Senator McCain’s Pork Chops


Yesterday, Friday, the Washington Post published a letter from the President of Citizens Against Government Waste in response to my commentary in last Sunday’s Outlook section.  Tom Schatz, the President of CAGW, focused on defending Senator John McCain against my descriptions and criticisms of his actions on defense bills.  I sent the Post a response to Mr. Schatz, but the Post has decided not to publish it.  Both letters are reproduced below.

Friday, August 27, 2004; Page A20
Washington Post

In the Aug. 22 Outlook piece, “Don’t Mind If I Do,” WINSLOW T. WHEELER leveled much-deserved criticism at Congress for larding the defense budget with self-serving, parochial projects. Citizens Against Government Waste’s annual “Congressional Pig Books” have shown how defense pork has risen 30.6 percent during the past three years, even as our elected leaders purportedly have marshaled all available resources to wage the war on terrorism.

However, Mr. Wheeler missed the mark when he accused Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) of giving a “wink and nod” to record pork in the 2005 defense appropriations bill.

Mr. McCain’s credentials as an anti-pork crusader are unassailable. He is the only senator who consistently takes to the floor to shame members of Congress for their budget-busting, special-interest spending. Mr. McCain’s decision to insert his criticism into the Congressional Record instead of speaking on the Senate floor hardly means that he is “going through the motions” or that his efforts are insincere.

Mr. McCain has repeatedly pushed for budget reform legislation that would reduce opportunities to get pet projects included in the annual spending bills.

Several times, he was rebuffed by Mr. Wheeler’s former boss, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), when he sought help to make such remedies a reality. And no wonder. Mr. Wheeler regularly prepared a laundry list of pork requests at the behest of his boss for inclusion in defense appropriations, as he acknowledged in his essay, “Mr. Smith Is Dead,” published by the Center for Defense Information.

Citizens Against Government Waste


My response:
Dear Editor:

In large part, I agree with Tom Schatz, in his 26 Aug. letter regarding my commentary in Outlook, “Don’t Mind If I Do.” Both his organization, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), and Senator John McCain perform a valuable public service by reporting on Congress’ atrocious and corrosive pork system. Mr. Schatz was also right to point out that I was once a busy participant in that system. As I have already confessed and in much more detail in my forthcoming book, “The Wastrels of Defense,” I didn’t just push pork for the Senators who employed me, I did a lot to retard Congress’s porcine apparatus. However, I continue to be very disappointed in Senator McCain. As a U.S. Senator, he is in a position to do more than just report on pork like CAGW, yet for the most part he takes no meaningful action.

Senator McCain’s inaction constitutes an enabling of pork, not a crusade against it. As authorizations and appropriations for pork in Congress’s defense bills achieve new records in parallel with Senator McCain’s speeches, the nation’s defense weakens. Accurate reporting outside Congress helps, but just talk inside keeps the system going. In my book I’ve come up with a “12 Step” program to impede pork on Capitol Hill and to stop the other ways Congress sabotages US security. I would welcome working with Mr. Schatz and Senator McCain to give citizens the Congress they need and deserve in the area of national security.


Visiting Senior Fellow
Center for Defense Information

Winslow Wheeler is a visiting senior fellow at the Center for Defense Information. He contributed an essay on the defense budget to CounterPunch’s new book: Dime’s Worth of Difference. Wheeler’s book, “The Wastrels of Defense: How Congress Sabotages U.S. Security,” will be available from the Naval Institute Press in October.


Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight.  He spent 31 years working for the Government Accountability Office and both Republican and Democratic Senators on national security issues.

Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving