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Obama gives an earful on Palin earmarks

Barack Obama made his first direct criticism of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin on Saturday, saying she pretends to oppose spending earmarks when she actually has embraced them.

Speaking to 800 people at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds in Terre Haute, Ind., the Democratic presidential nominee ridiculed John McCain and his running mate for describing themselves as agents of change at last week's GOP convention.

“Don't be fooled,” Obama told the crowd surrounding him in a large barn. “John McCain's party, with the help of John McCain, has been in charge” for nearly eight years.

“I know the governor of Alaska has been saying she's for change, and that's great. She's a skillful politician. But, you know, when you've been taking all these earmarks when it's convenient, and then suddenly you're the champion anti-earmark person, that's not change. Come on! I mean, words mean something. You can't just make stuff up.”

McCain has vowed to wipe out earmarks, which are targeted funding for specific projects that lawmakers put into spending bills. As governor, Palin originally supported earmarks for a controversial $398 million Alaska project dubbed the “bridge to nowhere.” But she dropped her support after the state's likely share of the cost rose. She hung on to $27 million to build the approach road to the bridge.

Under Palin's leadership, Alaska this year asked for almost $300 per person in requests for pet projects from one of McCain's top adversaries: indicted Sen. Ted Stevens. That's more than any other state got, per person, from Congress for the current budget year. Other states got just $34 worth of local projects per person this year, on average, according to Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington-based watchdog group.

The state government's earmark requests to Congress in her first year in office exceeded $550 million, more than $800 per resident. Palin actually reduced the state government's requests for special projects this year in the wake of President Bush's demand for a cutback in earmarks.

Obama also delivered some of his most withering criticisms yet of McCain, although he did so with chuckles and mock disbelief. McCain has acknowledged voting with President Bush 90 percent of the time in Congress, Obama said.

“And suddenly he's the change agent? Ha. He says, ‘I'm going to tell those lobbyists that their days of running Washington are over.' Who is he going to tell? Is he going to tell his campaign chairman, who's one of the biggest corporate lobbyists in Washington? Is he going to tell his campaign manager, who was one of the biggest corporate lobbyists in Washington?

“I mean, come on, they must think you're stupid,” Obama said as the crowd cheered.

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