Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Earmarks

If you are wonkish about earmarks, last night’s debate was a dream come true for you. If you were expecting social issues like prenatal testing and contraception to be front and center — given the lengths to which Rick Santorum has gone to make sure everyone knows are a satanic plot to make women think they’re made for anything other than making and raising babies — you had to wait until close to 9 pm (I know because I was counting the minutes until I could switch to Criminal Minds on CBS).

Anyway, the clear consensus among the bloggerati is that Santorum came off worst and Romney only marginally better. It was Amateur Night for everyone — easily the most boring, awful, uninspiring debate out of the 20 — but to the extent that anyone “won,” it was Gingrich, who actually showed a flash of humor when the moderator, John King, asked each candidate to worst moments:

From the get go and throughout the debate, Santorum was on defensive on issues including earmarks, his backing of Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in the 2004 Pennsylvania Senate race, and his vote for No Child Left Behind. The biggest problem is that in defending himself in all of these cases, he got bogged down in Senate procedure and elaborate political machinations. All of that made him come across as a Washington insider and establishment figure, which directly undercut his appeal as the “anti-Romney.”

Santorum’s biggest blunder on this front came in how he described his vote for Bush’s expansion of the federal role in education, saying “It was against the principles I believed in. But when you’re part of a team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader.”

  • CNN’s Peter Hamby gives us “five things we learned” from the debate.
  • At Talking Points Memo, Benjy Sarlin and Evan McMorris Santoro focus on five of Santorum’s worst mistakes.
  • Daniel Larison comments on the brain-dead Syria policy Mitt Romney said he would follow:

    Mitt Romney has a not-so-cunning plan for intervening in Syria:

    But in Syria, with Assad in trouble, we need to communicate to the Alawites, his friends, his ethnic group, to say, look, you have a future if you’ll abandon that guy Assad.

    We need to work with ”” with Saudi Arabia and with Turkey to say, you guys provide the kind of weaponry that’s needed to help the rebels inside Syria.

    In short, Romney thinks the right policy on Syria is to increase the supply of weapons to the predominantly Sunni opposition (which is already receiving some weapons from Sunnis in Iraq) to give them a better chance of fighting and killing predominantly Alawite regime supporters, and at the same time he wants to tell the Alawites that they have a future in a country run by the people Romney wants to arm. What might the flaw in this plan be?

  • Andrew Sabl has a “very simple question” on the contraception issue for all of the GOP candidates.
  • Timothy Noah wrote a piece a few days ago about Rick Santorum’s hostility toward public education. He has more to say on that subject today.
    If you have a burning interest in more commentary, and/or are a glutton for punishment, go here.
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    Kathy Kattenburg

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