Monday, September 29, 2008

Palin contradicts McCain on Pakistan - even after debate

At the first presidential debate, one of the points John McCain disagreed with was Obama's willingness to make cross border attacks into Pakistan. The day after the debate, CNN captured video of Sarah Palin in public answering questions from random people.

In the video, about 10 seconds in, somebody asks Palin if she watched the debate last night, and she replies that she did. Later, at the 1:10 mark, somebody asks "Should we do cross border from Afghanistan to Pakistan". Palin replies "if that's what we have to do to stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should". It would seem that she didn't watch the debate as carefully as one would hope.

Also slightly amusing in the video is when the lady at the cash register asks Palin what her name is. She's been probably one of the most famous people in the country over the last month, yet some people have no idea who she is. I'm sure it could happen to anyone, yet it's still a humorous tribute to just how much of an unknown this lady is.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

UPDATE - Claim that Obama supported bridge to nowhere is inaccurate

This is an update to yesterday's post. Thanks to a post by digger joseguia, I was able to track down a statement direct from Obama, made in a letter he wrote to the Chicago Tribune a month after the vote was cast. In short, his reasoning directly matched what I suggested as option wasn't fair to single out one state to be the bearer or responsibility for funding:

Others intent on cutting spending have pointed to Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" as a wasteful project. I agree and believe that it represents the first type of project we should cut. But it's wrong to single out one state's pork project. If we're serious about shared responsibility, let's eliminate all pork projects in all states. To find $50 billion in tax breaks, we could postpone a planned tax break for millionaires, and we could temporarily roll back one of the tax cuts for those who make an income of more than $2 million per year.

I believe this quote makes it clear as day that he was not in support of the bridge, as he went on record as saying it is wasteful and "represents the first type of project we should cut"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Claim that Obama supported bridge to nowhere is inaccurate

Recently it has been talked about here and there that Obama/Biden are hypocrites for criticizing McCain/Palin over the Gravina Island Bridge in Alaska (aka the bridge to nowhere) , because, in fact, Obama and Biden both voted against an amendment that would removing funding of the Alaska bridge. This story has today made its way to the be the headline story on CNN. It didn't take long for the article to show up on Digg and get all the Anti-Obama fans riled up about it.

Well, not wanting to just be a blind Obama supporter, I decided to actually do a little research on the matter. However, before I get into that, I want to make an important point about the topic. The thing that is missing from the debate on this issue is the fact that Obama/Biden weren't criticizing Palin for supporting the bridge...they were critizing McCain/Palin for LYING by saying that Palin was against the bridge when clearly she was in support of it. This was not a case of saying "I am innocent but you are guilty". It was a case of saying "do not even try to pretend like you are innocent".

With that important matter out of the way, let me get to the more important point about why the claim about Obama supporting the bridge is misleading, if not outright inaccurate.

Possible reasons to vote against the amendment

The vote in question here was a vote against Senate Amendment 2165 to bill HR 3058. The amendment was not an amendment to remove funding for the Alaska bridge, but was actually a bill to shift funding from the Alaska bridge to the Twin Spans Bridge in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Now, you might think "big's the same thing", but it is not. There are at least 3 possible reasons for which one could choose to vote against such an amendment:

1) You are in favor of funding the Alaska bridge
2) You are against the funding of the Louisiana bridge
3) You are against the shifting of funds from one to the other

Option 1 is what everyone seems to want to assume, but as I did research I do not believe this is the reason that Obama and Biden (along with 80 other Senators) chose to vote against the amendment.

Option 2 - Against the funding of the Louisiana bridge

Option 2 sounds very unlikely on first glance. After all, New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and the whole nation was crying out to do anything we could to help them out. So why would it be that 82 members of the Senate would be AGAINST reconstructing the bridge in New Orleans?

Reading through the Congressional Record gave me some insight into the matter. I'm not sure of the easiest way to provide a link to the relevant pages, but if you follow this link, it will take to you a brief summary. You can then click on the links for the pages I reference below.

The funding being addressed by HR 3058 was non-emergency funding, or funding that is part of the general budget. On page S11630, Lisa Murkowski (the Junior Senator from Alaska) explains that the reconstruction of the bridge in Louisiana is actually eligible for federal emergency funds.

I wish to talk about a couple of the facts that Members of this body need to know. If, in fact, what we intend to do here, if, in fact, this amendment is intended to provide for reconstruction of the twin-span bridge, it is eligible for emergency repair funds. Negotiations for its repair are already underway between the State of Louisiana and the Federal agency. I am confident that this bridge will be repaired without needless damage to the project from any other State. And if, in fact, there is a funding mechanism that we need to resolve to help make this happen, I am certainly willing to participate in that. I think all of us would be willing to participate. If we need to do something to make this project move forward with the funding mechanism, we can help with that.

