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
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.
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.
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
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.