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McCain Attacks Bears, Twists Facts On Earmarks In Speech Against ‘Wasteful Spending’

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"McCain Attacks Bears, Twists Facts On Earmarks In Speech Against ‘Wasteful Spending’"

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One of Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) favorite examples of government abuse is a multimillion-dollar study of the Montana grizzly bear population by the U.S. Geological Survey. In a recent campaign ad, he attacks “wasteful spending by Congress,” giving the example of “$3 million to study the DNA of bears.” On the stump, McCain goes further, joking, “I don’t know if it was a paternity issue or criminal, but it was a waste of money.”

McCain continued his mockery in a campaign appearance today. Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/03/mccainbears4.320.240.flv]

McCain has long portrayed himself as a crusader against government “pork” such as Alaska’s notorious “Bridge to Nowhere.” McCain has mocked the bear study since 2003, when Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) allocated a $1 million earmark to the project.

His new attack on the bear project comes despite a Washington Post story yesterday digging into the actual project McCain is attacking — the USGS Northern Divide Bear Project.

As the Post explains, the project by field biologist “is focused not on the DNA of grizzly bears, but on counting them.” Before this study, the size of the population was unknown:

Grizzly bears in northwest Montana are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. But Kendall’s project — the results of which will be published soon in a scientific journal — revealed that there are more grizzlies than anyone had realized. That suggests that three decades of conservation efforts, costing tens of millions of dollars, have paid off.

A National Wildlife Federation spokesperson told the Washington Post, “Someone like McCain should be delighted, in fact. The Endangered Species Act works.”

Transcript:

I want to be President of the United States because I want to restore trust and confidence in the government, I want to secure our borders, I want to fix Medicare, I want to fix Social Security, I want to eliminate this wasteful and outrageous earmark and pork-barrel spending which has eroded the confidence of our Republican base and the confidence of all Americans in our ability to be careful stewards of your tax dollars.

By the way, my favorite in the last few years was we spent $3 million to study the DNA of bears in Montana. I don’t know if that was a paternity issue or a criminal issue. (LAUGHTER)

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