Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sarah Palin—what else?

Express Staff Writer

Barack Obama and Joe Biden made me do this: I wasn't going to write about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin today. My last three columns focused on John McCain's running mate, and I was getting tired of writing about Palin. I mean, she's a vice presidential candidate.

But Obama and Biden don't seem to agree. They seem to think they're running against Palin. It's a strange way to run a presidential campaign. You don't see McCain and Palin zeroing in on Biden. It's especially strange since the Palin pick has proved popular, especially among women. Obama and Biden seem preoccupied with Palin. And, like a lot of preoccupations, this one is harmful to the preoccupied.

Never mind Obama's "lipstick on a pig" crack last Tuesday. Take Biden's lollapalooza pronouncement the same day. Palin's election, said Biden, would be "a backward step for women." You know, because she thinks along the lines of McCain and, well, Bush.

Thanks for the tip, girlfriend, but I think most American women—nay, most Americans—will think it's a step forward if Palin is elected vice president, regardless of her views. They don't need some old man telling them that only women who think a certain way count. How silly and condescending can a guy get? "Don't you worry your pretty little head now, darlin', I'll tell you what's good for women." Please.

If Obama were elected president, it wouldn't be a backward step for African Americans because he's a far-left Democrat. It would be a forward step for African Americans. Breaking color lines or glass ceilings—if that's what we'd be doing with the election of Obama or Palin—doesn't depend on having somebody else's notion of what's best for African Americans or American women. At least it shouldn't.

The Obama camp's unhealthy obsession can also be seen in its attack on Palin and the "Bridge to Nowhere." Earlier this week, the campaign put up an ad on the issue and Obama himself had a go at her "lies." "You can't just re-create yourself. The American people aren't stupid," he said Monday, before alluding to John Kerry and charging that it's like "being for it before you were against it."

Unlike Kerry, however, Palin isn't trying to have things both ways simultaneously. She was, indeed, for the bridge before she was against it. The "before" was when she was running for governor; the "after" was after she became governor. Her position changed as she became aware of the fiscal and political issues involved. This happens when you're a chief executive of a state.

Did she end up opposing the bridge project that became a national symbol for out-of-control congressional earmarks? Yes. Her first state budget in January 2007, a month after she took office, didn't include funding for the bridge. After Congress axed language requiring that federal funds must be spent on the project and said it was up to the state to decide how to spend its transportation funds, Palin officially killed the "Bridge to Nowhere" project and said funds for it would go to other projects.

Did Alaskans notice that Palin killed the bridge? This is from the March 12 Anchorage Daily Times: "Palin ruffled feathers when she announced—without giving the delegation advance notice—that the state was killing the Ketchikan bridge to Gravina Island, site of the airport and a few dozen residents."

This is, too: "Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is aggravated about ... Palin's antagonism toward the earmarks he uses to steer federal money to the state."

In fact, an Alaska Democratic Party Web site gave credit to Palin for canceling the project and saying "the state had higher priorities."

Why Obama would want to call attention to his own record on the "Bridge to Nowhere" and congressional earmarks is especially mystifying. In 2005, he had a chance to kill the bridge and spend the cash on Hurricane Katrina victims, and he voted no. He opposed a 2007 effort to eliminate federal funds for a North Dakota "peace garden" and a Montana ball field. He hauled in $100 million in earmarks for Illinois last year. And, since entering the Senate, he's requested $936 million in earmarks—including a million for the hospital where his wife works.

McCain, on the other hand, made the "Bridge to Nowhere" a symbol of reckless pork-barrel spending and has consistently opposed earmarks. He's also the guy Obama is running against. Or should be.

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