Obama campaigned against earmarks, yet publicly pledged to sign the spending bill. So what the administration needs is diversion, diversion, diversion. The idea is “Let’s focus the media somewhere else, because if they look this way they might notice.”
On top of diversion comes defense. The Obama administration’s claim that the 2009 Omnibus Budget Bill, yet to be signed, is last year’s business, is an attempt to look pristine. If you look closely, the administration comes off looking more irresponsible than pristine. With leadership comes responsibility. If you claim you’re not responsible, it’s impossible to be a leader.
The sales pitch? That Obama would pass earmarks now, but limit congressional earmarks in the future. What they mean is that Obama has ceded this round to the Democrats in Congress, but will take the next round.
But that outcome of the next round might not be as easily achieved as the White House asserts. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer staked out Congress’ position on earmarks when he said, "I don't think the White House has the ability to tell us what to do."
And don’t lose sight of the fact that the bill includes earmarks for White House officials, too. CNN reported that the bill includes “$750,000 for a University of Delaware program requested by Vice President Joe Biden when he was a senator, and $900,000 for a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois requested by Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, when he was a Democratic congressman from Illinois. According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, the earmarks associated with Emanuel total to $8.5 million.
With those facts in place – diversion and defense may be the best play for the Obama administration. After all, who wants to say he can’t get his party to pass a bill without earmarks and he really wishes his staff hadn’t stuffed in all that pork?
The Republicans’ challenge is to stay on target, and ignore the diversions and defense. It’s just like Beggar’s Canyon back home – if the American people are scrutinizing every dollar they spend – shouldn’t our government do the same?