You Can't Put a 500-Yard Bridge Down the Memory Hole

MINNEAPOLIS -- It is going to be interesting to watch the Republicans try to shove the 500 yards and four lanes of steel and concrete that used to be the 35W bridge down the memory hole. It was a bridge, for God's sake. It spanned the Mississippi, The Father of Waters. It's not going to go easily -- maybe not at all.

It's going to lay there for weeks while the National Transportation Safety Board investigates (Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty has ordered an independent investigation by Minnesota authorities, too). Then they'll start hauling the debris out -- that's sure to glean daily coverage complete with helicopters. And as the debris clears out, the sunken cars and trucks will become easier to retrieve. And while that's going on, the initial investigative reports will begin ricocheting through the press.

As if that weren't enough, there is talk of a special session of the state legislature to pass some sort of transportation bill. Governor Pawlenty vetoed a $4 billion transportation bill. One that passed both houses with bipartisan support late last session. He said -- somewhat glibly at the time -- that the bill was excessive. He'd vetoed another one -- $8 billion -- before that. So special session or not, it will be news -- much reported news -- when the governor and the legislature actually work out a compromise.

Then there is Norm Coleman. He was in town on Thursday, and making the rounds, dispensing thoughts, prayers and other platitudes on talk radio. It might have been more prudent to follow the course he took in the days after Paul Wellstone's plane went down. He laid low then. He went into hiding and let other Republicans and the corporate media do his wet work for him. He let them paint the emotionally charged Wellstone memorial service as angry and political and over the top.

But now there's this bridge down there that used to be up here. And there are dead people in the river. And Norm Coleman is on the radio. He doesn't have the good sense to tick-a-lock.

Want more? Word has it George W. Bush himself is coming to town. He's going to see the bridge and console us on Saturday, just like he saw Ground Zero and the Ninth Ward and consoled those people.

You would think that, with all that experience, the Bush machine would recognize a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situation. You would think they would have the man speak compassionately -- from a distance. Or maybe just send somebody less conspicuous and a bit more astute.

But no. He's coming to town, trailing three miles of national press who will train wreck into the back of the throngs of local press. And all those cameras will pan from his face to that bridge -- and from that bridge to his face.

One wonders whether Norm Coleman and Tim Pawlenty will stand shoulder to shoulder with George W. Bush. What a Kodak moment -- three tax fighting, cost-cutting musketeers in shirtsleeves, at the edge of the precipice, silhouetted against the blue Midwestern sky...

One for all and every man for himself.

The mother of all reminders will be the Republican National Convention next fall. It will be at the Excel Energy Center in Saint Paul. But many, if not most of the hotel rooms will be in Minneapolis.

For those Republicans staying in Minneapolis, the route to and from "The Ex" will take them across the I-94 bridge -- about a half mile downstream of 35W. They will crane their necks to see the site. Hell, some of them may even forego the Mall of America to visit Minneapolis' mini Ground Zero.

There's a good chance Minnesota will have begun building a new bridge by then, but it won't matter. The ghost of the old bridge will still be there, at the bottom of the gorge below Saint Anthony Falls, in water that will roll all the way down to New Orleans, the old bridge stubbornly refusing to go down the Republican memory hole.