Ironically, ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ Taking Campaigns to Exciting New Places

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"Bridges? We hate bridges!"
"Bridges? We hate bridges!" Photo: Getty Images

Before getting into the recent political resuscitation of the Bridge to Nowhere controversy, it would be useful to set forth the actual facts. (See Jonathan Allen's helpful guide in CQ Politics for the full story.) In 2005, Congress gave Alaska a $223-million earmark for a bridge to connect Ketchikan to Gravina Island — population 50. After an outcry, Congress removed the earmark for the bridge specifically, but allowed Alaska to keep the money for any transportation projects it saw fit. When Sarah Palin ran for governor in 2006, she supported building the bridge, even though the money no longer had to be spent on it. Once she became governor, she kept the money but turned against the project, and it wasn't built. There, done. Fast-forward to last week at the Republican National Convention: Palin claimed that she told Congress "Thanks, but no thanks" on the bridge. "If our state wanted a bridge, I said we’d build it ourselves." Since then, the campaign has touted Palin's bridge-killing heroism on the stump and in a new ad, "Original Mavericks." Barack Obama has taken particular umbrage at this claim, a main plank of the McCain campaign's recent re-branding as the "reformer/maverick/change-agent" ticket. Yesterday he began blasting the dubious assertion in appearances on the campaign trail, on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and in his own ad, uncreatively titled "No Mavericks." And, slowly, the media is taking notice.

• Josh Marshall thinks we may be "witnessing the first stirrings of a backlash and a dawning realization that the 'Sarah Palin' we've heard so much about over the last few days is a fraud of truly comical dimensions." At the risk of hyperbole, "not a single word that comes out of her mouth … is anything but a lie." [Talking Points Memo]

• Mike Madden notes that in its defense of Palin's record on the bridge, the McCain campaign is ignoring key details, "glossing over exactly how long it took for her" to turn against the bridge. [War Room/Salon]

• Jim Geraghty takes the same tactic as the McCain campaign, noting that Palin killed the bridge but declining to address her previous support. He also points out that Obama and Biden have flip-flopped on things too. (!) [Corner/National Review]

• Andrew Romano calls it "completely misleading to portray Palin as a 'crusader for the thrifty use of tax dollars' and claim, as the Alaska governor did in her convention speech last week, that she" turned down Congress' offer to fund the bridge. In the past, the mainstream media would have covered this distortion once and then let it go, but now the Internet is forcing folks to stay on top of the story. [Stumper/Newsweek]

• Steve Benen is struck by the Obama ad's "use of the word 'lying,' which is both aggressive and accurate under the circumstances." The new sharper aggressiveness will likely "thrill" party backers. [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Joe Klein thinks the Obama ad is "tougher" and "more effective" than previous efforts. [Swampland/Time]

• Howard Kurtz labels the "Original Mavericks" ad's bridge claim a "whopper." [Trail/WP]

• Yuval Levin points out that while Palin "should have opposed [the bridge] to begin with, as McCain did" it's "a little odd for Obama to argue that point" since he voted for the earmark in the Senate. [Corner/National Review]

• Elizabeth Holmes and Laura Meckler report that the McCain campaign is repeating the bridge assertion "[d]espite significant evidence to the contrary." [WSJ]

• Matt Yglesias gives credit to The Wall Street Journal, but contends that what really matters "isn’t one-off articles but campaign narratives." If the media were so inclined, "there’s a fairly obvious narrative about John McCain that could be built around his campaign’s penchant for repeating false claims about bridges, opponents’ tax plans, etc." [Think Progress]

• Arianna Huffington warns that "McCain's team, in an effort to distract, is going to keep doing what they're doing — diverting voters and the media with a tantalizing combination of personal trivia and small lies." [HuffPo]

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.