By Jeff Fecke | April 30, 2008
When the 35W Mississippi River Bridge collapsed last August, Minnesota Republicans were horrified — horrified that DFLers would have the unmitigated gall to suggest that maybe we could have spend some more money maintaining the bridge. “Politicization!” they cried, studiously ignoring the fact that the collapse a bridge owned by the state and maintained by a department headed by the lieutenant governor was, by definition, an event that would require a political response of some sort.
At the time, Mikey Brodkorb, in his role as the mouthpiece of the Minnesota GOP, said:
I was hoping that Minnesota Democrats wouldn’t politicize this tragedy. Sadly, some have. I was disgusted by Elwyn Tinklenberg comments on KARE-11. Talk of blaming this tragedy on the failure to raise the gas-tax increase is disgusting.
Please read the comments about this tragedy on Democratic Underground and Daily Kos. I’ll use this phrase for the second time this week: what a bunch of classless bastards.
Harsh words indeed. So I’m sure Mike will be equally hard on the Senior Senator from Arizona, John Sidney McCain III, for his disgusting, classless decision to use the bridge collapse for political gain:
Republican John McCain said Wednesday that the bridge collapse in Minnesota that killed 13 people last year would not have happened if Congress had not wasted so much money on pork-barrel spending.
Federal investigators cite undersize steel plates as the “critical factor” in the collapse of the bridge. Heavy loads of construction materials on the bridge also contributed to the disaster that injured 145 people on Aug. 1, according to preliminary findings by the National Transportation Safety Board.
“The bridge in Minneapolis didn’t collapse because there wasn’t enough money,” McCain told reporters while campaigning in Pennsylvania. “The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects.”
McCain, the expected GOP presidential nominee, regularly rails against “earmarks,” the pet projects that lawmakers tuck into spending bills, such as the proposed $223 million “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska.
Now, first things first: one can’t draw a causal link between earmarks and a bridge collapse, especially since earmarks don’t actually increase spending, but rather target already appropriated funds. Yes, there are issues with earmarks that should be addressed, but if Congress wasn’t directing funding, the executive branch would — and frankly, I’d rather Ted Stevens direct money to the bridge to nowhere than Dick Cheney direct it to…I don’t know, a death ray or something.
But let’s leave that aside, because I’m going to say, flatly, that I don’t have a problem with McCain using the bridge as an example of what can happen when our priorities are out of whack. I think he’s wrong for a variety of reasons, not least because the primary responsibility to maintain and repair the bridge rested with the state, not the Federal government.
But McCain can be wrong and still not be out of line for bringing it up; the bridge collapse was a massive government failure. We should talk about it.
Of course, last fall, the GOP wanted Democrats to shut up when we asked political questions about the bridge failure. I’m sure they’ll be just as harsh on John McCain. Just as soon as they get done washing their hair.
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