I’ve all but given up on fisking Nick Coleman. It’s like slapping a brain-damaged dog with a newspaper when he pees on your floor; it’s not like it’s going to actually affect anything.
Indeed, I’ve pondered the notion of completely ignoring the doddering old duffer – a fate he truly deserves above all else.
But on his record Nick Coleman truly does have one vast, ghastly, unatoned crime against morality, against “right”, even against what used to be called “journalistic ethics” in a time before the term became a weasel-word for “framework allowing journalists to justify pretty much anything they do”.
His shameful, ghastly, ghoulish performance in the wake of the 35W bridge collapse.
A quick timeline for those of you in whom time has sanded off the fury:
- In the immediate wake of the disaster, Coleman blamed the Pawlenty Administration in a column (which, under the Strib’s singularly gutless policy, is unavailable online).
- He went on (where else?) MSNBC the Saturday morning after the collapse and, standing on the banks of the Mississippi, and loudly blamed the Pawlenty Administration and the failure of the Gas Tax hike for the collapse. He also wrote a line in response to claims that he and his ilk were politicizing the tragedy, a line that should be rubbed in the face of the entire Strib editorial board; “Is it political to be angry about that? So be it. Everything is politics. Politics is not a dirty word by itself. Politics builds bridges and schools and hospitals. And politics can make them fall down.” He ignored, natch, the simple fact that every administration had passed on comprehensive bridge maintenance, preferring instead to build more infrastructure.
- I predicted that Coleman, along with Alice Hausman and Elwyn “E-Tink” Tinklenberg, were going to owe the Administration an apology when the results finally did come out (but they probably wouldn’t do it anyway).
The scientists have spoken (over Jim Oberstar’s objections, natch); the collapse was the result of faulty – and opaque – calculations made when the bridge was designed, in 1967-68, as well as tons of construction equipment parked atop the bridge (doing, y’know, “maintenance”, the stuff that the Administration was criticized for not doing).
Coleman’s response? ignore all those “experts”; my agenda trumps your facts!:
The National Transportation Safety Board is able to explain structural failures. It is not much good at explaining governmental ones.
Especially when they are scientifically irrelevant.
The final report on the Interstate 35W bridge blames the collapse on an obscure bridge designer who, like 13 citizens trying to get home on Aug. 1, 2007, is dead.
The report, curiously, is silent on Nick Coleman’s non-sequitur juxtaposition of unrelated factoids to try to drum up a spurious, uninformed (indeed, disinformed) emotional reaction.
Let’s see, as he attempts to pull off the difficult Triple Non-Sequitur:
In effect, the NTSB adopted a conclusion reached days after the collapse by an outside consulting firm hired by Gov. Tim Pawlenty for $2 million — the exact same cost as a plan to reinforce the bridge that had been rejected by the same administration: “The dead guys did it.”
Pawlenty got the right answer for the exact cost of a “plan” that would likely not have prevented the bridge collapse in the first place, in other words.
A very convenient theory. But there’s one problem: Carol Molnau is still alive.
On the morning after the bridge collapse, I wrote here that “both political parties have tried to govern on the cheap” and both have scrimped “on the basics.” Still true. But the buck stops with the man in the governor’s chair, and during six years in office, Tim Pawlenty has stopped billions of bucks designated for crucial highway and bridge projects.
None of which would have prevented the collapse!
He has vetoed three transportation bills, including one that passed over his veto while he was engaged in a yearlong beauty pageant, trying out for Miss GOP V-P, a role that went to Caribou Killin’ Sarah Palin.
All of which happened after the collapse!
His complaints about being the target of premature and unfair criticism after the bridge fell should be viewed as the posturing of a guy who wants to be a standard bearer for the Republicans and needs to shake the mud off his feet.
No, Nick Coleman. His complaints were dead-on. You defamed him by trying to tie a general policy to a specific consequence…
…which the NTSB has just shown is completely untrue.
Is it unfair to link the bridge to the infrastructure problems that have grown much larger during Pawlenty’s tenure? Hardly.
The the same sense that it is perfectly fair to link the fact that Nick Coleman has a job to the decline of journalism? Sure. It’s perfectly logical; “if you fail to systematically unearth bad engineering” is to “bridges fall” as “journalism continues to erode into an agenda-driven exercise in partisanship” is to “Coleman has a gig”.
Despite his post-Obama-slide conversion to a belief that Republicans need to reach out to moderates, T-Paw has embodied the knife-point anti-government agenda of those who think the best way to shrink government is to prove that it doesn’t work. On Aug. 1, 2007, he may have felt the effort had gone a bridge too far.
Or he “may have” been leading a team of Israeli Commandos against a North Korean nuclear reactor in Zimbabwe, at about the time I “may have” been squiring Marisa Tomei about Manhattan and Nick Coleman “may have” been having unprotected conjugal relations with Larry Craig.
“May have”; two words that give weasels the power to move mountains.
“Premature?” How about unveiling plans for a new bridge while victims were in the river?
I’m dying to find out how, in Nick Coleman’s special little world, that’d be any worse than claiming – wrongly – to have solved the mystery based purely on political prejudice.
I’m thinking “no”.
How about hiring a firm supposed to investigate independently that ended up partnering with the NTSB and fingering the gussets (before the wreckage was examined)? Premature? A week after the collapse, Pawlenty declared it “unrelated” to any shortcomings in inspection or maintenance.
Fast work, T-Paw.
A point that is, I’m sure, unrelated: He was right. Nick Coleman was irredeemably wrong.
The phrase “Inconvenient Truth” has been stripped of meaning in the past few years. A pity.
My point is: Choices were made in funding, inspecting, maintaining and repairing a bridge that yes, had a design flaw, but stood 40 years and never should have collapsed.
Never. Ever. Collapsed.
Since Nick – longtime enemy of “ba-LAW-gers”, has adopted one of the most irritating blogging techniques (the. serial. periods. to. connote. emphasis.), perhaps it’s time to declare victory and leave the old dolt alone.
The bridge did collapse. There is very little reason to believe any amount of spending would have involved retroactively analyzing the gusset plate design, or that any of the supposed upgrades would have prevented the collapse at all.
Yes, Tim Pawlenty has a bad case of Potomac Fever, but he is Minnesota’s governor and he needs to stop complaining about unfair criticism and take Big Boy responsibility for a catastrophic failure that happened on his watch. He has not said what any governor must say:
“Minnesota, your government let you down. I am sorry. We did not do our job. There are no excuses.”
Sure. Perhaps Pawlenty should join with Jesse Ventura, E-Tink, Arne Carlson, Rudy Perpich, Al Quie, Wendell Anderson and, by the way, the ghost of Nick Coleman Senior, who was Speaker of the Minnesota House when the bridge was designed and built; perhaps that phalanx should admit the blazingly obvious, that mistakes happen and that government has never been able to repeal that fact, and move on to try to do things better.
It’s probably more likely than the Star/Tribune making the same admission as Nick Coleman is chased from the building.
The Strib will never chase Nick Coleman from the building. But I will chase him from this blog. He is a doddering old fool, in the classical sense of the term “fool”, and is of no value to this community, to journalism…
…or, really, to this blog, anymore. Fisking the old duffer has become a rote exercise. It’s like playing basketball against people on crutches.
And so while there’s no way I will guarantee this promise, and there’s no way for anyone to enforce it, I retire from fisking Nick Coleman. A year after a bridge collapse that was the nadir of a career of mediocre petulance, Nick Coleman lived down to even the minuscule expectations I had of him.
There is really nothing more to say about him; so I hereby wall off that cavern-full of thud-witted venality from my consciousness forevermore.