Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Thanks, but no thanks" to the Bridge to Nowhere

The now-famous line from the RNC that Sarah Palin is repeating at campaign stops is an outright lie. Although the networks continue to repeat the sound bite, at least some mainstream journalists are reporting the facts. She is no reformer and is happy to receive ear marks and pork for her projects -- at least until those are no longer politically expedient to admit to. This is from the Sept 15 issue of Newsweek:

From early in her career, Palin got ahead by working the system as well if not better than others. She hired a Washington lobbyist and won $27 million in earmarks for tiny Wasilla. Then she worked to get big federal money for the state. Though she now says she stood up to those who wanted to build the $223 million "Bridge to Nowhere" (which actually involved two bridges), she was once a strong supporter. Responding to a questionnaire in 2006, Palin said she wanted the projects done "sooner rather than later … while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist." At the time, another prominent politician had called people living in the area of one of the proposed projects "valley trash." That gave Palin an opening. Campaigning in the area, she used some of her trademark humor to make her pitch: "OK, you've got valley trash standing here in the middle of nowhere," she declared to residents of Ketchikan. "I think we're going to make a good team as we progress [with] that bridge."

As Alaskan corruption scandals grew, and the Bridge to Nowhere became synonymous with out-of-control federal spending, Palin switched positions. In an astonishing pivot, she began using the rhetoric of the projects' opponents. Now she talks as if she always opposed the funding. She used one of her stock lines in her nomination acceptance speech: "I told the Congress, 'Thanks but no thanks' for that Bridge to Nowhere."

In Juneau, Palin has given jobs to friends and appointed lobbyists to oversee industries they used to represent. There's nothing illegal about it—that's business as usual in politics. But part of Palin's appeal is that she markets herself as a reformer who fights against cronyism, when in fact her record shows her to be, in many ways, a typical politician who rewards her friends and punishes her enemies.

Some reformer. Add to that her suing the federal government for putting polar bears on the Endangered Species List (because it would interfere with oil and gas exploration and retrieval), her creationist beliefs and her disbelief in global warming, and I'd say you have quite a running mate, there John.

Still, I'm a little nervous. The media frenzy and public interest in Palin has upstaged John McCain, diverting scrutiny of his dubious claims and outright mendacity about his "maverick" characteristics and promises of reform and "change" (can you believe the gall of co-opting that message??!!). The gops are up to their old tricks, and I'm not convinced they won't work.

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