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MN Gov. Pawlenty Questions McCain's Stance on Bridge Collapse

Updated 11:15 p.m.
By Juliet Eilperin and Michael D. Shear
Sen. John McCain today attempted to clarify comments about the collapse of a bridge in Minneapolis, saying that he never intended to say that federal budget earmarks were the cause of the fatal collapse of the span.

Responding to reporters as he traveled through Iowa, the presumptive GOP presidential candidate said he only meant to say that earmarks divert money away from necessary projects toward unneeded pork-barrel ones.

"When you divert money to projects that are unneeded and unwanted, any project that is deserved is not going to receive the funding that's necessary," he said, according to a report from CBS News. "And I will maintain again that I believe that when you fund a bridge to Alaska or you fund a highway in Florida that the people there don't even want, then money is diverted from much needed projects."

In Pennsylvania yesterday, McCain said the Interstate 35W bridge collapse last summer resulted from the fact that lawmakers have consistently spent taxpayers' dollars on items aimed at bolstering their political standing back home

"The bridge in Minneapolis didn't collapse because there wasn't enough money," McCain told reporters. "The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects."

That had prompted a mild rebuke from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a backer of McCain's, who told reporters that they should not necessarily accept the senator's analysis that a Minneapolis bridge collapse stemmed from wasteful federal spending.

Pawlenty, one of McCain's co-chairmen and someone who is sometimes referred to as a possible GOP vice presidential nominee, said citizens should not jump to conclusions about the bridge collapse until the National Transportation Safety Board completes its investigation of the incident.

"We have to let the NTSB weigh in on this before anybody can make a final conclusion," Pawlenty said.

The probe, which is likely to wrap up this summer or fall, has focused on a possible design flaw in the bridge. Pawlenty said that he called McCain's aides to remind them that the safety board would be issuing a report within a matter of months.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Ryback, a Democrat, also questioned McCain's response. "I'm surprised he is saying something different than the governor, who has said that this wasn't about resources," Rybak told reporters. "More important, I believe it is very problematic for politicians to use the catastrophe."

Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel echoed Rybak's remarks. "John McCain's comments regarding the I-35 Minneapolis bridge tragedy are disappointing and inappropriate," he said in a statement. "I agree with Mayor Rybak that it's wrong for Senator McCain to try to use a catastrophe that killed 13 people and injured hundreds to score political points. Senator McCain should apologize to the people of Minnesota for his remarks."

McCain was not the first presidential candidate to mention the I-35 bridge. In defending his opposition to the idea of a gas-tax holiday, Barack Obama said last weekend that the proposal would rob the government of funds for road construction and added, "Remember that bridge in Minneapolis?"

RNC spokesman Danny Diaz said, "Rahm Emanuel might want to look up the word hypocrisy in the dictionary. Clearly the Illinois congressman is not worried about his credibility."
--Juliet Eilperin and Michael D. Shear

By Web Politics Editor  |  May 1, 2008; 11:15 PM ET
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Why are the neocons attacking ONLY Obama ?
These neocons are questioning Obama's loyalty to Israel that is why they are trying to derail him. Whereas, McCain and Clinton are safe bet due to their unquestioning loyalty to Israel. Why do you think Hillary wants to obliterate Iran and sacrifice our men/women in Iraq? As for McCain explains why Joe Lieberman is hanging around him? Look who's behind the scene running the WH now? Most of them are Israel firsters.

Posted by: bigben1986 | May 3, 2008 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Surprise, McCain's mouth got him in trouble again. Where was Joe Lieberman and the lobbyist posse ? Doesn't the press know that thinking before he speaks is not John's personality

Posted by: Hank Hill | May 2, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, except Barack's Comments were spot on, whereas John McCain's were a total stretch.

I live in Minneapolis, and I agree with Obama. I think McCain is being exploitative, and not even doing it very well.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 2, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Gramps means well, he just forgets things every once in awhile.....

Posted by: GmcDuluth | May 2, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Please excuse most of the previous Posters.

They do not keep up.

Senator McCain himself has already agreed he was wrong to have tried linking the Bridge collapse to Earmarks.

Believe me when I say, that I have to be the one to say this:

For all the talk about the Bush Administration fleeing like "Rats" from a Sinking Ship, the exact same "Rat-like" behavior is EXACTLY what has destroyed this Country in Washington.

NOTHING can get done, because all the other Rats keep trying to climb all over whoever might be trying to rise up.

THIS was plainly demonstrated last Night, in Street Interviews asking People: "What Accomplishments has Your Candidate Done?".

There were "Short Lists".

NOTHING seems to be able to get done outside a Libbie Judges Bench-AND THAT is NOT how we are supposed to Legislate! :-(

Who can Claim Accomplishments? Mitt Romney!

