Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

August 31, 2008

BRIDGE TO SOMEWHERE.... The good news is, the McCain campaign is now starting to tell the public about Sarah Palin's accomplishments in Alaska. The bad news is, the principal example of Palin's strength as a leader is a blatant falsehood.

On a couple of the Sunday morning shows, John McCain and his chief surrogates touted Palin's opposition to the now-infamous "bridge to nowhere," a $398 million bridge to connect the town of Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents. To McCain and his supporters, Palin's firm stand against the congressional earmark is compelling evidence of her courage and conviction.

But what McCain and his cohorts are claiming is simply untrue. Palin supported the funding for the project, and kept the federal funds after the bridge deal fell through. Indeed, she ran for governor on a "build-the-bridge platform," and ended up directing federal funds to other wasteful pork projects, for fear of having to return unused tax dollars funds to the federal government.

This isn't an example the McCain campaign should be bragging about; it's an example the campaign should find embarrassing.

It does, however, lead to another question. McCain and other Republicans are boasting that Palin opposed the bridge. They're wrong. So, is the McCain campaign a) completely ignorant about Palin's actual record on this key issue; or b) simply trying to con the public?

Under the circumstances, it may be either. Making matters worse, I suppose it could be both.

If the single best example of Palin's leadership in office is bogus, what, pray tell, is the McCain campaign's Plan B?

Steve Benen 5:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (54)

Bookmark and Share

McCain/Palin - ready to take on the communists in Iraq on Day 1.

Hey, it's no dumber than their real arguments.

Posted by: the on August 31, 2008 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Even allowing for McCain's stubbornness, I could see him pulling an Eagleton at some point - perhaps after his 'convention bounce' has faded; maybe quite soon if no convention bounce materializes for him.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on August 31, 2008 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

So we have two options: A) an ignorant assertion not backed up by the facts, or B) blatant distortion. Unfortunately, when you have Republican hacks doing B you're going to get a lot of A.

My question: Can anyone think of a third possibility that might explain this besides being dumb or dishonest?

Posted by: Herb on August 31, 2008 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

What is an Eagleton? I keep seeing references to it/him/her.

Posted by: psychobroad on August 31, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, they know they can just like (taxes, etc.), and no one in the corporate media will call them on it.

Posted by: John McCain: Worse than Bush on August 31, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Good local blog on AK politics, including this story:

Posted by: has407 on August 31, 2008 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: jeff70mm on August 31, 2008 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Sen. Tom Eagleton, George McGoverns running mate had to pull out of the race when it was discovered that he had undergone electroshock therapy for a mental health issue. The campaign never recovered.

Posted by: Forrest on August 31, 2008 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

McCain B: Well, my friends, in the end her heart was in the right place. And judging from the heart, that is good enough for me and the country she believes in with her whole heart. So, no, there is no change since her heart was always in the right place. There is a little straight talk for you. (Emphasis on little).

Posted by: lou on August 31, 2008 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Why would anyone expect the organized hypocrisy to change tactics at this point?

Posted by: Jet on August 31, 2008 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

can someone please perform electroshock therapy on both of these two? maybe they can excuse it like going to a couples massage & cindy can get some more of that head in the oven treatment that she loves.

Posted by: vwmeggs on August 31, 2008 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

If the single best example of Palin's leadership in office is bogus, what, pray tell, is the McCain campaign's Plan B?

Plan B: Talk loud and wave your hands a lot.

Posted by: AK Liberal on August 31, 2008 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

McCain may get a small bounce from the Rep. convention, but look for the bridge and ethics investigation issues to blow up in the next few weeks. I'm curious to see how this woman will react to extreme scrutiny.

Posted by: Greg on August 31, 2008 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

What should be done about this? Wait for a weak-willed media to suddenly sprout a pair of cojones? Wouldn't hold your breath on that one.

Here's a radical thought. How about someone in the Obama campaign - very high profile, because some muttering from a spokesperson isn't going to make a ripple - lay out in precise terms Palin's support for the Bridge To Nowhere? Using media footage and possibly campaign literature from time would make it even more effective.

Either Biden or Hillary should do the trick. As soon as she becomes an old-fashioned pork barreler, Palin becomes a major drag on the ticket.

Posted by: Rapid Eddie on August 31, 2008 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

>"a) completely ignorant or b) simply trying to con the public?"

Doesn't matter.

All McCain has to do is make the assertion. The mainstream media will never challenge or investigate it and the public will swallow hook line and sinker.

Things might be different in this country if we actually had a press.

Imagine if during the run-up to the Iraq invasion the following exchange had taken place on national teevee.

