It’s nice to hear Obama insisting that the economic stimulus package has to be free of earmarks and pork. But look closely at his answer to George Stephanopoulos on this . . .
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that’s what I wanted to ask you about, because like one of the signature proposals already is this Museum of Organized Crime out in Las Vegas. I had Mitch McConnell out on the show last week and he ridiculed it, saying that, you know, this is an example of the kind of pork we don’t want.
Yet its advocates say, wait a second, it’s a construction project, it’s ready to go, it’s going to create jobs. Is that the kind of project that you want to fund or not?
OBAMA: Well, let’s be clear, that was a project that was proposed as part of the mayors’ project. The country’s mayors put together — here are a range of projects we can do, we didn’t include that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But would you want to fund it or not?
OBAMA: Well, I think that what we have to do is evaluate whether or not these are projects that, as I said, are going to provide long-term benefits to the economy. You know, I would prefer spending money on things like making sure that all federal buildings are energy efficient so the taxpayers are saving money over the long-term.
I want to make sure that on health care we are creating the infrastructure that can make our health care more — system more efficient. So, you know, we want to spend the money wisely. We want to spend it prudently.
In a package of this magnitude, will there end up being certain projects that potentially don’t meet that criteria of helping on health care, energy, or education? Certainly.
But what we don’t want is this thing to be a Christmas tree loaded up with a whole bunch of pet projects that people have for their local communities.
You notice Obama never actually says, “no, we’re not going to fund that.” By listing what he would prefer to spend the money on, his answer looks like he opposes spending your tax dollars to build an organized-crime museum. But Obama has demonstrated he wants to keep all options open until the latest moment possible — on Gaza, on Pakistan and India, on the auto bailout, on the Blagojevich mess, so he can’t quite bring himself to come out and say, “George, I’m not going to be spending taxpayer dollars on some gangster museum that ought to be funded by private investors.”
The question is, when the bill is being written, will Obama stand up and say, “take that out”? Or will he fold, and accept some pork as part of the price of doing business?