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Friday, August 17, 2007

A sacred, magical smear

Lee over at HA catches a bit of baloney from The regarding something Patty Murray said. From the third item down at The
It was one of those perfect anecdotes, so one could understand why Senate leadership Democrats couldn’t resist it.

One day after a crowded bridge collapsed in Minnesota, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Conference Secretary Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and the rest of the team lamented the lack of infrastructure investments that the Bush administration had made over the last six years.

“I have learned of a bridge where school buses have to stop and let all of the children out and pick them up on the other side because of weight restrictions,” Murray declared.

Really? Any doubts were assuaged by a repeat of the story within minutes by Reid.

“The children have to walk across the bridge!” he declared in outrage.

So where’s this limited-purpose bridge? Reid’s office said to ask Murray. Murray said to call her office. Spokesman Mike Spahn looked into it. A couple of weeks later, where is that bridge?

Well, Spahn doesn’t know. He said an unnamed member told Murray the story minutes before she addressed reporters, but she didn’t hear where it was.

Ah, well, everybody loves a good story.
But as Lee notes, in the comment thread to this post at Postman on Politics, Toby Nixon provides a link to 2002 testimony of the president elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers that mentions such a bridge in Alabama.
In one example from Alabama, a school bus bringing students to one Washington County school had to stop at a structurally deficient bridge, let all the kids get off and walk across so the empty -- and therefore lighter -- bus could safely cross the bridge. The children then climbed back on the bus and continued their trip. Naturally, this ritual was repeated on the way home. To avoid this, that bus now drives 15 miles out of the way.
So, I'm wonderin', what is the proper emotion to feel when the traditional media just makes stuff up? (And to be clear, this appears to have originated with The Hill, not Postman.)

But we all know that this little load of baloney will now become wingnut "fact" and will probably start popping up in fundraising letters and talking points. It wouldn't be the first time the righties glommed onto a slanted news story to put a cheap hit on Murray. We'll be hearing about this non-gaffe from the wingnuts well into 2010.

Frankly, this doesn't smell like an honest mistake by The Hill. If you read it closely, it looks like the alleged reporter got ticked at being ignored and is exacting a measure of revenge. I can't prove it, but then again the reporter couldn't prove that Reid and Murray were wrong, and that didn't stop The Hill.

The bit where Reid insists the story is true seems particularly slanted. Was Reid "outraged," or perhaps frustrated that some reporter with an axe to grind was clearly out to play "gotcha?"

For the record, I can't "prove" that the bridge existed for sure. There could be more to the story. It might even be interesting for all I know. But instead we get more puerile Beltway gossip masquerading as political journalism.

I'm relying on the fact the document appears to be on a senate server and assuming the expert testimony is accurate. But I'm guessing since the senators were so adamant about it they must have believed it, too. I can't say for certain why The Hill reporter decided to do what she did, but it does appear to be an inaccurate item. Maybe the magic wasn't working that day.

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