Back in the day, the most promising Italian choir boys made a special sacrifice at the age of eleven or twelve to preserve their pre-pubescent voices for a singing career. At the age of 70, it appears Rep. Tom Petri has made a similar sacrifice, but unlike the choir boys, it is unclear what he gets out of the deal.
Petri, a rare vestige of the era of relevant moderate Republicans, finds himself in the counter-intuitive role of chairing of the Congressional Midwestern High-Speed Rail Caucus and signing on to statements that call the fruits of that caucus' labors a "boondoggle." Politifact Wisconsin brandishes the Flip-O-Meter to assess the contradiction:
Petri's name was on an earlier letter, dated Aug. 10, 2009, about the high-speed rail effort, which said in part:
"This investment will strengthen the surrounding Midwest economies through new rail and construction jobs, while also increasing development and connectivity from rural to urban areas."
What happened in those intervening 15 months?
...Republican Scott Walker made stopping the train a central part of this gubernatorial campaign, as did Republican candidates in Ohio and Florida.
..."My position was to make the strongest case I could for Wisconsin to have high speed rail," Petri told PolitiFact Wisconsin. "That was successful."
Petri said Walker's election indicates that sentiment has turned away from the train. And if the train is stopped here, he wants the money to go to reduce the federal deficit -- not another state's rail project.
Lame. Petri knows the reason Walker was successful in his case against the train was that he convinced voters the money could instead be used on Wisconsin roads --a ridiculous proposal, since Congress is unlikely to approve an enormous package of highway funds for one state over 49 others.
Preserving one last ounce of independence, Petri's office says the congressman didn't choose the word "boondoggle" to describe the train. The hyperbole came from the office of some Waukesha wacko, they explained.
Fall in line old boy. When the Tea Party Express comes to town, all other trains leave the station. Tommy figured it out --and now so has Tom.