Colin Powell: 'We know exactly where the WMD's are."
Reporter 'Why don't you tell the weapons inspectors where they are?'

A simple, logical question. Never asked.

Posted by: Buford on August 31, 2008 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

But, Alaska is close to Russia so Palin must be a foreign policy expert. I hate it when something that sounds like its from the Onion actually happens.

Posted by: Leslie on August 31, 2008 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, but sadly the media is not going to REPORT the truth, so it effectively does not exist.

Even though I know the media is corporate owned and corrupt, it doesn't change how very much it sucks.

The rabbit hole goes WAY TOO DEEP.

Posted by: Nashville_fan on August 31, 2008 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Stop picking on the girl!

Posted by: jm on August 31, 2008 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Linda Graham gave the response on This Week/ABC today:

But what did Obama do? Or Biden?

Posted by: gregor on August 31, 2008 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

If the single best example of Palin's leadership in office is bogus, what, pray tell, is the McCain campaign's Plan B?

More travels on the Straight Talk Express to Straight Talk Town Halls, riding that brand to November and the White House, without comment or contradiction by the Obama campaign. Hell, since they're entirely unwilling to make an issue of this or confront the brand, they might as well just include praise is "Straight Talk" whenever they insert the obligatory "respect for McCain's service"...

Posted by: Steve in Sacto on August 31, 2008 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

I have to agree it will be no problem for McCain as long as the Media remains silent and gives him and Palin the free pass. My paper croaked "McCain picks another maverick!" The question of course is who was the first? 90% voting with Bush and the establishment GOP and he's a "maverick" in the eyes of our press.

Posted by: ckelly on August 31, 2008 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Of course she kept the money, that how Alaska works. Alaska has a state finance system that is unique in the country.

Alaskans don't pay income tax nor is there a state sales tax. Alaskans do not pay for their own government. State revenues comes from two primary sources, leases and taxes on the oil industry and federal tax dollars. In other words, when people elsewhere in the country buy gas or pay their taxes, they are funding Alaska's state government.

The permanent fund checks every Alaskan gets come from money set aside from oil revenue.

In a very real way, Alaska is a truly corporate owned state. The rest of the country is in for an interesting education in just how much they subsidize the population of Alaska.

Posted by: thorin-1 on August 31, 2008 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Watching the police raid in Minnesota I wonder if the whole thing is not a joke. Is Bush/Cheney really planning on giving up power. McCain is such a phoney..."I've been watching her..." what total bullshit. If he'd been watching her he would have mentioned her before now. She was such a rush she wasn't even vetted.

And Graham...Graham needs to be removed from office. He is such a bold face liar...see how quickly he skimmed over the part that Palin ran on a platform of supporting the "bridge to nowhere" when it was pointed out to him as if well that doesn't matter or don't think about that little detail. Ha. There is no doubt that Graham would(like McCain) say or do anything to get McCain in office. They try to change reality to fit their political agenda no matter how deceitful they must be to do it. If McCain would have picked a trained monkey Graham would be spouting how he was trained by an expert in foreign policy.

If it was any clearer how dishonest and ignorant this McCain campaign was we would be blinded by the light. But even an act of God wouldn't detain some from voting for this outfit.

It's not whether they know the truth and are lying or they are just ignorant of Palin's history...they just don't care. They think they can use her to get votes and that is all that matters to them...not the country, not the truth, just who or what can they manipulate into getting votes. It's gone far beyond just bad judgment and poor decision making. It has come to pure power manipulation from a completely contemptible ambition to win at all costs. This should end McCain's, Graham's and Lieberman's political careers forever as voters get a good look at just how sleazy they really are.

Posted by: bjobotts on August 31, 2008 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

This isn't an example the McCain campaign should be bragging about; it's an example the campaign should find embarrassing.

You still don't understand the republican playbook, do you?

Present your strengths as weaknesses. Loudly proclaim that your weaknesses are strengths. Dare your opponents to attack your weaknesses, with the bluff that they're unassailable. Anything that should embarrass you, pretend it makes you proud. Attack your opponent's strengths and claim they're weaknesses, and do it unrelentingly so they can't figure out the double fake.

That's all they do. That's what they've been doing for decades. And it works. It makes the democrats unable to attack their glaring inability to govern, and keeps their base deluded that they're effective and righteous. It's blatant and transparent, right from Machiavelli's treatises, and I can't believe that nobody on the Dem side has figured it out yet.

Posted by: Remus Shepherd on August 31, 2008 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

'sall good; Cokie likes Alaska, so there'll be no discussion of the BTNW on anyone's teevee.

