The primary narrative that the GOP laid out for Sarah Palin, as she emerged from her relative anonymity in Alaska, was that she was a fellow 'maverick' who fought against earmarks and special interests, culminating in her allegedly turning down the "bridge to nowhere," with a "thanks, but no thanks."
It's a great American story. It also happens to be a lie.
Since the mainstream media will, for the most part, not report the truth, it is something many of us on the progressive side of the blogosphere are doing to help insure we have an informed electorate come November.
As I debunk the McCain-Palin lies, I will make sure everything is fully attributed. I don't want anyone to take my word for anything. The truth is out there, all we need are the proper tools to uncover it.
The Bridge To Nowhere
The 'bridge to nowhere' was a proposed bridge that would have connected Ketchican, Alaska to the Ketchican International Airport on Gravina Island. The bridge was projected to cost $398 million (which sounds much cheaper than 400 million), and would have replaced the need for a ferry, which is currently used.
According to a story in the 5/17/05 edition of USA Today,the proposed bridge would be,
nearly as long as the Golden Gate and higher than the Brooklyn Bridge, to connect the town of Ketchikan (population 8,900) to the city airport on Gravina Island (population 50).
The Metamorphosis Of Sarah Palin
When Sarah Palin was the Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, getting earmarks for her city was one of her annual traditions. In fact, it is well documented that Palin hired a lobbyist that got her town $27 million in earmarked projects. The population of Wasilla at the time? 6,900.
During her run for Governor, Sarah Palin had no problem campaigning for funding for the Gravina Island Bridge. As USA Today accurately reported,
While running for governor in 2006, though, Palin backed federal funding for the infamous bridge, which McCain helped make a symbol of pork barrel excess.In an article in the 10/5/06 edition of the Anchorage Daily News, titled 'Bridges, oil and wolves drive debate: GOVERNOR'S RACE: Candidates sound off on key state issues," (fee required), the following was reported:
As for the infamous "bridges to nowhere," MacDonald asked if the candidates would forge ahead with the proposed Knik Arm crossing between Anchorage and Point MacKenzie and Ketchikan's Gravina Island bridge. Each has received more than $90 million in federal funding and drew nationwide attacks as being unnecessary and expensive. He also asked if they support building an access road from Juneau toward -- but not completely connecting to -- Skagway and Haines. "I do support the infrastructure projects that are on tap here in the state of Alaska that our congressional delegations worked hard for," Palin said. She said the projects link communities and create jobs. Still, Palin warned that the flow of federal money into the state for such projects is going to slow.Sarah Palin, shortly after she was elected, had a change of heart. As the 12/16/06 edition of the Anchorage Daily News reported, in a story titled "Budget plan calls for belt- tightening" (fee required),
Palin's budget doesn't include money for mega projects that she supported as a candidate, such as the controversial Gravina Island bridge in Ketchikan.
Asked if she'd changed her mind about the project, Palin said she will hash out where the bridge fits on the state's list of priorities with the help of the Legislature and public.
"We have a limited pot of money, of course, and we need to make wise, sensible choices," she said.
Andrew Halcro, on his blog, reported on the following exchange with Sarah Palin and Charlie Rose, from 10/12/07:
CR: What was that highway Senator Stevens wanted to build?As Halcro writes:
SP: He wanted to build a bridge.
CR: You stopped that didn't you?
SP: Stopped that because we'll make sensible decisions using other peoples money, federal money, and we'll make some wise decisions on how to build up our infrastructure.
CR: Did you get any feedback on your decision?
SP: From those in Congress?
SP: Yes I did, but Alaskans are supportive, again just to make some wise decisions with other peoples money.
The governor's decision was made just 6 weeks after U.S. Senator Ted Stevens Girdwood home was raided by the FBI and rumors were at a fever pitch that an indictment was soon to follow.The bottom line was that Governor-elect Sarah Palin, whose entire career had consisted of securing earmarks (there is a reason why Alaska had twice the amount of earmarks per capita than any other state), knew that her state was being belittled in the media. She knew that Stevens was being investigated. And she knew that, if Alaska was going to continue to receive money, she had to do something.
The reason for sending out the 5am press release was to hit east coast newscycles to gain maximum national attention for the move. The move garnered big news coverage nationwide.
To put it simply...Palin was for the Bridge to Nowhere, before she was against it.
If it was just a matter of not taking pork, Palin's story would have maybe some validity. However, Governor Palin would have committed political suicide had she generically turned down money earmarked for her state. She didn't. She merely reduced it to a couple hundred million.
As Palin herself wrote in the 3/5/08 edition of the Fairbanks News-Miner,
I am not among those who have said "earmarks are nothing more than pork projects being shoveled home by an overeager congressional delegation." I recognize that Congress, which exercises the power of the purse, has the constitutional responsibility to put its mark on the federal budget, including adding funds that the president has not proposed.
This year, we have requested 31 earmarks, down from 54 in 2007. Of these, 27 involve continuing or previous appropriations and four are new requests. The total dollar amount of these requests has been reduced from approximately $550 million in the previous year to just less than $200 million.
It is a lie to suggest that Palin had been against this bridge...that is was somehow offered to her...and, out of her maverick, rebellious nature, she turned it down. It is a lie to suggest she is, or ever has been, against earmarks.
She strongly advocated for earmarks as mayor. As governor, facing stiff opposition from Washington, she merely reduced what she was requesting.
Had Palin not changed her mind on the bridge, the public outcry had gotten so bad, at that point, that she would have been hard-pressed to get money for other Alaskan pet projects.
And, up to that point, those earmarks were what Sarah Palin was all about.
Alaska did not return the money
What makes this the utmost farce was that Alaska got the money anyway and just used it for other projects, as Frank Rich recently pointed out.
According to factcheck.org:
Palin accepted non-earmarked money from Congress that could have been used for the bridge if she so desired. That she opted to use it for other state transportation purposes doesn’t qualify as standing up to Congress.So, how come the mainstream media is letting her get away with this?
Why the kid gloves treatment on a woman we know nothing about, who is kept under wraps while we are fed carefully chosen media soundbytes?