If the reporting by the Washington Post on grizzly bears is any indication, earmarks are going to be around for a very long time. John McCain has been using a $3 million earmark for DNA research on grizzly bears as an example–along with the infamous Bridget to Nowhere in Alaska and Hillary Clinton’s support for a museum on the site of Woodstock–as an example of Congress Gone Wild on Spending. Well, apparently, the Washington Post thinks the grizzly bear earmark was a great thing. How do we know?
Actually, it was a scientific and logistical triumph, argues Katherine Kendall, 56, mastermind of the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project. Kendall is one tough field biologist: She’s rafted wild rivers, forded swollen streams and hiked through remote backcountry for weeks at a time. She goes to places inhabited by all manner of large creatures with sharp teeth. She was once charged by an enraged grizzly. She stared the bear down.
McCain doesn’t get a similar puff paragraph on his war experience or standing down opposition to earmarks. The article goes on to quote several bear lovers on how valuable their research is. Oh, their jobs are being funded by the grant from Congress or other government agencies. No conflict of interest there. So, were any skeptics interviewed? Just a staffer at Sen. McCain’s office. For political reporting, this is pretty shabby stuff. The reporter doesn’t bother to tell the reader why this program might have been wasteful, or perhaps not even the job of the federal government. That’s what the debate is about. If the Bridge to Nowhere was an excellent piece of engineering (which is should be), does that make it a justifiable public expenditure? No. Is a sports stadium a justifiable public expenditure if it represents state of the art architecture (which further lines the pockets of wealthy sports club owners and athletes). No. But, apparently if a lovable (at a distance) furry beast of the forest is the object of Congressional largess, any federal expenditure must be justifiable unless the program crashes and burns. And the Washington Post will weigh in with shallow, uncritical, and unbalanced reporting to keep the program’s funding flowing.