Posted by: eightnine2718281828mu5 on August 31, 2008 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Her principle accomplishment is being a woman who, unlike Hillary, does not threaten male chauvinism.

Posted by: George on August 31, 2008 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Amen to that, George.

Posted by: Kenji on August 31, 2008 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but it's insane that either Biden or HRC aren't all over this story in front of every camera in the country.

The facts are on their side, the evidence is there to display. It's an attack on policy and fact, not a personal dig. It would destroy the Pork Killer meme they're attempting to create around Palin at birth.

The media aren't going to do anything until they have to. Team Obama, get up off your collective asses and state the facts.

Posted by: Rapid Eddie on August 31, 2008 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

what, pray tell, is the McCain campaign's Plan B?

Ummmm....lie some more? Just a wild guess.

Posted by: Jennifer on August 31, 2008 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

...what, pray tell, is the McCain campaign's Plan B?

As with all things McBushylvanian, Plan B is always Plan A. Now if we could only get a broadcast commentator or two to spout off about this during their live "color" of the GOPer convention....

Posted by: Steve on August 31, 2008 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I took the time to read the Anchorage News article cited as well as the reader responses, (which by the way, were heavily supportive of Palin, and in general quite anti-Obama), and I'm sensing that this will not be a winner Dem talking point.

This gist of the story appears to be that Palin was supportive of the bridge when initially proposed as a way of connecting this town to the airport and outside access. It's when the price tag started shooting up that she backed off and became opposed to the bridge because of it's cost, not because it had no value. She then shifted her support to less costly alternatives.

Additionally, much of the story comes from an interview with Bob Weinstein, the mayor of the town, who was a major supporter of her defeated election opponent Andrew Halco, as well as with Halco who may still harbor a grudge, and Halco is the person that has provided this same story about Palin's flip-flop to the AP. A number of the reader comments emphasized this point.

This will be easily spun to show that Palin has the common sense to drop support of a project when the cost exceeded the benefits. I think this will resonate with a lot of the "anti-Washington" voters, as that's been a key criticism of Washington spending.

Posted by: pencarrow on August 31, 2008 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK
If the single best example of Palin's leadership in office is bogus, what, pray tell, is the McCain campaign's Plan B?
POW. POW. POW. Oh, dear God, didn't you hear me? P.O.W. Posted by: Bernard HP Gilroy on August 31, 2008 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

I notice she kept the money.

I wonder what people are going to think when they realize that Alaskans all receive checks from their state government. It's easy to be a libertarian or a conservative when everybody is on the dole.

Posted by: Ron Byers on August 31, 2008 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

McCain's "bounce" from selecting Palin is just about nothing. Maybe a point. She is going to have to bring more to the ticket than that if McCain is going to have a chance of any kind.

Posted by: Ron Byers on August 31, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

What?? Infrastructure expert Palin initially supported a bridge project with no idea what it was going to cost? And what do you mean, when the price tag started shooting up? it was a frickin' earmark, the money was requested in its total amount from the get-go. Are you telling me they asked for twice as much as they thought they'd need, and then the price started creeping up? Nonsense; the original amount earmarked was what the bridge was going to cost, and it isn't so much the cost of the bridge, but the extremely limited utility of the project. I'm sure the contention that Palin initially supported it but backed off when the price "shot up" would fall apart pretty quickly under closer examination.

Anyway, I'm tired of talking about Sarah Palin - can we move on to something else, please? Her selection has already served its purpose: nobody is talking about the Democrats, and all the blogs and news network are nothing but Palin Palin Palin.

Posted by: Mark on August 31, 2008 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Thorin-1: In other words, when people elsewhere in the country buy gas or pay their taxes, they are funding Alaska's state government.

What's the matter with that? The state owns the land that the oil is under and collects royalties for the development of the resource. It beats the heck out of privatizing the resource.

Keep in mind that the area of the Alaska is roughly equal to the five western most states in the lower forty-eight and we have the population of medium sized city. An astonishing amount of state and municipal infrastructure would not exist except for oil revenues.

As for federal spending, my understanding is that the majority is to fund things like military bases, various federal agencies and programs, and management of federal lands. These are monies that would be spent regardless if we had an income tax or not.

Posted by: AK Liberal on August 31, 2008 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Actually pencarrow, Palin knew exactly how much it would cost and it wasn't cheap. The initial cost of the Gravina Island Bridge was projected to be $223m. She knew that. She actually ran for governor on a Build-The-Bridge platform in 2006.

