Discuss as:

McCain links earmarks and Katrina

From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy
NEW ORLEANS -- On the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, McCain said, "Never again. Never again will a disaster of this nature be handled in the terrible and disgraceful way that it was handled."

When he was asked if it was fair to say that the failure of leadership extended all the way to the Oval Office, McCain said yes. But he added that he places "some of those responsibilities on the Congress of the United States, which funded pork barrel projects that were not only not needed and certainly not as important as some of the projects that were needed here."

He also said corporations should be asked to handle more of the response to a future disaster.

McCain then went further in his diatribe against earmarks and wasteful spending.

"I have never voted for a single earmark or pork barrel project," McCain said. "Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton have voted for hundreds of millions, hundreds of millions of pork barrel projects and earmarks and wasteful spending. They're part of the problem. I'm part of the answer."

While it is true that McCain has never sponsored an earmark -- by the strict definition of the word -- he has certainly voted for bills with earmarks, including some of the specific projects he criticizes most vocally on the campaign trail.

The campaign's four-block tour of the Lower Ninth Ward this morning quickly turned to confusion for McCain and the traveling media. Surrounded by at least 20 National Guardsmen, McCain walked with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal down Caffen Street, past Fats Domino's house and concluded his tour at St. David's Catholic Church. But while McCain walked, members of traveling press led the way in two flatbed army trucks, stopping and starting while trying to listen in on the brief conversations McCain had with voters along the way.

At times the trucks picked up speed and left the senator behind, causing members of the press to scream, "Stop." At other times, the candidate would catch up with the press, walking between the two trucks while McCain's traveling press secretary yelled at the uniformed drivers to speed up and get ahead of the tour. 

The press conference that greeted the senator at the end of his tour -- where McCain made the comments on Bush, earmarks and corporations -- was also a cause for confusion. Several local residents complained there were no seats for hurricane survivors outside the church and no time carved out in McCain's schedule for meetings with Ninth Ward residents. McCain tried to calm some of his detractors in the crowd with some of his patented "straight talk" on the government's failures to respond effectively after Katrina and Rita.