Palin’s House Run Par For Alaska’s Wild and Wooly Politics

In her first speech as John McCain’s running mate in 2008, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin found an applause line by trashing an infamous pork barrel project for her home state, a bridge to replace the ferry that served the airport in Ketchikan, a tourist and cruise ship hub at the southern end of Alaska’s channel islands.

“I told Congress ‘thanks but no thanks’ on that bridge to nowhere,” she said, praising McCain’s efforts to block the funding of the bridge, end “earmark” appropriations, and fighting wasteful pork-barrel spending. 

Even if Palin had not been entirely honest in her description of events around the bridge project, her story fit the narrative of her early career in which she presented herself as the scourge of corruption, big spending, and cronyism that she said was rampant in Alaska’s power structure—among people like the $250 million bridge’s greatest champion, Rep. Don Young. 

Young’s passion for pork was so intense that he once held a knife to then-Rep. John Boehner’s throat in the House chamber because of Boehner’s hectoring over Young’s insatiable hunger for more earmarks.  The “bridge to nowhere” was Young’s baby, and he did not forget the way that Palin and others killed it—or at least danced on its grave. 

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