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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, September 01, 2008

Blowing up the Bridge to Nowhere Myth

By Keith R. Schmitz

Mommy, why do they lie?

One of the central themes of the Sarah Palin pick from the McCain camplaign and the people that love it is that Gov. Sarah Palin is a bold reformer, who said "thanks but no thanks" to the celebrated bridge to nowhere.

Turns out the last point is a big fat lie, as laid out by the sagely Bob Somerby:
Palin was elected governor in November 2006. One year earlier, in November 2005, the “bridge to nowhere” earmark ceased to exist. The New York Times ran a news report by Carl Hulse under the headline, “Two 'Bridges to Nowhere' Tumble Down in Congress.” (There had actually been two “bridges to nowhere,” though one had gotten the bulk of the mocking publicity). Here’s how Hulse began:

HULSE (11/17/05): Two 'Bridges to Nowhere' Tumble Down in Congress
Congressional Republicans decided Wednesday to take a legislative wrecking ball to two Alaskan bridge projects that had demolished the party's reputation for fiscal austerity.

Straining to show new dedication to lower spending, House and Senate negotiators took the rare step of eliminating a requirement that $442 million be spent to build the two bridges, spans that became cemented in the national consciousness as ''bridges to nowhere'' because of the remote territory and small populations involved.

The change will not save the federal government any money. Instead, the $442 million will be turned over to the state with no strings attached, allowing lawmakers and the governor there to parcel it out for transportation projects as they see fit, including the bridges should they so choose.

Palin had nothing to do with this act by the Congress, which occurred thirteen months before she took office. (Palin was elected in November 2006, took office the following month.) But this congressional action, in November 2005, cancelled the original earmark, which had directed the state of Alaska to use those particular federal funds to build that particular bridge. Under the terms of this new act, the state would still receive the funds—but the state could now use the money as it pleased. It could use the money to build the bridges. Or it could spend it on something else.

Again, this all happened thirteen months before Palin became governor. And let’s make it very, very clear: Congress stopped playing a role in this matter that day, in November 2005. From that point on, no one had to “tell Congress” anything about the Bridge to Nowhere, because Congress had removed itself from decision-making about the project. Congress had stopped directing how those funds should be used. In November 2005.

Two years later, in September 2007, Palin finally decided to use those funds for other state projects, not for the Bridges to Nowhere. But this had absolutely nothing to do with “telling Congress” anything. With her baldly deceptive, self-glorying statement, Palin is making voters think that she somehow stood up to the Congress—put a stop to their wasteful spending, told them to take their bridge and shove it. In fact, she did nothing of the kind. As best, she’s baldly misleading the public. At worst, she’s lying through her teeth.

Sorry, but Palin “told Congress” nothing at all about the Bridge to Nowhere. Today, she’s telling the public a lie, about her own moral greatness. But this is the way our brightest liberal site explained this latest act of deception.

Stuff like this makes one wonder how well the McCain campaign vetted Palin, and if, is he ready to lead?

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