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Bridge stays in Palin's speech

From the moment Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin declared that she opposed the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” critics, the news media and nonpartisan fact checkers have called it a fabrication, or at best, a half-truth. But Tuesday in Lebanon, Ohio, and again in Lancaster, Pa., she crossed that bridge again.

“I told Congress: ‘Thanks but no thanks for that Bridge to Nowhere up in Alaska,' ” Palin told the crowds at the “McCain Street USA” rallies. “If we wanted a bridge, we'll build it ourselves.”

Palin's position on the bridge that would have linked Ketchikan to Gravina Island is one example of a candidate staying on message even when that message has been publicly discredited. Palin has continued to say she opposed a project she once campaigned for – then killed later, only after support for it had collapsed in Congress.

As the presidential campaign moves into a final, heated stretch, untrue accusations have started to swirl at a pace so quick that they become regarded as fact before they can be disproved.

“We have created a system where there is not a lot of shame in stretching the truth,” said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

A slew of distortions that have spread through e-mail and on the Internet has also put Palin on the receiving end of some of that truth-stretching. The unfounded charges include that Palin cut special-needs funding in Alaska.

Palin actually increased special-needs funding, according to FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

McCain aides said Tuesday nothing they have said about the bridge is untrue.

Palin did at one time support the Bridge to Nowhere, and the $223 million earmarked for the project was sent to Alaska. Some was used for other state projects, about $40 million was used to build an access road to the now scrapped bridge project and $73 million is awaiting some other proposal to link the tiny towns.

But, McCain aides said, Palin indisputably turned on a project championed by two of her state's GOP legends, Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young. Even Alaska Democrats gave her credit for finally ending it.

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