Earmarks (which allow members in Congress to earmark specific projects for spending in larger bills opposed to letting the executive direct where the funds go) have long been a staple of both parties. Recently, in part because of a push by the Tea Party, they have become increasingly frowned upon by the right. This puts a Bush era Republican like Santorum, who used earmarks extensively, into something of a pickle that Romnney and Gingrich don't have to face on account of losing his senate election or being kicked out, respectively.
Santorum's defense of earmarks ultimately boils down to the idea that when it is the other team in office, it is okay to use earmarks because you need to take power from the executive and do things yourself. When you are in office, however, earmarks are terrible because they take power from you.
"Congress has a role to play when it comes to appropriating money, and sometimes the president and the administration doesn't get it right..Congress has a role of allocating resources when they think the administration has it wrong. I do believe there was abuse, and I said we should stop it, and as president I would oppose earmarks."Santorum also voted for the poorly received No Child Left Behind Act, Bush's signature education reform which, like earmarks, is now a liability. In defense of this, he says that politics is a team sport and thus he supported it despite it going against his beliefs and that this was a mistake.
"I have to admit, I voted for that. It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you're part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake. You know, politics is a team sport, folks. And sometimes you've got to rally together and do something."Both defenses paint the same picture: politics is a hyperpartisan game and positions are justified not based on any objective merit but whether they are on your own team and whether they help your own team. Conversely, when the other team proposes something it is prima facie bad.
This revelation is hardly new; indeed, any follower of politics knows how partisan it is. What is strange is to see such an impassioned defense of this, especially in a Presidential nomination debate. Polititians usually are partisan, but they don't try and overty defend their partisan nature. These revelations certainly cost Santorum in what is widely considered to be a debate that he lost. Ultimately, all he did was tell the truth.
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