how much America has failed its children with inadequate funding for its schools -- especially special needs students like Senators Graham and McCain. Give me a break. Please guys, go home and be very, very quiet. If you need something, we will call you. Both of you fools are advocates and enablers of these war criminals in the Bush Administration and are thus important parts of this conspiracy.

Posted by: Patrick Henry | April 2, 2007 7:53 PM | Report abuse

mccain,as a good soldier,should follow the words of a great soldier,gen.mcarthur, and "just fade away"

Posted by: doug lapham | April 2, 2007 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Graham--another Republican weasel shows his true colors.

Posted by: mikeasr | April 2, 2007 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Now that there is Congressional over-sight and Graham is being watched - he can't get away with the sneaky, deceitful lying that Republicans do - and he has lost it. He should give up his seat ... so someone coherent can represent his constituents. God help Lindsey!

Posted by: Danglingwrangler | April 2, 2007 11:42 PM | Report abuse

I don't see why this is particularly a big deal. This kind of reads like a "slow news day" article. It is unclear with the evidence you've provided if there was a deeper meaning to Graham's vote, or if it really was an honest mistake (however unlikely that might be). I thought at least some hay could be made about the funding going to a Republican district, but it wasn't. As it stands, this one reads like a hit job on Graham.

C'mon Kane, bring us the good stuff!

Posted by: Stephen Larson | April 2, 2007 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Come on, Stephen,

He flip-flopped, he voted for it before he voted against it, he wasn't paying attention. What other things has Mr. Graham voted for that he didn't know he was voting for? The war maybe? The bridge to no where? By the time you reach the Senate, you need to pay attention to what your vote does rather than running on automatic Republican rubber-stamping, trunk to tail, blindly following the leadership.

Posted by: waterbirds | April 3, 2007 6:06 AM | Report abuse

Paul - you need to pay more attention to history. You harken all the way back to Reagan? It was Nixon and his administration that brought the phrase "mistakes were made" to the forefront of American Politics. Remember a little thing called Watergate? Reagan appropriated the term to defend his equally (or more) corrupt administration. C'mon Paul - if you are going to choose a rhetorical lead-in, at least do your research...

Posted by: Anonymous | April 4, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I am a Southern Maryland transplant in the Myrtle Beach SC area. I complain regularly to Sen Graham about his embarrassing conduct by blindly following the Republican/Bush script. Although I didn't vote for him, I used to believe that he was a logical, independent thinker. Alas, no more!

Posted by: SC transplant | April 4, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Oops, mistake were made, GOP and their DOGS in the media are screeming about the pork, maybe we should be screaming about 500 billion and an other 100 billion wasted in IRAQ, based on lie not even mistake.

Posted by: Tony | April 4, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

i have been told again and again "the American People need to understand". i have been told again and again that it's "compassionate conservatism". i have distant memories of "uniter, not divider". i have been told again and again that there is "no conclusive proof of illegal activity". yet somehow, what i remember most clearly is my father saying "even if it smiles and speaks eloquently, if it also slithers and hisses, it's probably a snake". my corollary might read, "if there are several, it's probably a bunch of snakes". mistakes were made.....

Posted by: minneapolis, mn | April 6, 2007 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Oh my! I forgot. Only the Democrats know how to spend (Oops! I mean waste taxpayer dollars.) A supplemental bill toward the Iraq war should be just that. The dems have plenty of time to throw in the pork.
They've done it for years, and all the dem voters love it. Too bad the rest of us have to suffer.

Posted by: sat4evr | April 9, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

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