On Fox News Sunday, Sen. John McCain said that regarding the “bridge to nowhere” project, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin “stood up and said, 'We don't need it. And if we need it, we'll pay for it ourselves.' ” Chris Wallace did not note in response that during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign, Palin reportedly supported the proposal to build a bridge between Ketchikan, Alaska, and Gravina Island and suggested that Alaska's congressional delegation should continue to try to procure funding for the project.
On the August 31 broadcast of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace did not challenge Sen. John McCain's claim that his presumptive running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, opposed the “bridge to nowhere” project in Alaska. McCain told Wallace: “We fought against, frankly, the same adversaries, the same challenges. Look, we couldn't get the bridge to nowhere out, although we tried. People like [Sen.] Tom Coburn [R-OK] and me. ... She [Palin], as governor, stood up and said, 'We don't need it. And if we need it, we'll pay for it ourselves.' ” But Wallace did not note that during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign, Palin reportedly supported the proposal to build a bridge between Ketchikan, Alaska, and Gravina Island and suggested that Alaska's congressional delegation should continue to try to procure funding for the project, which was authorized by the federal government in 2005 but never appropriated. By contrast, when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asserted on the August 31 broadcast of ABC's This Week that Palin “has done things that [Sen.] Barack Obama would never dream of, to go in her state and say, 'I'm not going to build a bridge to nowhere,' ” host George Stephanopoulos responded: " But, Senator, she turned against that only -- she campaigned for it in her 2006 race and turned against it in 2007 only after it became a national joke."
Additionally, Wallace did not challenge McCain's assertion that he doesn't “particularly enjoy the label 'maverick,' ” even though McCain released a TV ad -- approved by McCain -- declaring him to be “the original maverick.”
Contrary to McCain's claim that Palin said of the bridge, “We don't need it. And if we need it, we'll pay for it ourselves,” in a questionnaire published in the October 22, 2006, Anchorage Daily News (accessed from the Nexis database), then-gubernatorial candidate Palin answered the question, “Would you continue state funding for the proposed Knik Arm and Gravina Island bridges?” by writing: “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.”
Additionally, Palin reportedly addressed the issue at an October 4, 2006, gubernatorial forum hosted by Alaska Conservation Voters. An October 5, 2006, Anchorage Daily News article provided the following account of a question and Palin's response at the forum:
As for the infamous “bridges to nowhere,” [debate moderator Steve] 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.
Alaskans for Truth in Politics, a 527 group whose mission is “to inform Alaska's residents with comprehensive political information needed to make critical voting decisions and to monitor and archive all political action and discussion in the state of Alaska,” provides a transcript of what it said was the specific question McDonald asked the candidates during the forum:
They've been dubbed the bridges to nowhere. Federal Government has given AK millions of dollars to begin planning and building a bridge across knik arm fjords and another bridge to gravina island. Also, the Murkowski administration wants to build a road from Juneau out along Glen Canal, with better access to Skagway and Haines. As Governor would you go along with these projects?
The website also provides video of what it said was Palin's response to the question:
Well, I do support the infrastructure projects that are on tap here in the state of Alaska that our congressional delegation has worked hard for. Provisions -- anyway, seed money that is coming into this state for these projects. Linkages between our communities, links to access, to potential, to opportunity that should lead to good jobs, ultimately, for Alaskans, that's what these infrastructure projects are to be provided as: tools run by the government for the private sector, for our families to be able to grow and thrive, and that's the purpose of these infrastructure projects. I do agree, though, with both candidates here and their concerns about the priorities, the dollars that are not going to be free-flowing in such a generous, liberal amount, from the feds, as we've been so blessed with in the past. But that's reality. We won't be seeing that flow of money to the degree that we have, is my prediction. So, it's going to take a matter of working with the legislature, those who hold the purse strings here in the state of Alaska -- not working against the legislature, but working with them -- to prioritize state dollars to be used in addition to the federal dollars. But I do support infrastructure projects here in the state.
Further, in a September 21, 2007, press release, Palin specifically cited the unwillingness of Congress to provide sufficient funds for the project -- "[d]espite the work of our congressional delegation" -- in explaining why she had “directed the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to look for the most fiscally responsible alternative for access to the Ketchikan airport and Gravina Island instead of proceeding any further with the proposed $398 million bridge” :
“Ketchikan desires a better way to reach the airport, but the $398 million bridge is not the answer,” said Governor Palin. “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,” Governor Palin added. “Much of the public's attitude toward Alaska bridges is based on inaccurate portrayals of the projects here. But we need to focus on what we can do, rather than fight over what has happened.”
In an August 31 article headlined “Palin touts stance on 'Bridge to Nowhere,' doesn't note flip-flop,” the Anchorage Daily News reported:
When John McCain introduced Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate Friday, her reputation as a tough-minded budget-cutter was front and center.
“I told Congress, thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere,” Palin told the cheering McCain crowd, referring to Ketchikan's Gravina Island bridge.
But Palin was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it.
The Alaska governor campaigned in 2006 on a build-the-bridge platform, telling Ketchikan residents she felt their pain when politicians called them “nowhere.” They're still feeling pain today in Ketchikan, over Palin's subsequent decision to use the bridge funds for other projects -- and over the timing of her announcement, which they say came in a pre-dawn press release that seemed aimed at national news deadlines.
In September, 2006, Palin showed up in Ketchikan on her gubernatorial campaign and said the bridge was essential for the town's prosperity.
She said she could feel the town's pain at being derided as a “nowhere” by prominent politicians, noting that her home town, Wasilla, had recently been insulted by the state Senate president, Ben Stevens.
“OK, you've got Valley trash standing here in the middle of nowhere,” Palin said, according to an account in the Ketchikan Daily News. “I think we're going to make a good team as we progress that bridge project.”
One year later, Ketchikan's Republican leaders said they were blindsided by Palin's decision to pull the plug.
Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said Saturday that as projected costs for the Ketchikan bridge rose to nearly $400 million, administration officials were telling Ketchikan that the project looked less likely. Local leaders shouldn't have been surprised when Palin announced she was turning to less-costly alternatives, Leighow said. Indeed, Leighow produced a report quoting Palin, late in the governor's race, indicating she would also consider alternatives to a bridge.
In addition, in assessing Palin's August 29 claim that “I told Congress, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' on that bridge to nowhere,” PolitiFact.com reported:
The project also raised bitter debate in Congress, and several attempts were made to yank the funding for the project. In the fall of 2005, Congress removed the language specifically directing the money to the bridge, but it kept the money in place and left it up to Alaska to decide which transportation projects the state would like to spend it on.
By the time Palin pulled the plug on the Gravina bridge project in September 2007, much of the federal funding for the bridge had already been diverted to other transportation projects.
When Palin says “I told Congress, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' on that bridge to nowhere,” it implies Congress said, “Here's a check for that bridge” and she responded, “No thanks, that's wasteful spending; here's your money back.”
That's not what happened. Fact is, Alaska took the bridge money, and then just spent it on other projects. Palin did make the final call to kill plans for the bridge, but by the time she did it was no longer a politically viable project.
From the August 31 broadcast of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
WALLACE: Let's start with your choice of a running mate. Of all the people you could have chosen, of all the Republicans leaders you've known for years -- straight talk -- can you honestly say that Sarah Palin is the best person to put a heartbeat away from the presidency?
McCAIN: Oh, yeah. She's a partner and a soul mate. She -- she's a reformer. I don't particularly enjoy the label “maverick,” but when somebody takes on the old bulls in her own party, runs against an incumbent governor of her own party, stands up against the oil and gas interests -- I mean, they really are so vital to the economy of her -- of the state of Alaska.
I mean, it's remarkable. It's a remarkable person, and I've watched her record and I've watched her for many, many years as she implemented ethics in lobbying reforms. And, I mean, she led on it. She didn't just vote for it. She led it. I've seen her take on her own party.
Look, one thing I know is that when you take on your own party in Washington, you pay a price for it. You do. You pay a price for it. And she's taken on the party in her own state. She take -- she took on a sitting governor and defeated him. And so I've -- I'm so pleased and proud because this is a person who will help me reform Washington and change the way they do business. And that's what Americans want.
WALLACE: But let me ask you --
WALLACE: -- about the concerns that a lot of voters --
WALLACE: -- who had never heard of Sarah Palin before yesterday are asking. Compared to, say, Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman, why is Governor Palin superior in dealing with national security and foreign policy?
WALLACE: You talked to her on the phone last Sunday, and you met with her face-to-face -- face-to-face for the first time to discuss the vice-presidential pick Thursday morning, and then you offered her the job. Must have been a heck of a meeting.
McCAIN: Well, the fact is, I've been watching her. I mean, look, what she's been doing in Alaska -- let's have some straight talk -- has affected the representation in Washington, D.C. We fought against, frankly, the same adversaries, the same challenges. Look, we couldn't get the bridge to nowhere out, although we tried. People like Tom Coburn and me --
WALLACE: This is the big pork-barrel project.
McCAIN: Yeah, the pork-barrel project. Two hundred and thirty-three million dollar bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it. She, as governor, stood up and said, “We don't need it. And if we need it, we'll pay for it ourselves.” Now that's, that's guts. I saw that, and I said, “This, this is what we need in Washington.”
WALLACE: Senator, I want to turn to the Democratic convention.
From the August 31 broadcast of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is she ready to serve on Day One? It sounds like you're shifting the criteria.
GRAHAM: No, I think so, I think so. Compared to Barack Obama, absolutely. She has done things that Barack Obama would never dream of, to go in her state and say, “I'm not going to build a bridge to nowhere.” A four hundred dollar -- million dollar appropriation that was passed by brute force in the Congress between two senior members of the congressional delegation, very powerful figures in Washington, and for her to say to the citizens of Alaska, “We're not going to do this, 'cause this is not necessary, and it's wasteful -- to take on your own Republican Party” --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Senator, she turned against that only -- she campaigned for it in her 2006 race and turned against it in 2007 only after it became a national joke.
GRAHAM: Well, the point is that she had the courage to say, “We're not going to do it because it's not the right signal we want to send everybody else from Alaska.” She took on the Republican Party chairman and called him unethical; she took on the attorney general who eventually resigned because he was doing things that were inappropriate.
I'm in politics. I voted against the bridge to nowhere. I was one of 14. It scared the heck out of me because I knew what was going to come my way. I can't imagine being the governor of the state and telling the people who were able to secure the bridge, “We're not going to do it.”