Two Bridges to Nowhere
Palin’s scam is business as usual
Is Sarah Palin the implacable pit
bull of government reform, lipstick and all? The latest Republican campaign commercial pictures her in heroic terms at the side of John
McCain as one of the âoriginal mavericks,â declaring that she âstopped
the Bridge to Nowhere.â
But even cursory examination shows that her posturing is wildly exaggerated and her campaign claims veer toward fraud. Details are important in these matters, especially when the lobbyists and consultants surrounding McCain are so intent on blurring the truth.
The true story of the Ketchikan bridge begins, like most fables of Alaskan government run amok, in the offices of Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, the formerly powerful, ethically dubious Republican duo brought low by investigation and indictment. Although her gubernatorial campaign Web site once featured endorsements from both men, Gov. Palin has long since dumped them as inconvenient baggage. But her appetite for the federal dollars they brought back to her state was no less voracious than theirsâuntil the stateâs reputation for budgetary gluttony became embarrassing to her.
As Congressional Quarterly points
out, in its impeccably nonpartisan style, Palin continued to campaign
enthusiastically for the âBridge to Nowhereâ long after McCain and
others first exposed the project three years ago. Indeed, she literally
campaigned for the Ketchikan project while running for governor in
2006, evidently because she believed that her support would draw votes
in southeastern Alaska.
By then Congress had already repealed any requirement that the state
spend any money on the project, but she didnât care. âPart of my agenda
is making sure that Southeast is heard,â she said during a campaign
visit to Ketchikan in October 2006. âThat your projects are important.
That we go to bat for Southeast when weâre up against federal
influences that arenât in the best interest of Southeast.â
According to the Ketchikan Daily News, she then went on to denounce the bridgeâs opponents: âWe need to come to the defense of southeast Alaska when proposals are on the table like the bridge and not allow the spin-meisters to turn this project or any other into something thatâs so negative.â Those awful âspin-meistersâ presumably included the senator from Arizona, who was leading congressional opposition to the project.
The Second Bridge Is Twice the Price
At least Palinâs belligerence toward any one who questioned Alaskaâs right to enormous shares of the federal budget was consistent. During
her tenure as mayor of Wasilla, then with a population of approxi
mately 6,000, she hired a lobbyistâthe former Senate chief of staff to
Stevensâwho was dedicated to bringing back pork from Capitol Hill. That
effort produced between $6 million and $7 million in annual ear marks
for the little town, making its residents among the most fortunate
recipients of federal largesse in the nation.
A scam like the Bridge to Nowhere was merely business as usual, except bigger.
Has she reformed herself since then? When pressed, the McCain campaign explains that although she supported the Ketchikan project until well after her election as governor, she came to realize that earmarks are âbadâ and that reform is imperative. That revised claim would be more persuasive, however, if she had not continued to support Alaskaâs other bridge to nowhere until as recently as last June.
Oh, didnât you
know that there were originally two bridges to nowhere? The second
bridge is to be built in Palinâs own home region of Matanuska-Susitna,
designed to connect the Knik Arm peninsula (and Wasilla!) to the city of Anchorage. Excoriated
in precisely the same breath as the Ketchikan bridge by McCain in 2005,
the Knik Arm bridge would actually be at least twice as expensive, with
the latest estimate clocking in at approximately $1 billion.
So far, Ms. Palin has not âstoppedâ that second bridge to nowhere, perhaps because those Washington spin-meisters havenât generated as much negative publicity about the Knik Arm project. Instead she has ordered a âreviewâ of its prospects and costs because, as she admitted in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News last June, the Alaskan congressional delegation no longer has enough clout.
âYou know, it was assumed that the feds would be paying for the project,â she said. âWell, things have changed there on the federal front, havenât they?â So they have. Whether Palin has changed is another question entirely.
Two years ago, she portrayed herself as a straight-talking populist who supported the Ketchikan bridge. Now she portrays herself as a straight-talking populist who stopped the same bridge.
In New York City, this kind of behavior is known as âtrying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge.â Is America buying?
© 2008 Creators Syndicate Inc.