Bright and early this morning on MPR, I heard Cathy Wurzer talking with former MNCD8 Representative Jim Oberstar.
It goes without saying the guy became a slippery wonk over his five decades in DC.
But it was his closing line that stuck with me; it should go up there with Cy Thao’s classic “When you guys win, you get to keep your money. When we win, we take your money“, or Larry Pogemiller’s “It’s silly to think people can spend their money better than government can“.
Asked about the criticisms he’d taken as for being seen as a porkmonger, he replied (I’m paraphrasing as closely as I can; I’ll try to get the audio after work today):
To all of them, I say – don’t drive on Highway 17. Don’t drive on Highway 8. Don’t drive on Highway 61. Don’t drive on [this bridge], or [that bridge], or [some other bridge]. Don’t drive on any of the things you criticized. Follow your principles.
“Representative” Oberstar, by your imperial leave; I paid for them. So did taxpayers in Manhattan and Mississippi, in Oregon and Ohio. We paid for those roads, for your bike paths, the Great Lakes Marine Research Institute, the North Star Commuter Rail line, and all the millions upon millions of dollars of other spending you inveigled for your district.
You didn’t pay for it.
And I will drive on any f*****g highway I want, whether I agree with its rationale or not. I will ride on the bike paths I criticized you for. I will go to the ice cream social or whatever they do at the GLMRI, and drive over those bridges – maybe back and forth a few times, like a kid playing on an escalator. Come to think of it, if I can find any escalators built with your pork-barrelling, I’ll ride ’em until security tells me to stop.
Because I paid for them. Against my will, in some cases; more than I’d have paid, in others; with my muted assent in still others. And since I paid for them – and since you were my employee (or would have been, had I lived in the 8th CD), I will not only not ask your permission, I may even take pictures of myself doing it, and send them to you, just to gall you.
So go curl up at the Humphrey Institute, and go away.
By your imperial leave.