If this is "pulling together," we don't want to see "coming apart"

The man responsible for Alaska's "bridge to nowhere" isn't about to give up his highway pork to help fund Katrina relief.

Published September 20, 2005 12:37PM (EDT)

When John Kerry delivered a speech yesterday criticizing the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, the Republican National Committee put out a statement complaining about the "attacks on President Bush's efforts to assist the victims and rebuild the Gulf Coast." RNC Press Secretary Tracy Schmitt said: "The American people have pulled together during a difficult time, and Democrats' efforts to politicize this tragedy are unsavory at best."

The American people have "pulled together"? Perhaps Schmitt hasn't seen the polls -- the new USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll has 57 percent of the public disapproving of Bush's handling of Katrina -- and perhaps she hasn't met Alaska Rep. Don Young.

You remember Don Young. He is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee and the man who helped lard the transportation bill with more than $1 billion worth of projects for Alaska. With Bush having ruled out tax increases to pay for Katrina relief, the money the federal government will spend has to come from somewhere. Sen. John McCain and a few newspaper editorial boards have suggested that some of it might come from the transportation bill. Young's "bridge to nowhere" -- a $233 million project that will link the 8,000 residents of Ketchikan, Alaska, to Gavina Island -- is an oft-mentioned target.

So is Young "pulling together" to help the people of the Gulf Coast. Not exactly. "They can kiss my ear!" Young told a reporter from Fairbanks Daily News-Miner who asked him about suggestions that Alaska give up its highway pork to help pay for Katrina relief. "That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard."

Young said that he's helped raise more than $500,000 for hurricane victims at a charity golf tournament, and that that was quite enough. "I raised enough money to give back to them voluntarily," Young said. "And that's it."

The government's share of Katrina costs is expected to be about $200 billion.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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