(photo credit: Desert Vu)

Republican presidential nominee John McCain likes to trash talk earmarks. It’s good politics and I recognize he’s got a fair point to make: the earmark is indeed is a problematic way for Congress to dispense money.

Via WaPo:

McCain, who has railed against government pork for two decades, cites three beneficiaries of what he calls wasteful spending in his TV ad “Outrageous.” One is the infamous “bridge to nowhere,” a project in Alaska, pushed by the Republican congressional delegation, that would link a sparsely populated island with the mainland. Another is a museum at the site of the 1969 Woodstock music festival, which would be supported with a million-dollar earmark co-sponsored by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

The “bridge to nowhere,” as noted above, was pushed by Alaska Republicans, while the Woodstock museum was a political gift by Hillary Clinton if she happens to beg, borrow, and steal the Democratic nomination (Republicans like nothing more than to portray Democrats as 1960s era hippies, so I’m sure we would see endless Woodstock ads). McCain’s other favorite earmark to rail against is a project in Montana that collected DNA samples from grizzly bears to count grizzly bears (for the first time) because they’re considered an “umbrella species,” which means that when grizzlies flourish (or don’t), so do (or don’t) a slew of other animals. The study determined that the population of endangered grizzlies exceeded anyone’s expectations, which may lead the way for grizzlies to eventually being removed from the Endangered list and their management handed back to states, something I would think Republicans would support.

The grizzly study earmark, btw, was championed by a former three term Republican senator from Montana, Conrad Burns. So two of the three earmarks that McCain disparages in his stump speech were sponsored by Republicans, a point I’m sure he doesn’t underscore. Burns is also chairman of McCain’s campaign in Montana, so I’m thinking McCain leaves the grizzly bear DNA jokes out of his stump speech when Burns shares the stage.

Here’s how McCain’s makes fun of the grizzly study:

“I don’t know if it was a paternity issue or criminal,” he jokes, “but it was a waste of money.”

A McCain campaign commercial also tweaks the bear research: “Three million to study the DNA of bears in Montana. Unbelievable.”

So is this more straight talk from the “maverick” senator from Arizona? Not so much.

A Senate aide to McCain said the senator objects to the way that pork — which he views as money not requested by the administration or properly authorized by Congress — is slipped into bills via add-ons and earmarks. “Senator McCain does not question the merits of these projects; it’s the process that he has a problem with,” the aide said

It’s the “process” he objects to. How could anyone get a different impression?