The Corner

A Bridge Too Far

As Bill Kristol notes, Barack Obama yesterday took a swipe at John Kerry in the course of taking a swipe at Sarah Palin, employing the “for it before you were against it” line to describe Palin’s history on the bridge to nowhere.

Quite apart from the peculiar choice to resurrect that language, though, let’s think about the logic of it in this instance. Kerry said “I voted for it before I voted against it” regarding his decision to oppose war funding in the midst of a war. He was being attacked for his final position, and he somehow thought it made sense to argue that he had a better one earlier. Palin, however, is being taken to task for not initially opposing the bridge to nowhere when her congressional delegation had sponsored it and only later—after the furor surrounding it—coming around to kill the project. From Obama’s language about it, it seems he wants to suggest the bridge was a bad idea, and Palin is failing to acknowledge that she didn’t see that at first but only acted after others saw it. That’s fair enough, though it is of course the opposite of what John Kerry did: he came around to the wrong position, she to the right one. But more importantly, Barack Obama himself (as well as Joe Biden) never did come around. They both voted for the bridge, twice. John McCain voted against it and also tried (unsuccessfully) to attach a resolution expressing opposition to such earmarks to the bill that contained the bridge project. Sarah Palin killed the project.

She should have opposed it to begin with, as McCain did, but it’s a little odd for Obama to argue that point. Would he oppose it even now–perhaps on the argument that he voted for it before he was against it?

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

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