Las Vegas Review-Journal praised McCain for not backing off "bold position" on MN bridge collapse -- but he reportedly did back off

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

A Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial asserted that Sen. John McCain "did have a valid point" when he said, "The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects." The editorial praised McCain for issuing a "bold position ... with no immediate 'clarification' from the staff, explaining that the senator somehow 'misspoke.' How refreshing." But the AP reported that McCain "backed off his assertion that pork-barrel spending led to last year's deadly bridge collapse in Minneapolis" a day after saying it.

In a May 5 editorial, the Las Vegas Review-Journal asserted that Sen. John McCain "did have a valid point" on April 30 when he said of the August 2007 Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minnesota: " 'The bridge in Minneapolis didn't collapse because there wasn't enough money. ... The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects' -- $18 billion last year alone, the senator estimates." The Review-Journal later wrote: "Goodness. A bold position on an important issue that a president could actually do something about -- with no immediate 'clarification' from the staff, explaining that the senator somehow 'misspoke.' How refreshing." However, contrary to the Review-Journal's assertion, on May 1 the Associated Press reported that McCain "backed off his assertion that pork-barrel spending led to last year's deadly bridge collapse in Minneapolis," stating: "No, I said it would have received a higher priority, which it deserved."

In the May 1 AP article, reporter Libby Quaid wrote that McCain's May 1 statement "was in contrast to McCain's remarks to reporters aboard his campaign bus as it rolled through Pennsylvania on" April 30. While McCain claimed that the "bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects," Quaid noted that "[i]nvestigators with the National Transportation Safety Board suspect a design flaw -- undersize steel plates -- and heavy loads of construction materials as the cause of the disaster Aug. 1, according to preliminary findings." She also added that "Democrats accused McCain of using a tragedy that killed 13 people and injured 145 others to make a political point." Further, Quaid reported:

The remarks also put Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- a national co-chairman of McCain's campaign and potential vice presidential running mate -- in an awkward position. In January, Pawlenty had admonished critics to "quit exploiting the bridge tragedy to advance their political agenda."

Pawlenty struck a more cautious tone Thursday [May 1]. "I don't know what he's basing that on, other than the general premise that projects got misprioritized throughout time," he said. "We have to let the NTSB weigh in on this before anybody can make a final conclusion."

From the May 5 Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial:

Nonetheless, Sen. McCain, who finally seems to be gaining some traction in his own long-term battle against congressional "earmarks," did have a valid point Wednesday, as he campaigned in Pennsylvania.

The senator said the bridge collapse that killed 13 people and injured 145 others in Minnesota last year might have been avoided if Congress had spent its funds on such routine but vitally important projects as infrastructure maintenance, rather than on goofy pet projects that can range from bird-counting computers in Nevada to endive research in Massachusetts to a "$223 million bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it. ...

"The bridge in Minneapolis didn't collapse because there wasn't enough money," Sen. McCain told reporters in Allentown, tacitly rebutting the standard "More taxes!" cry. "The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects" -- $18 billion last year alone, the senator estimates.

Sen. McCain has vowed to veto spending bills containing earmarks, thus forcing congressional allocations back into the old-fashioned system of public vetting through public committee hearings.

"It's the process I object to," Sen. McCain said in response to the objection that some earmarks fund worthwhile medical research. "I'm sure that I can give you a list of projects the Mafia funds, and they would probably be good projects. But I can't give you a justification for the Mafia. I can't give you a justification for the corruption that's been bred which has sent members of Congress to the federal prison."

Goodness. A bold position on an important issue that a president could actually do something about -- with no immediate "clarification" from the staff, explaining that the senator somehow "misspoke."

How refreshing.

Show/Publication
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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