Building a bridge to somewhere

Al Kamen
Columnist April 15, 2013

Is the Obama White House media-shy these days?

Seems the State Department granted a permit last week for a major U.S.-Canada construction project.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

No, not that project, but a big one nonetheless: a $1 billion bridge over the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, to relieve congestion and build trade over the most heavily used trade portal to this country. (There’s now only one bridge, privately owned and 80 years old, over the river.)

Estimates are that the project will cost $3.5 billion and create about 12,000 jobs directly and 31,000 indirectly (cement, steel and so forth) in the two countries, according to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R).

The jobs would be split between the United States and Canada, but even at that, the total might be about what the controversial Keystone XL project would produce — depending on which of the wildly varying estimates is correct.


Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announces that the U.S. State Department has issued a key permit allowing Michigan and Canada to proceed with constructing a new bridge over the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Even better, the Canadians are committed to paying Michigan’s half of the bridge’s construction cost, with future toll revenue paying off that debt.

So, let’s see, you’ve got: (1) a major infrastructure improvement project; (2) increased international trade; (3) bipartisan support; and (4) 20,000 American jobs being created.

To paraphrase Vice President Biden, seems like this is kind of a big deal. But only the Canadian and Michigan media paid much attention to the permit grant, which is the final go-ahead move. Media (including The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and so on) wrote short items Friday and Saturday based mostly on wire reports.

The State Department issued a statement last week noting the permit, but, best we can tell, the White House, perhaps focused on guns, nuclear threats, immigration and so forth, was quiet.

Well, Obama won Michigan and Ohio last time, so . . .

Notes for votes

Beyoncémight have stirred controversy with her recent trip to Cuba.

But lawmakers are still going to make some money while Bey croons at a concert in Washington this summer.

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) both have fundraisers set for her July 29 show at Verizon Center. Other lawmakers might follow suit; previous Beyoncé concerts have been popular on the novelty-starved local fundraising circuit.

The pop diva’s recent visit to embargoed Cuba with husband and rapper Jay-Z prompted some criticism, including from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who on Sunday called Jay-Z uninformed and “hypocritical.”

Casey even jokingly elevated himself to a co-headliner for his concert/fundraiser. The invitation bills it as a “Beyonce (and Bob)” concert. Does that mean we can count them among the “Beyhive,” as her fan community is known?

Not exactly.

Alas, a Shimkus spokesman tells us that his boss actually won’t attend the show. The way it works for this and other concert fundraisers, we’re told, is that the campaign snaps up a slew of good seats, then offers supporters the chance to buy them.

Shimkus also has a fundraiser slated for the boy-band reunion concert featuring New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees. Again, he won’t be in the audience.

We hear his taste runs more to classic rock.

The head of state

President Obama clearly learned a lesson from former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis’s ill-fated helmet-in-the-tank moment.

On Friday, as Obama was presenting the Commander in Chief’s Trophy to the Navy football team at a White House ceremony, two of the players handed him a football helmet.

“Put it on,” came a cry from the audience, according to the pool report.

Obama wisely demurred.

“Here’s a general rule,” he declared. “You don’t put stuff on your head if you’re president. That’s Politics 101. You never look good wearing something on your head.”

Obama tends not to wear hats (unlike his Stetson-loving predecessor), apart from an occasional baseball cap. But we uncovered a few exceptions.

Mostly, the reason to steer clear is the strong possibility that whatever you plunk on your noggin will look goofy. But sometimes there’s a more substantive factor at play, such as when Obama nixed a stop at a Sikh temple during a 2010 visit to India, in part because he would have had to wear a head covering.

Heavy is the head . . .

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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