Earmarks Watch

By Dan Froomkin
11:43 AM ET, 03/12/2009

I wrote yesterday about President Obama's attempt to address the obsession some politicians and journalists have with earmarks.

As I pointed out, earmarks were not Obama's issue in the campaign -- they were Republican candidate John McCain's. Obama never promised to veto them, just reduce their number and make their sponsors more accountable.

But Obama's moves yesterday -- signing a bill with earmarks, even while calling for reform -- just seemed a little too much like hypocrisy for critics to resist.

As U.S. News reports: "The move sparked criticism from Republicans and some Democrats, and generated starkly negative media reviews -- including reports in all three networks that suggested that the President's action ran contrary to his own campaign rhetoric. ABC World News, for example, reported that 'away from cameras,' Obama 'signed a massive spending bill containing roughly 9,000 earmarks, despite his past campaign rhetoric.' NBC Nightly News noted 'critics said the President should have put up more of a fight when it came to those pet projects.' The CBS Evening News similarly reported there was 'no photo-op for this signing.'"

Paul Kane and Scott Wilson write in The Washington Post: "President Obama's call to rein in the use of earmarks was met with derision yesterday even from some of his past reformer allies, dealing an early blow to his attempt to change how business is done in Washington."

Andrew Taylor writes for the Associated Press: "In proposing only modest changes in how lawmakers finance their pet projects, President Barack Obama tossed aside a golden opportunity to work with Sen. John McCain. Instead, the president stood foursquare with his Democratic allies, the people he needs most to advance his ambitious agenda."

And Peter Baker and David M. Herszenhorn write in the New York Times that Obama's ostensible allies in Congress really showed him: "House Democratic leaders smiled as they watched Mr. Obama on television. Just a half-hour earlier, marking their own turf, they had pre-empted him by putting in place essentially the very rules he was now calling on them to adopt."

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