The thing you need to remember about Donald Trump’s new passion for congressional earmarks, delivered in a now-predictably bizarre aside during what was in theory a meeting about immigration policy, is that Donald Trump has no goddamn opinion whatsoever on congressional earmarks and likely does not know what they are.
“You know, our system lends itself to not getting things done,” Trump said. “And I hear so much about earmarks, the old earmark system, how there was a great friendliness when you had earmarks.”
“In the old days of earmarks,” he continued, “you can say what you want about certain presidents and others … they went out to dinner at night, and they all got along, and they passed bills. That was an earmark system. And maybe we should think about it.”
This is for the most part gibberish, but to the extent it’s not gibberish Trump appears to be equating “the old earmark system” with dinner dates and general camaraderie.
The term “earmarks” in fact refers to the old now-theoretically-banned practice of inserting specific bribes for specific districts in order to secure the vote of a specific inhabitant of Congress. For example, an “earmark” could specify that there shall be a new and glorious bridge built over a particular waterway, and that it must be built in Robert UpForReelectionNextYear’s district, and it will cost a bucketful of money and be named the Robert UpForReelectionNextYear AwesomeSpan. Bob can then go to his constituents and brag about the hundreds of millions of dollars that got dumped into the district solely because of his own masterful work, and in exchange for that rather potent campaign talking point all Bob needed to do was agree to a bill that he would never have otherwise voted for because it was wasteful or stupid or both.
Whether you consider that thinly veiled corruption or merely grease for the ol’ lawmaking gears depends on who you talk to, but it was restricted because it had become more famous for being the first of those things than the second.
All right, so what can we make of this new insertion into Trump’s rhetoric? Nothing. Absolutely nothing, and it would be pointless to try.
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