Obama’s bridge too far [The Arena]

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Obama at the bridge

Soap opera lovers will remember the opening credits of The Edge of Night, which featured a view of downtown Cincinnati’s skyline, and the approach from the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries Interstate 71 and 75 between the Queen City and northern Kentucky.  Built in 1962—and named after Kentucky’s beloved 16-term Democrat congressman Brent Spence—the bridge was designed to carry 85,000 vehicles per day, but now carries almost 200,000.

The Edge of Night went off the air at the end of 1984, but an episode of an entirely new soap opera was filmed Thursday afternoon at the venerable bridge; starring none other than President Barack H. Obama, with walk-on parts for Louisville’s Congressman John Yarmuth and Kentucky’s junior senator, Rand Paul.

Brent Spence Bridge.jpg

Obama stopped off briefly in Covington, Kentucky, to flog his latest stimulus jobs bill.  Suggesting to the hastily-assembled crowd that it was “purely coincidental” that he selected the bridge connecting the two states represented by his two congressional nemeses, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, the president said the Brent Spence Bridge was and example of the nation’s “structurally deficient” infrastructure. 

"Part of the reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell are the two most powerful Republicans in government," he said. "They can either kill this jobs bill, or they can help us pass it."  "Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge," Obama said. "Help us rebuild America. Help us put this country back to work. Pass this jobs bill right away."

Obama wants to repair the bridge with his proposed stimulus cash. Unfortunately, that isn’t the plan. Ohio and Kentucky are going to build a new bridge nearby instead, and none of the president’s “jobs bill” funds will be involved.  The president's proposal is designed for "immediate" highway spending, and the new $2.3 billion Covington to Cincinnati bridge is not scheduled to even start construction for probably four years, and, without delays, it wouldn't be finished until 2022, (when, according to the L.A. Times, “no one will be counting Obama's rounds of golf”).

Cincy Enquirer Obama Bridge.jpg

Of course, Obama failed to mention the fact that nearly 70,000 U.S. bridges have been deemed "structurally deficient" by the Federal Highway Administration.  Rather than wasting taxpayer money to travel 500 miles to find a suitable backdrop for his snake-oil sales pitch, he could have stayed in the District of Columbia, where there are 30 “structurally deficient bridges”—a greater percentage of its total than Ohio, according to government data.

Standing with the president during his little show was Kentucky’s Third District Congressman, Democrat John Yarmuth, wagging his tail.  The Associate Press mentioned that Yarmuth was treated to a ride to the event on Air Force One (The AP failed to mention that Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul was also on board for the trip). 

Sen. Paul, on the other hand, presented Obama an alternative plan to prioritize repair projects by creating an emergency bridge fund. Money for this fund would come from funds previously set aside for “unnecessary projects like turtle tunnels, squirrel sanctuaries, movie theaters and flower beds.”  Sen. Paul’s proposal would direct the Highway Funds Administrator to develop a national priority list for bridge and road repair emergencies and disburse the money based on the urgency of the project.  “If the president and the administration are serious about fixing bridges, they will consider this plan as the best approach to saving our most necessary infrastructure,” Sen. Paul said. 

Sen. Paul:  "I have a plan…"

Kentucky’s other senator, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, didn’t attend the northern Kentucky soap opera today, but mentioned it on the floor of the Senate:  “I’d remind the President that the people of Kentucky and Ohio have heard this kind of thing before. Don’t forget: the President made the same promises when he was selling his first stimulus.  Here’s what he said two years ago this week at a stop in Warren, Ohio: ‘All across Ohio and all across the country, rebuilding our roads and our bridges … that’s what the Recovery Act has been all about.’ Yet two and a half years later, what do we have to show for it: politically-connected companies like Solyndra ended up with hundreds of millions in taxpayer-backed money, and bridges like the one the President’s at today still need to be fixed.”

Sen. McConnell:  "We've Heard These Promises Before, Mr. President"

This whole silly soap opera is more about posturing for the 2012 election, than it is about actually creating any new jobs or repairing any bridges.  Obama’s $447-billion jobs bill that he wanted passed "right now" back in early September is stuck in a legislative traffic jam in the Senate, because fellow Democrat, Senate Majority Harry Reid, is so aware of his own party’s opposition to the bill that he won’t even schedule it for a vote. 

Similar to Obama’s one-and-only budget proposal—which was such a turkey that it didn’t receive a single Democratic vote—his “jobs bill” is nothing more than a political stunt.  The failed president is hoping against hope that the American voters are stupid enough to fall for the hypocritical argument that, but for Republican obstructionism, our crumbling infrastructure could be made like new, overnight.  It’s cynicism on steroids.

WDRB-41 covers Obama at the bridge:

Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions).

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