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.