If you think that supporting a $223m bridge to an island with 50 people on it is a winner with conservatives, then I beg to differ.

It wasn't even the rising costs that caused the turnaround. First off, the media got hold of the story. This wasn't an attack of conscience, this was bad PR for Palin.

Secondly, when the anticipated costs started to rise to $398m - at the same time as this became known as The Bridge To Nowhere in the national media - the federal government slashed the pork barrel monies available for it. Alaska's portion of the bill jumped from $160m (40% of total cost) to $329M (82% of total cost).

She pulled the plug because (a) it was making her look bad and (b) it was now going to have to come out of her budget. Principles or scruples had jack to do with it.

Posted by: Rapid Eddie on August 31, 2008 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK


Having spent a couple of days coming to the conclusions that Sarah Palin is not ready to run for Vice President, that in the long run she ads noting to the conversation, and that John McCain was a damn irresponsible fool for selecting her primarily because of her physical parts, I would love to talk about something else. Anything else.

That said, I am scared shitless that Palin might be the President of the United States next April. How the hell is she going to deal with Putin, Iran and the rest of the world. More importantly, I don't want my wife and daughter to lose their right to control their own bodies to some damn government agency.

Posted by: Ron Byers on August 31, 2008 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

Headline on Anchorage Daily News website:

Palin touts stance on 'Bridge to Nowhere,' doesn't note flip-flop


We're fortunate to have a McClatchey paper in the state. Perhaps, this will get some national attention.

Posted by: Ak Liberal on August 31, 2008 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

It's that in the Republican version of reality, the latest thing you did or said automatically trumps and replaces everything that happened before -- and even stuff that may yet come. If you even suggest otherwise, they look at you, like, "What planet are you from?" So no, they are not lying, they're speaking from their own reality context.

George Bush's coming-to-Jesus trumps all his hard-drinking and carousing before he was 40. McCain's support for campaign finance reform trumps his ethical lapses and being bribed influenced in the Keating 5 Affair. Some people call this "redemption." (I don't.) But if you prefer that word, fine, but recognize that Redemption is a card any Republican politico carries in his wallet throughout his life, ready to be played should it become necessary.

Posted by: bob5540 on August 31, 2008 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Tell me I did not just hear John McCain Saying on the NBC nightly news tell Brian Williams that Palin has more "Executive Experience " than Obama and cited her time her running the largest state
(geographically only pop 600,000), her part time mayor's job and the PTA! THE Fucking PTA! on national television no less . Of course Mr Williams just nods - I don't now how he could keep a straight face. This will be a coffee spitting moment on Jon Stewart next week.

Posted by: John R on August 31, 2008 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Enough Palin!

Enough, enough, enough!

Let's talk about Obama's speech, or the gigantic hurricane about to strike Louisiana, or Bush's follies.

Something, anything not Palin!

Posted by: lampwick on August 31, 2008 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget that she said that she and Senator Ted Stevens were "singing from the same sheet of music" in 2007. I can see a very lovely ad montage of quotes that she made about the Bridge to Nowhere and also Stevens.

Posted by: Cindy McCant on August 31, 2008 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

There is a huge hurricane approaching.

Obama/Biden have priorities, and right now that is to ensure that any/all assistance is offered to those who are affected by Gustav in the next couple of days, and forward.

Palin can wait. She'll eventually hang herself, and take McCain with her.

But right now, we have relatives and friends who need our help and attention.

Posted by: jcricket on August 31, 2008 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Rapid Eddie... You may be correct, although not sure that message was reflected in the Anchorage News article, but the point of my post was that this issue will easily be re-spun as a positive message since the focus will be on Palin's rejecting a $220MM bridge that doubled in price, not the issue of why approve a $220MM bridge in the first place.

One other note, the article states that:

Congress eventually removed the earmark language but the money still went to Alaska, leaving it up to the administration of then-Gov. Frank Murkowski to decide whether to go ahead with the bridges or spend the money on something else.

Same problem, it will be a stretch to pin the keeping of the money on Palin when it was her predecessor that got the "general use" funds.

Still feel that this is a losing attack point on Palin for the Dems.

Posted by: pencarrow on August 31, 2008 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

Jeez, it has been less than sixty hours since McCain gave us his little 'birthday present,' she hasn't even been officially nominated, and a 'new Katrina' may be heading for New Orleans. And people are complaining that the papers aren't already filled with anti-Palin pieces. (In fact, there haven't ben many pieces either way, they've been more like "Huh? WHO?" And there have been a lot of negative comments by Republicans and conservatives already.)

