| September 14, 2008 at 03:30 pm
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We've heard a lot about the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" over the past months. Democrats use it to show that Sarah Palin is nothing more than a female George W. Bush. Republicans use it to show that Sarah Palin is not a part of the same-old-same-old politics as usual. McCain's big advertising push is the "Original Mavericks" ad where a speaker claims, "He fights pork barrel spending. She stopped the Bridge to Nowhere. He took on the drug industry. She took on Big Oil.” But what, exactly is or was this bridge to nowhere and which side portrays a story closer to the truth? It began as a project to build a $398 million bridge that was to be higher than the Brooklyn Bridge and almost as long as the Golden Gate Bridge in order to connect the town of Ketchikan (population 8,900) to the Gravina Island (population 50). Gravina Island is home to the second largest airport in southeast Alaska. People traveling to or from Galina Island currently take a 10-minute ferry ride for $5. While campaigning for Governor in 2006, Palin visited Ketchikan to express her support for the Bridge to Nowhere. In an interview, Palin was asked, "Would you continue state funding for the proposed Knik Arm and Gravina Island bridges?" Her reply was, "Yes. I would like to see Alaska's infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now - while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist." (Anchorage Daily News 10/22/06) The Bridge to Nowhere soon became the poster child for pork barrel spending. In August 2007, McCain claimed at a Town Hall meeting in Ankeny, Iowa that "pet projects could have played a role in a Minnesota bridge collapse that killed 13 people (The Seattle Times 9/22/07). At that meeting he said, "Maybe if we had done it right, maybe some of that money would have gone to inspect those bridges and other bridges around the country. Maybe the 200,000 people who cross that bridge every day would have been safer than spending $233 million of your tax dollars on a bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it," little realizing that in a year, his new sidekick maverick would be the very one that was involved with the bridge to a sparsely-populated island in Alaska. Public furor over outrageous pork barrel spending curtailed Gravina Island funding. The federal government still handed over $223 million to Alaska, but did not earmark it for use to build the Gavina Island bridge. The state of Alaska has used that money for other state ventures instead. In her press release, dated September 21, 2007, Sarah Palin said, "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.” What's interesting, though, is how soon all of this was forgotten. During her speech at the Republican Party Convention on August 29, 2008, Palin proudly proclaimed, “I told Congress ‘thanks but no thanks’ on that Bridge to Nowhere.” She didn't tell Congress, "Thanks but no thanks for the money originally allotted for the bridge." Opposing the project AFTER Congress nixes it is like saying, "I quit," AFTER you've been fired. Sure might make you feel better, but nobody else is impressed.