Blizzard of Lies
Anyone with an Internet connection can disprove many assertions of the McCain campaign.
Did you hear about how Barack Obama wants to have sex education in kindergarten, and called Sarah Palin a pig? Did you hear about how Ms. Palin told Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks” when it wanted to buy Alaska a Bridge to Nowhere?
These stories have two things in common: they’re all claims recently made by the McCain campaign -- and they’re all out-and-out lies.
Dishonesty is nothing new in politics. I spent much of 2000 -- my first year at The Times -- trying to alert readers to the blatant dishonesty of the Bush campaign’s claims about taxes, spending and Social Security.
But I can’t think of any precedent, at least in America, for the blizzard of lies since the Republican convention. The Bush campaign’s lies in 2000 were artful -- you needed some grasp of arithmetic to realize that you were being conned. This year, however, the McCain campaign keeps making assertions that anyone with an Internet connection can disprove in a minute, and repeating these assertions over and over again.
Take the case of the Bridge to Nowhere, which supposedly gives Ms. Palin credentials as a reformer. Well, when campaigning for governor, Ms. Palin didn’t say “no thanks” -- she was all for the bridge, even though it had already become a national scandal, insisting that she would “not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that’s so negative.”
Oh, and when she finally did decide to cancel the project, she didn’t righteously reject a handout from Washington: she accepted the handout, but spent it on something else. You see, long before she decided to cancel the bridge, Congress had told Alaska that it could keep the federal money originally earmarked for that project and use it elsewhere.
So the whole story of Ms. Palin’s alleged heroic stand against wasteful spending is fiction.
Or take the story of Mr. Obama’s alleged advocacy of kindergarten sex-ed. In reality, he supported legislation calling for “age and developmentally appropriate education”; in the case of young children, that would have meant guidance to help them avoid sexual predators.
And then there’s the claim that Mr. Obama’s use of the ordinary metaphor “putting lipstick on a pig” was a sexist smear, and on and on.
Why do the McCain people think they can get away with this stuff? Well, they’re probably counting on the common practice in the news media of being “balanced” at all costs. You know how it goes: If a politician says that black is white, the news report doesn’t say that he’s wrong, it reports that “some Democrats say” that he’s wrong. Or a grotesque lie from one side is paired with a trivial misstatement from the other, conveying the impression that both sides are equally dirty.
They’re probably also counting on the prevalence of horse-race reporting, so that instead of the story being “McCain campaign lies,” it becomes “Obama on defensive in face of attacks.”
Still, how upset should we be about the McCain campaign’s lies? I mean, politics ain’t beanbag, and all that.
One answer is that the muck being hurled by the McCain campaign is preventing a debate on real issues -- on whether the country really wants, for example, to continue the economic policies of the last eight years.
But there’s another answer, which may be even more important: how a politician campaigns tells you a lot about how he or she would govern.
I’m not talking about the theory, often advanced as a defense of horse-race political reporting, that the skills needed to run a winning campaign are the same as those needed to run the country. The contrast between the Bush political team’s ruthless effectiveness and the heckuva job done by the Bush administration is living, breathing, bumbling, and, in the case of the emerging Interior Department scandal, coke-snorting and bed-hopping proof to the contrary.
I’m talking, instead, about the relationship between the character of a campaign and that of the administration that follows. Thus, the deceptive and dishonest 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign provided an all-too-revealing preview of things to come. In fact, my early suspicion that we were being misled about the threat from Iraq came from the way the political tactics being used to sell the war resembled the tactics that had earlier been used to sell the Bush tax cuts.
And now the team that hopes to form the next administration is running a campaign that makes Bush-Cheney 2000 look like something out of a civics class. What does that say about how that team would run the country?
What it says, I’d argue, is that the Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse.
A Tale of Two Bridges
Palin is in the clear. Obama-Biden have one to answer about.
By Deroy Murdock
The far-away, now-abandoned Bridge to Nowhere lately has taken center stage in the race for the White House. For an unbuilt span that never actually connected two cold spots, it certainly is generating plenty of heat.
“The McCain campaign continues to repeat the lie that Sarah Palin stopped the Bridge to Nowhere,” Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton told the Associated Press Monday.
The only people ‘lying’ about spending are the Obama campaign,” McCain-Palin spokesman Brian Rogers shot back. “The only explanation for their hysterical attacks is that they’re afraid that when John McCain and Sarah Palin are in the White House, Barack Obama’s nearly $1 billion in earmark spending will stop dead in its tracks,” he added, referring to the 330 federally funded projects worth $931.3 million that Obama has requested since joining the Senate in January 2005.
Crossfire aside, who is right here? And are Barack Obama and Joe Biden fighting this issue with clean hands?
The GOP ticket’s detractors cite a statement Gov. Palin made on September 21, 2007: “Despite the work of our congressional delegation, we are about $329-million short of full funding for the bridge project, and it’s clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island.”
As TalkingPointMemo.com adds: “She shut it down after it became clear that Congress would no longer fund it.”
While noting her early support for the Bridge while a gubernatorial candidate, the Republican vice-presidential nominee’s critics seem to forget statements she made against it while governor long before “Palin officially killed the project” as PolitiFact.com puts it. (The photo below shows how the bridge would have connected the town of Ketchikan on Revillagigedo Island with the airport and village on Gravina Island, population: 50. A ferry links the two places.)
While running for chief executive, Palin backed the bridge, although with little evident enthusiasm. “The money that’s been appropriated for the project,” she told Ketchikan voters in September 2006, “it should remain available for a link, an access process as we continue to evaluate the scope and just how best to just get this done.”
Palin could have fought for the bridge as governor, as did her spendthrift GOP predecessor, Frank Murkowski (whom she jettisoned in a primary). Murkowski recommended dedicating $195 million in the state budget for the bridge. Instead, Palin gave it $0.
“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,” Kyle Hopkins wrote in the December 16, 2006 Anchorage Daily News. “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.”
In a February 2007 report on infrastructure priorities, Palin’s transition team opposed the Bridge, plus a road in Juneau. “Statewide, these two projects are seen as a severe drain on resources that would otherwise be assigned to heavily used commercial and passenger routes,” the study concluded.
Alaska’s Senate approved $1.6 billion in capital items on May 11, 2007. True to Palin’s wishes, the spending plan provided no money for the Bridge to Nowhere.
On September 21, 2007, Palin finally stated, “‘Ketchikan desires a better way to reach the airport, but the $398 million bridge is not the answer.”
Palin’s early, tepid support for the bridge, followed by her open hostility to it as governor did not please the state’s GOP political establishment.
As Amy Goldstein and Michael D. Shear observed in the August 30 Washington Post, Palin “has angered two of Alaska’s leading Republicans " Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young " by refusing to support their decades-long practice of securing federal money for the state, including Young’s effort to obtain $233 million for a structure dubbed the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ by critics because it would have connected a small town with an island populated with 50 people. In her short time in state office, she has repeatedly thwarted Stevens’s and Young’s interests and, at times, challenged their candidates " including their children.”
While it may be unfair to say that Sarah Palin always treated the Bridge as Milton Friedman might have, she quickly grasped the project’s folly and ultimately put it out of the nation’s misery. In a country where politicians endlessly make demands until weary taxpayers capitulate, Palin scrapped the bridge soon after she was empowered to do so.
Obama and Biden’s moaning about all of this would be far easier to stomach if they, too, opposed the Bridge to Nowhere. Not so.
Obama and Biden had an excellent opportunity to do the right thing. Just seven weeks after Hurricane Katrina, Senator Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) proposed to transfer $125 million from the notorious Bridge’s budget and instead devote it to rebuilding the Interstate 10 Twin Spans Bridge between New Orleans and St. Tammany’s Parish. The storm chopped up the bridge.
“We have the largest natural catastrophe we have ever seen in our history,” Coburn said on the Senate floor on October 20, 2005. “It is time we reassess the priorities we utilize in this body as we think about our obligations at home.”
Coburn’s amendment failed 15-82. Obama and Biden were among the “nays.” They and 80 other senators preferred to protect the earmarking tradition than to assist Katrina’s tempest-tossed citizens.
Obama and Biden put pork first and people second. While the residents of New Orleans and southern Louisiana endured perhaps their greatest challenge since the Civil War, Obama and Biden both turned their backs on these embattled Americans.
Katrina demolished much of the city of Slidell, home to Nan Eitel, a formerly New Orleans-based attorney who relocated with her family to Washington, D.C. after the storm. The Twin Spans Bridge was “the route I used to take to work every day,” she recalls by phone. When Eitel learned Monday that Obama and Biden helped junk Coburn’s plan to rebuild the bridge she traveled every weekday morning and evening for 14 years, she says, “I was stunned. That bridge is critical to the economy of the greater New Orleans region.” She explains that it connected Slidell’s bedroom community with downtown New Orleans. She says it served “many people who worked in the oil and gas industry and the Michoud, Louisiana facility where the Space Shuttle’s rockets are built.”
Eitel says that Obama and Biden’s votes “showed a tremendous lack of understanding for that community and the bridge’s importance to the reconstruction effort.” While other routes connected New Orleans to the north and west, the ruined Twin Spans Bridge left it isolated from points east. “Without the bridge, you couldn’t get the city rebuilt,” Eitel says. “Without it, you could not bring in building supplies. Without it you could not truck in the water and food that people needed.”
The Twin Spans Bridge is being rebuilt, though without the help that Coburn tried to provide and Obama and Biden helped block.
“Sarah Palin stood up to the biggest porkers in her state when she refused to spend taxpayer dollars on the Bridge to Nowhere,” the Club for Growth said in a statement yesterday. “Some in the media have claimed that Congress killed the Bridge first. This is not true. Congress removed the requirement to fund the bridge, leaving the choice up to the state. Once given the choice, Palin refused to spend taxpayer dollars on the wasteful Bridge to Nowhere. Standing up to Ted Stevens and Don Young in Alaska is nothing to sneeze at. Clearly, Barack Obama didn’t have the same courage in 2005.”
“While Barack Obama attacks Sarah Palin, we still have not heard him disavow his 2005 vote in favor of the Bridge to Nowhere and admit his mistake,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. “Sarah Palin deserves credit for recognizing how harmful and corrupt the pork process has become. Barack Obama has had three years to come to the same realization, and we’re still waiting. We call on Senator Obama to disavow his 2005 vote in favor of the Bridge to Nowhere.”
It may be too much to expect Obama and Biden to apologize for embracing an extravagance for 50 Alaskans over a necessity for some 500,000 New Orleanians. However, it would be nice if Democrats stopped attacking Palin who finally buried a boondoggle that Obama and Biden valued more than they did the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
" Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.
Either you're a fool who is buying the "play Americans for fools" platform or you just don't care about the truth because your partisan hate means more to you than the welfare of this nation. Palin did not "stop" the bridge because she's against federal pork, she flip-flopped in the face of unwanted negative attention. Palin's director of State-Federal Relations and Special Counsel told us that her administration was responding to unwanted attention by taking steps to appear less greedy:
Intersting that Krugman didn't mention the Obama camp taking McCain's comment about 100 years in Iraq and spinning it into a dishonest ad, much like he is saying the McCain has done here.
Many of us no longer look at the New York Times as the know all, see all of news organizations any longer.
Krugman is to conservatives as Ann Coulter is to libs/progressives, although Coulter has more best sellers. He is as far left as any of those conservatives you guys love to hate are to the right. I surely hope you don't consider him mainstream?
Why don't you guys on the right just admit that nothing but Fox News will do, as far as you're all concerned.
Hold on a second, while I post a scintillating reply from Rush...
Both are in the can for their candidate, although Limbaugh has been a little more critical of McCain than Krugman has been of Obama.