Give it time. The parties, yes, even the Republicans, tend to tone things down during the other party's convention. And the papers are still scrambling to find anyone who knows something about her other than the surface. (Even then, some pretty bad things have already come out.)

But she is an attractive type, with an interesting life story, and most of all she's a novelty. If Team Obama were already 'piling on,' can't you see her waging a tearful withdrawal, and complaining that the misogyny of the 'liberal media' and the Obama campaign has made it impossible for any woman to succeed, comparing herself to the mythical Hillary, defeated by their evil woman-hating ways and not because she deserved to lose.

Give it time. And don't worry. By mid-September at the latest, after she proves her incompetence, she'll be a national joke, if she's still on the tocket, and if she's off, her replacement will be known as second-choice to her.

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on August 31, 2008 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

Points taken pencarrow, but I still think this is a fruitful line of attack. Supporting a hugely expensive bridge - and then backtracking - is something that most people can understand. Learn from the Republicans. Nuances get lost. She was an enthusiastic supporter of a near quarter of a billion dollar folly.

Also learn another lesson from the Republicans. Go after your opponent's strengths, because without them you have a weak candidate.

The Democratic narrative is simple and effective - this woman supported the most famous pork barrel project of the last 4 years.

Note as well, fail to respond to her claims of being a pork barrel slayer and the reputation grows. Democrats are lousy at defining their opponents. This is a golden opportunity to do so.

Posted by: Rapid Eddie on August 31, 2008 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

Who's lying here? Only two possibilities.

One possibility: she lied to the McCain people, went out and bragged at her intro ceremony that she had stood up to Congress, and allowed the McCain folks to run with this story. Now the truth is out. They were conned, and at this point they either muddle through or dump her.

Other possibility: she told McCain people the truth, then she and they decided lie to the American people and go with the "maverick" bull-crap. And they all should quit.

Posted by: CMcC on August 31, 2008 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

I will mention a couple of more points, one of which, at least, I'm surprised has escaped comment, and that was her simple-minded and admittedly ignorant ("I don't know much about...") comment about Iraq. Oh, people have mentioned it, but they haven't coupled it with the fact that her son is reportedly going off to serve there.

What sort of mother wouldn't, just as a mother, take a closer look at a war that could cost her a son?

The second thing are the rumors about the baby. I have no idea if they are true, or as crazy as Larry Sinclair's stories. But I can say two things. I have known, personally, of two cases where this has been true, where someone discovered in adult life that her 'big sister' was really her mother, and that her 'mother' was really her grandmother. (And if this should turn out to be true, and she tries to spin it as 'protecting the child' she should be called on it. The psychological devastation to the child, in both cases, was crippling.)

And, again, hardly proof in the slightest, but I grew up when having an illegitimate child was much greater of a stigma than it is now, and the two 'standard excuses' for a teenage girl disappearing from school were 'visiting a sick relative' and 'mono.' Not proof again, but it makes it less possible to dismiss it out of hand, if the facts are as reported.

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on August 31, 2008 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Prup, as to the rumor about the Gov and her 16 year old daughter, we shouldn't go there. It is lose, lose all the way around. In fact I think the clowns at Kos who keep investigating this are irresponsible as hell.

Palin provides a target rich environment. Pick a different target.

Posted by: Ron Byers on August 31, 2008 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Palin is a joke, but she was picked because McCain is not a serious candidate.

That being said, there is no reason to talk about her children. Those opposing McCain should have more class than he shows.

Posted by: the on August 31, 2008 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

Just saw the results of the Time/CNN poll taken over the weekend that shows Obama and McCain virtually tied, but here's an interesting part of the poll:

Do you think John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin reflects favorably or unfavorably on McCain’s ability to make important presidential decisions?

Favorably: 57%
Unfavorably: 40%
No opinion: 2%

And doesn't this poll generally favor the Dems because the sample size reflects a larger proportion od Dems vs Repubs??

Seems contradictory to the tone of these various Palin threads on the Monthly.

Posted by: pencarrow on September 1, 2008 at 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting how the WP frames the bridge flip flop this morning:

"Democrats Say Palin Initially Backed Bridge"

Can't the press just present the facts, cite Palin's own quotes on the bridge, and show how phony her "war" on Congressional earmarks actually is without making it out to be something based upon the political views of democrats?


Posted by: lou on September 1, 2008 at 6:58 AM | PERMALINK

OFF TOPIC.....sort of....

Population of A-l-a-s-k-a - (2006 est.): 670,000

Population of Rhode Island - (2006 est): 1-million


Posted by: mr. irony on September 1, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly