The MasterBlog: Obama’s strained symbolism at an Ohio River bridge - The Fact Checker - The Washington Post
Subscribe to The MasterBlog in a Reader Subscribe to The MasterBlog by Email

MasterBlogs Headlines

Monday, September 26, 2011

Obama’s strained symbolism at an Ohio River bridge - The Fact Checker - The Washington Post

Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 09/26/2011

Obama’s strained symbolism at an Ohio River bridge

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

“There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work. There’s a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that’s on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America.”

— President Obama, speech to a joint session of Congress, Sept. 8

“There’s no reason for Republicans in Congress to stand in the way of more construction projects. There’s no reason to stand in the way of more jobs. Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge. Help us rebuild America. Help us put construction workers back to work. Pass this bill.”

— President Obama, speech in Cincinnati, Sept. 22

“There are just numerous, numerous projects. This one is symbolic. The fact is that if the American Jobs Act were passed, we could speed up the process of environmental and other approvals on this specific bridge.”

— White House spokesman Jay Carney, news briefing, Sept. 22

Symbolism is a key part of any president’s political arsenal. He visits a school, a factory, a national park or even a bridge to make a larger point about an important issue.

And certainly a trip to the aging Brent Spence Bridge on the Ohio River must have been irresistible to Obama’s political advisers, because not only does it symbolize the nation’s infrastructure crisis but it connects Kentucky and Ohio, where his two main nemeses reside — House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).

But is there a point at which the symbolism becomes strained? President George H.W. Bush, for instance, was embarrassed in 1989 when it turned out that the bag of crack cocaine he held up in a televised address — “This is crack cocaine, seized a few days ago in a park across the street from the White House” — was the result of a drug buy specifically set up to match the words in the president’s speech. “Where the [expletive] is the White House?” asked the drug dealer when he was told the location for the drug sale.

In this case, what is the connection between this bridge and the jobs bill Obama is promoting?

The Facts

The Fact Checker grew up in Cincinnati and knows the terror that motorists feel as they drive across this bridge coming from the airport, which is on the Kentucky side of the river.

The bridge was built in 1963 to accommodate 80,000 vehicles per day, but daily traffic is approaching 200,000 vehicles, as the traffic of I-75 and I-71 must cross it. The bridge is also a vital part of the U.S. economy, where the value of the freight that passes over it each year is equal to about 3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

The president, in his speech to Congress and in Cincinnati last week, certainly made it sound like passage of his jobs bill would mean construction workers would show up soon to begin fixing this urgent problem. The two ideas were directly linked in his speech to Congress:

“There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work. There’s a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that’s on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America.”

And then, in a campaign-style rally last week in Cincinnati, he upped the ante, suggesting that Boehner and McConnell, by opposing his bill, were preventing the bridge from being rebuilt. “Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge,” he shouted. “Help us rebuild America. Help us put construction workers back to work. Pass this bill.”

So Carney’s comment — “could speed up the process” — amounted to a very large asterisk on the president’s words.

We dug a little deeper, and no money in the jobs bill is intended for the bridge. But administration officials argue that the act would provide additional funding for the Federal Highway Administration, and some of that money could be used to speed up environmental and other approvals.

“This means that the environmental work could finish by February ’12. A contract could be awarded late in ’12, and the workers could begin construction on the approaches to the bridge, which is a big part of the project, in ’13,” one administration official said. Another official said the money could speed up other required steps.

We get a little wary when we hear “could” in every sentence of administration talking points. Indeed, congressional aides find this timeline highly dubious.

The public schedule for the bridge, which can be found here, has the environmental approval scheduled for July 2012, just four months later than the administration’s “could” time frame. Construction is not slated to start until 2015, while the president’s jobs bill would spend most of its money in its first year.

But even if we grant the administration this tenuous connection between the bridge and the jobs bill, the larger issue is that Obama pointed to this bridge and suggested that Republicans are blocking its reconstruction with their opposition to his legislation. (“Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge. . . . Pass this bill.”)

Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a long history of bipartisan support for action to fix this bridge, such as this 2009 study announced by Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) and then-Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) to highlight the benefits of the bridge project.

Indeed, the biggest issue in starting the bridge reconstruction is not various approvals, but obtaining the nearly $3 billion needed to complete the reconstruction. There is not enough money under current highway formulas for the two states to do this by themselves. Davis, whose district contains the bridge, testified before Congress earlier this year about the need to solve the funding problem. “The Brent Spence Bridge is one example of a transportation mega-project that is critical infrastructure to the American economy,” he said.

The Pinocchio Test

This is symbolism run amok. The president certainly could have used the bridge to highlight the infrastructure crisis facing the United States. But he went a bridge too far by repeatedly suggesting that his jobs bill would immediately bring construction crews to this particular project — and that Republican lawmakers who long have pleaded for federal help on the bridge are now callously thwarting its repair.

Obama’s strained symbolism at an Ohio River bridge - The Fact Checker - The Washington Post

No comments:

Post a Comment

Commented on The MasterBlog

Tags, Categories

news United States Venezuela Finance Money Latin America Oil Current Affairs Middle East Commodities Capitalism Chavez International Relations Israel Gold Economics NT Democracy China Politics Credit Hedge Funds Banks Europe Metals Asia Palestinians Miscellaneous Stocks Dollar Mining ForEx Corruption obama Iran UK Terrorism Africa Demographics UN Government Living Bailout Military Russia Debt Tech Islam Switzerland Philosophy Judaica Science Housing PDVSA Revolution USA War petroleo Scams articles Fed Education France Canada Security Travel central_banks OPEC Castro Nuclear freedom Colombia EU Energy Mining Stocks Diplomacy bonds India drugs Anti-Semitism Arabs populism Saudi Arabia Brazil Environment Irak Syria elections Art Cuba Food Goldman Sachs Afghanistan Anti-Israel Hamas Lebanon Silver Trade copper Egypt Hizbollah Madoff Ponzi Warren Buffett press Aviation BP Euro FARC Gaza Honduras Japan Music SEC Smuggling Turkey humor socialism trading Che Guevara Freddie Mac Geneve IMF Spain currencies violence wikileaks Agriculture Bolívar ETF Restaurants Satire communism computers derivatives Al-Qaida Bubble FT Greece Libya NY PIIGS Republicans Sarkozy Space Sports BRIC CITGO DRC Flotilla Germany Globovision Google Health Inflation Law Mexico Muslim Brotherhood Nazis Pensions Peru Uranium cnbc crime cyberattack fannieMae pakistan stratfor Apollo 11 Autos BBC Bernanke CIA Chile Climate change Congo Democrats EIA Haiti Holocaust IFTTT ISIS Jordan Labor M+A New York OAS Philanthropy Shell South Africa Tufts UN Watch Ukraine bitly carbon earthquake facebook racism twitter Atom BHP Beijing Business CERN CVG CapitalMarkets Congress Curaçao ECB EPA ETA Ecuador Entebbe Florida Gulf oil spill Harvard Hezbollah Human Rights ICC Kenya L'Oréal Large Hadron Collider MasterBlog Morocco Mugabe Nobel Panama Paulson RIO SWF Shiites Stats Sunnis Sweden TARP Tunisia UNHRC Uganda VC Water Yen apple berksire hathaway blogs bush elderly hft iPad journalism mavi marmara nationalization psycology sex spy taxes yuan ALCASA ANC Airbus Amazon Ariel Sharon Australia Batista Bettencourt Big Bang Big Mac Bill Gates Bin Laden Blackstone Blogger Boeing COMEX Capriles Charlie Hebdo Clinton Cocoa DSK Desalination Durban EADS Ecopetrol Elkann Entrepreneur FIAT FTSE Fannie Freddie Funds GE Hayek Helicopters Higgs Boson Hitler Huntsman Ice Cream Intel Izarra KKR Keynes Khodorskovsky Krugman LBO LSE Lex Mac Malawi Maps MasterCharts MasterFeeds MasterLiving MasterMetals MasterTech Microsoft Miliband Monarchy Moon Mossad NYSE Namibia Nestle OWS OccupyWallStreet Oman PPP Pemex Perry Philippines Post Office Private Equity Property Putin QE Rio de Janeiro Rwanda Sephardim Shimon Peres Stuxnet TMX Tennis UAV UNESCO VALE Volcker WTC WWII Wimbledon World Bank World Cup ZIRP Zapatero airlines babies citibank culture ethics foreclosures happiness history iPhone infrastructure internet jobs kissinger lahde laptops lawyers leadership lithium markets miami microfinance pharmaceuticals real estate religion startup stock exchanges strippers subprime taliban temasek ubs universities weddimg zerohedge

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner