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Palin Sought Millions to Study Seal DNA

On the campaign trail, Sen. John McCain frequently rails against wasteful earmarks. There are two examples of pork he points to as particularly egregious.

First, is the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska. Second, is a $3-million study of grizzly bear DNA in Montana. When he mentions the latter, he often jokes, “I don’t know if it was a paternity issue or a criminal issue.” What he doesn’t say is that he voted for the 2003 omnibus appropriations bill that contained this earmark.

The McCain campaign has sought to portray Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain’s pork-fighting ” soul mate” — an image that seems to grow shakier by the day. It is now well-documented that she was an ardent supporter of the “Bridge to Nowhere” before she was against it.

Now, Politico’s Ben Smith has found an ironic item in Palin’s nearly $200-million worth of earmark requests from earlier this year: millions of dollars to study harbor seal DNA:

Some on Alaska’s list are the kind of uncontroversial projects that make most earmarks hard to cut — even if it’s difficult to see their importance to the nation, rather than the state: construction of Alaska National Guard facilities, for instance, to stop drug abuse, and to improve a crime database.

Many others, though, are of exactly the sort that McCain has made a career of mocking—like animal research.

“We’re not going to spend $3 million of your tax dollars to study the DNA of bears in Montana,” McCain has said during this year’s campaign, referring to a study he’s mocked for years of whether grizzlies need to keep their status as an endangered species.

Palin, meanwhile, has requested $3.2 million to be spent in part researching the “genetics of harbor seals,” in one of the state’s many requests for federal funding of research into Alaska’s fauna.

Big deal. Everybody knows grizzly bear DNA is basically useless –but harbor seal DNA! That has literally millions of practical applications.

In case the irony is lost on you, TPM dug up an old McCain campaign ad that drives it home:

At some point, a rational person would have to assume McCain might be forced to explain how his campaign can continue to push the “Palin-as-earmark-foe” meme when her past actions are so at odds with McCain’s — as well as her own — rhetoric.

But the McCain campaign finds itself in a tight spot: it has already settled into the narrative it wants to drive between now and November — McCain and Palin are a team of maverick reformers — but opponents have a mountain of ammunition to challenge that narrative, with more seeming to emerge daily.

McCain can’t — or won’t — come out and admit that the image it projects is a sham. All he can do is pretend the ammunition doesn’t exist and hope regular people who don’t follow the news as closely as, say, reporters and political junkies, don’t notice.

This is clearly the strategy, as demonstrated by the fact that Palin continues to claim that she said “thanks, but no thanks” to the “Bridge to Nowhere,” after news outlets have been steadily reporting this is false for more than a week now.

The big question is: Will voters punish McCain for being dishonest?

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