WHY? Because he was able to operate FREELY in a Non-Competitive Environment-Completely different than the Burning Rat-Hole called Washington!

Yes President-to-be McCain, EARMARKS are a Problem. But I can most assuredly assure you, Back-Stabbing, Partisan Biased, Scorched Earth, Special Interest motivated, Filibustering Obstructionism IS KILLING PEOPLE LIKE ME!

People doing it need to be RATTED OUT and exposed for their ROTTEN Behavior!

NANCY PELOSI, TEDDY KENNEDY, LURCH, REID, BYRD, MURTHA, Daschlle(Behind the scenes) and all the REST!

"Barry"-Is THEIR TOOL! Billary is not much better!


Proven Accomplishments of an Executive Nature!

Posted by: RAT-The | May 2, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Let's just say the bridge collapse could have been averted by Federal money (I think in reality it was a flawed design)--wouldn't that money most likely have been in the form of an earmark? I don't see how McCain can rail against earmarks, then complain that things can be fixed by them. Many earmarks actually do help with infrastructure and other important public development projects in districts. The problem isn't earmarks, it's earmark disclosure. Remember that ferry boat ride McCain took during his "poverty" tour in Alabama? Oops, that ferry was partly funded by, you guessed it--an earmark.

Posted by: bigeugene | May 2, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I disagree with the previous comments about Gov. Pawlenty. This bridge issue does not mean the end of Gov Pawlenty's chances for the VP job, in fact, I think it helps him. It shows that he can have a discussion with McCain and that they can disagree. It shows that Pawlenty will not just be a "yes man" for McCain...something moderates and Independents will find appealing.

Posted by: Jon | May 2, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

There goes Pawlenty's Veep slot...

Posted by: matt | May 2, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Interesting the McCain is saying this at the same time that he is trying to take money out of the federal transportation fund for his pointless gas "holiday".

Posted by: frustrated | May 2, 2008 8:27 AM | Report abuse

This statement just killed McCain's chance of choosing Gov. Pawlenty as Vice President. (Pawlenty's on the short list)

That leaves Condi Rice or Colin Powell.

Posted by: howdy999 | May 2, 2008 8:11 AM | Report abuse

This is funny since Governor Pawlenty from Minnesota is on the list of top VP picks.

He would be a back pick though because of the bridge collapse.

Posted by: howdy999 | May 2, 2008 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Hard to know which is the greater liability for Grumps McCain, his impetuous shoot-from-the-lip reflex that has earned him the title of maverick, or his aging brain limiting his mental dexterity in a time which presents complex problems not susceptible to continued application of the Bush template.

He will hold his base in November and far outstrip the take of either Democratic hopeful among older blue collar voters. But will this support help him govern successfully?

Posted by: FirstMouse | May 2, 2008 6:58 AM | Report abuse






Why are the neocons attacking ONLY Obama ?
................................................. ?

Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Pat Buchanan,
Joe Lieberman, Rubert Murdoch, Dick Cheney, Carl Rove, Fox News

W H Y ?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 2, 2008 2:05 AM | Report abuse

"We have to let the NTSB weigh in on this before anybody can make a final conclusion," Pawlenty said.

Sounds to me like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is trying to 'save face' with the citizens of MN by making 'excuses' for the candidate of his choice. Don't think that will go over too well with the rest of the people though!!!!

Posted by: ObamasLady | May 1, 2008 5:21 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: RAT-The | May 1, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Rare is the day when I agree with the RAT. We have allowed our infrastructure to deterirate alarmingly. A few public works projects would stimulate the economy more than the crazy rebate checks and they could save lives. Look at what FDR did in the early 30's. It really did work.

Posted by: PR-in-NJ | May 1, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

What McCain doesn't get is that the Iraq war is the largest "Pork" Spending ever. How can you spend "billions" of scant resource dollars, and expect something not suffer? And not replace it with some sort of revenue? If we ended this travesty and only spent half of what we do in Irag on our aging infrastructure, reasonable medical and education, veterans affairs, etc. Taking care of your own country first isn't considered pork by me.Peace

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

FACT-There are THOUSANDS of Bridges and Overpasses that are living beyond their Time!

The Solution is NOT like the Bone-Headed Governor Rick Perry endorsed here in Texas of getting foreign Countries to take them over and make them into Toll Roads, but something the Federal Government and State Governments need to create JOBS for the People of this Country REPLACING!

How on Earth can we feel so Noble doing all that we are doing for Iraq and so many other Countries, and NOT taking care of our OWN First!

The World has Grown Up, Maybe, we need to allow them to Fly the Coop! Albeit, one at a Time! ;~)

MOST of the Projects were initiated back in the Middle of Last century, because we needed to CREATE Work! Hey! It WORKED!

Posted by: RAT-The | May 1, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

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