In other words, the bridge was already in the process of being granted emergency funds so that it could be rebuilt without affecting any other projects. This actually is a very sensible stance to take. It is a stance that almost any business or organization will take. If you can get a project completed with special bonus funding, then you take that instead of raiding the general fund.

I think this point alone would be enough to justify voting against amendment 2165, but let's continue on and look at the 3rd option.

Option 3 - Against the shifting of funds from one to the other

Like option 2, this sounds unlikely. What is wrong with shifting funding from a less important project? Well, once again, statements in the Congressional Record give some insight on this matter. In it, Ted Stevens (the Senior Senator from Alaska) makes a very important point. Taking funding from one state (and only one state) in order to give it to another state is both unfair and unprecedented.

On Page S11629, in reference to Senator Coburn from Oklahoma, who authored the 2165 amendment:
Mr. President, the highway reauthorization bill recently passed the Congress. It was several years in the making and the result of a compromise. Now one of our colleagues feels it is his responsibility to rewrite portions of that bill to achieve his goals, not those that are expressed in the law itself.

Unfortunately, the manner in which the Senator wishes to do this has no impact on his constituency or any other constituency except Alaska. I fought for statehood as a member of the Eisenhower administration. I have been here now almost 37 years. This is the first time I have seen any attempt by any Senator to treat my State in a way differently from any other State. It will not happen. It will not happen.

Later, he continues on to page S11629:
The amendment that is before us now will affect only Alaska. It will help Louisiana. We want to help Louisiana but not solely at the expense of Alaska. That is not a way to treat a sovereign State. This is something on which I think every Senator must examine his or her own conscience. What would they do if they were faced with the proposition that only their State's allocation of funds under a protective program would be taken and given to another State at the time of disaster?

On page S11630 Senator Murkowski says:
But when we are singled out as one State, saying, Your project is not worthy; of all the other projects out there we are going to go after yours, it is not the time to be sitting back and saying we can compromise on this, we can make a deal.

And on S11633 she continues:
If the suggestion were made to our colleagues that everybody gives a little bit, everybody gives a little bit on your transportation projects, that is okay. As one of the 50 States, we can deal with that. We can certainly accept that. But to see we are looking at one State--first it was one project, now it is two projects--this Senator cannot accept, will not accept a proposal like that.

Senator Stevens continues:
I am willing to try to work out a system so that all States contribute to assisting our sister State in Louisiana and recognize their prior need for money, but I am entirely unwilling to take money from Alaska only. I think the Senate ought to have that on notice.

I will put the Senate on notice--and I don't kid people--if the Senate decides to discriminate against our State and take money only from our State, I will resign from this body. This is not the Senate I came to. This is not the Senate I devoted 37 years to. If one Senator can decide he will take all the money from one State to solve a problem of another, that is not a union. That is not equality and is not treating my State the way I have seen it treated for 37 years.

On page S11636 Senator Murkowski concludes:
Mr. President, the Senator from Oklahoma who has just spoken, who is the author of this amendment, has indicated we need to be making sacrifices. I do not think anyone in the State of Alaska feels we should not be contributing, but we do not feel in the State of Alaska that it should be coming entirely from one State. This amendment puts the sacrifice on one State.

I urge rejection of this amendment.

And Senator Stevens concludes:
Mr. President, I would add to my colleague's comment to say this concept is a concept that every State should think about because if it can be done on a bridge, why not do it on any type of event where a Senator would like to have money for their State, but they say take it from another State because they do not need it. I made a statement earlier today that in my 37 years I have never seen this. I have never seen a request that money for a disaster be taken solely from a project in one State to help a disaster in other States.

We are a disaster-prone State. We have more disasters than any other State in the Union. Remember our 1964 earthquake. We have tsunamis. We have all types of disasters. But we have never tried to take moneys from other States to meet our costs.

I urge the Senate not to start this process.

The point being made throughout all of this is that, this isn't a matter of funding the New Orleans bridge, but rather a matter of singling out one state to be the sole bearer of responsibility for funding an emergency in another state. I believe this is perhaps the most influential factor in the debate, and probably what caused 82 senators to reject the amendment.

Obama's and Biden's votes

So why did Obama and Biden vote the way they did? Well, as far as I can tell, they don't have any statement on record as to why they voted as they did. However, from what I've seen of the Congressional Record, it seems much less likely that they voted as they did because they favored building the bridge in Alaska, and much more likely that they were opposed to using non-emergency funds for New Orleans when emergency funds were available, and also opposed to singling out one state to bear the burden of sacrifice.

In summary, claiming Obama and Biden voted in favor of building of the bridge in Alaska in misleading, and probably even incorrect.


I've posted an update to this article that contains a quote directly from Obama on this matter, making his position on the bridge to nowehere, and his reasoning for this vote, clear as day.