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Duluth News Tribune signs up for Tea Party, quickly discovers broken china

There’s endless dumping on newspaper endorsements, but the Duluth News Tribune’s embrace of Chip Cravaack may have had real impact after the 8th Congressional District Republican narrowly upset longtime incumbent Jim Oberstar. Duluth is a DFL stronghold, and the News Tribune’s editorial editor defended the Cravaack endorsement against charges that conservative owners in Fargo dictated it.

But just six weeks after the paper declared “Struggling Economy Craves More Like Cravaack,” the News Tribune editorial page is shocked to learn the Tea Party congressman-elect might oppose coveted federal projects:

Just hours after his stunning victory over an 18-term incumbent, U.S. Rep.-elect Chip Cravaack stunned the Duluth area, commenting about “pet” projects here and the need to separate “wants” from “needs.”

He mentioned specifically the $64.9 million of construction under way at Duluth International Airport, including $42.3 million for a new terminal building. Cravaack said he wasn’t sure it was needed. “Even the people that work at the airport are kind of questioning it,” he told the News Tribune. “Again, is it a need or a want?”

Few would argue in support of wasteful spending, and the red flags being waved about mounting federal debt are well worth heeding. But to lump Duluth’s airport-terminal project into any outcry over “pork” or “big government” or “out-of-control Washington” has to be seen as uninformed at best and wrongheaded at worst.

One wonders: did the opinionators ask Cravaack about the airport before they made their endorsement? (He is, after all, a professional pilot.) More fundamentally — did they really understand what the Tea Party uprising meant for their frequently subsidized hometown?

There are times when Tea Partiers redraw the definition of pork (see Michele Bachmann’s creative interpretation of earmarks). Perhaps the paper and airport officials will change Cravaack’s mind. But on some level, the Congressman-elect is doing what he said he will do: cutting federal spending. When it comes to pork, the News Tribune didn’t exactly buy a pig in a poke.

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 12/07/2010 - 08:06 am.

    We might wish that editors of our major media outlets would demonstrate a bit longer attention span, a bit more investigative care, be a bit less ADHD, a bit less tendency to be so easily distracted by the newest shiniest “what will sell the most ads?” perspectives,

    but at this point in time, WE WOULD BE DISAPPOINTED, wouldn’t we?

    Congratulations Duluth News Tribune! You just helped your congressional district vanish from the national map (politically), which is likely to cost you far more revenue than you could ever have gotten from this ill-advised endorsement.

    If the US goes down into the dust bin of history, which is rapidly becoming more likely, it will largely be because the previous generation of owners of the “fourth estate,” those who regarded their work as a “sacred trust” which involved educating the public to the truth of the world around them and exposing graft, greed, and corruption in government, in business, in banking, and in societal institutions of every kind, grew old, retired, died, and their heirs decided to cash in by selling their media outlets and their responsibilities off to the highest bidders who always turned out to be wealthy people only interested in using those outlets to provide the propagandistic cover needed to allow them to expand their own wealth and power while impoverishing everyone else.

  2. Submitted by Patrick Steele on 12/07/2010 - 08:34 am.

    You have to reap what you sow. Residents of the Eighth District became accustomed to all of the good Oberstar brought to the area and failed to consider that the golden goose must be around to lay its eggs. We’ve seen this all over, it’s pork unless it is being spent in your area. No doubt if and when this airport is built, Cravaack (should he still be in office) will be there for the ribbon-cutting.

  3. Submitted by Nathan Roisen on 12/07/2010 - 09:31 am.

    The so-called tea party revolution will be a short-lived one – the incoming Representatives and Senators will find that right-wing populist fervor is as unsustainable as its left-wing counterpart that swept Obama into office.

    The second that Tea Party rhetoric translates into a loss of services or the cancellation of cherished pet projects for the residents of a given district the base will evaporate.

  4. Submitted by John Schadl on 12/07/2010 - 10:05 am.

    The Duluth News Tribune did not screen either candidate for the endorsement.

    Instead, they used the ill-fated debate they held in conjunction with the Duluth Chamber of Commerce as the basis of their screening.

    It was made clear to Oberstar that he would have to participate in the event if he wanted to be considered for the endorsement.

    The event will long be remembered for the hundreds of Tea Party activists shouting things like “liar” and “baby killer.” I don’t recall the airport issue coming up at all.

    That said, I wonder at the journalistic ethics of DNT. The debate was a public event meant to promote the newspaper, which is a for-profit venture. To tie the endorsement to participation in an event meant to market their company does not seem to be ethical.

  5. Submitted by John Olson on 12/07/2010 - 12:28 pm.

    It is also worth noting that Rep. Elect Cravaack is from Lindstrom, located at the southern end of CD 8. Most residents from there (I suspect) are going to fly to their destinations out of MSP instead of Duluth.

    What the northeastern Minnesota residents of CD 8 perhaps need to brace for is that the southern end of their shared congressional district may get more attention–especially since that is the more conservative part of the current district.

  6. Submitted by John Schadl on 12/07/2010 - 02:01 pm.

    The southern end of the district certainly did not lack for attention. The $30 plus-million spent on highway 8 in Chisago county that transformed that road from one of the most deadly in the state, to one of the safest. Rebuilding the Highway 95 bridge in North Branch, help with government contracts for Polaris. I could go on and on.

    It will be interesting to see if Mr. Cravaack sees such projects as “needs” or “wants.”

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