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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of June 11 - 17, 2003

Opinion Columns

Sen. Craig’s
crude politics

Commentary by Pat Murphy

Idaho’s senior senator, Larry Craig, who considers it a birthright to have things his way, was delivered a shock over the weekend.

Instead of being regarded the U.S. military’s good friend as he thinks he is, Pentagon tipsters exposed Craig’s dirty little secret—political extortion.

Because Air Force generals rejected Craig’s demand that four more C-130 Hercules transport planes be stationed at Boise’s Gowen Field, Craig petulantly invoked a Senate privilege of putting a "hold"—a delay—on promotions, and pay raises, for anywhere from 400 to 850 Air Force officers. The number is in dispute, but includes young pilots fighting in Iraq as well as generals headed to vital new command assignments.

Among those unable to assume new duties because of Craig is four-star Gen. Robert H. Fogelsong, new commander of all U.S. air forces in Europe, and Maj. Gen. John W. Rosa Jr., named as superintendent of the scandal-plagued U.S. Air Force Academy.

(Imagine Craig’s reaction if Bill Clinton had delayed military promotions.)

Craig assumed his scheme would be kept secret from the public until the Air Force caved in to his demands to snatch four aircraft from other senators’ domains and deploy them to the Idaho Air National Guard.

But the brass has stood firm, for now anyway. Pentagon bigwigs that Craig so mistakenly convinced himself adore him blew the whistle, tipping off media about his attempted extortion, thus unmasking Idaho’s superficially refined Craig as just a crude politician with fickle devotion to the military.

Stung by bad national publicity, Craig’s Washington apologist, Will Hart, accused the Air Force of leaks to the media to embarrass Craig—so? He then went on to ballyhoo his boss as a true red-white-and-blue military pal.

"Senator Craig's record of overwhelming support for the military speaks for itself," harrumphed Hart indignantly.

Hearing that tomfoolery, officers whose futures are frozen by Craig can be excused for muttering, "With friends like Craig, who needs enemies?"

One further tidbit about Sen. Craig’s pose as a friend of the military: Part of Craig’s reason for adding C-130s at Gowen Field is that a larger Guard unit might escape military base closings ordered by Congress as cost savings.

If Gowen’s military operations were earmarked for closing, it would be because Gowen isn’t considered of prime need, and funds poured into Gowen could be diverted to more vital functions.

If Craig were such a friend of the military, then he’d honor the Pentagon’s refusal to hand over aircraft and also respect the process for weeding out less essential bases so scarce funds could be diverted to more urgent defense tasks.

One general is quoted as saying he told Craig the Air Force is shrinking, not growing, and if the Pentagon caved in to every senator’s demands for more spending in his home state, where would it end?

But, of course, Sen. Craig may want it both ways--posing as a budget hawk and spending watchdog while really a pork-barreling closet spendthrift at heart.


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