Perhaps the nastiest competition in American history concluded yesterday when the Pentagon announced that it had awarded a $35-billion Air Force refueling-tanker contract to Boeing, over the European Aeronautics Defence and Space Company (EADS).
The process had dragged on for 10-plus years and involved apparent scandal on both sides. Greed, fraud, and subterfuge seemed to mark a battle that left scars on our political system, especially here in Alabama, where EADS had planned to build a manufacturing facility in Mobile.
How close to home does this hit? Our blog, in a nutshell, is about the befouling of Alabama government by what amounts to an organized-crime syndicate--and how that criminal mindset has been spread by Karl Rove and his minions throughout the American political system. We suspect the battle for the Air Force tanker contract has played a pivotal role in soiling our democracy.
EADS can appeal the decision that was announced yesterday, but published reports indicate it is unlikely to be overturned. And Alabama's right-wing political machine seems resigned to the fact that it has been outflanked. Books and movies surely will be produced about the tanker deal, and it's impossible at this point to fully grasp what it all means. But with the help of a source who has followed the process for years, we have developed a few thoughts about different angles in the tanker story:
* The Libya Connection--It's been clear for some time that EADS has connections to some pretty seedy folks. No. 1 on the list is Libya, which signed a weapons contract with EADS in 2007. Given the current uprising in Libya and recent revelations about the sleazy behavior of Moammar Gadhafi's children, this probably did not help EADS' cause. Did the Pentagon get cold feet about a company that rubs shoulders with the Gadhafi clan? The answer, we think, is yes.
* The Russia Connection--The Gadhafi family reportedly developed ties to EADS through big-money interests in Russia. Prime among them is Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who partly owns a company that was to provide aluminum for the EADS planes. Deripaska has close ties to Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, and Russian interests reportedly have a significant stake in EADS. Was the Pentagon comfortable with this arrangement, given the rise of organized crime in Russia? Probably not.
* Richard Shelby Is A Reptile--Alabama's senior U.S. senator was in the middle of the tanker battle, and his reptilian ways were on full display yesterday. After news broke that Alabama failed to land the EADS facility, Shelby blamed it on "Chicago politics." This from a guy who happily lapped up cash from EADS--and who repeatedly put presidential appointments on hold in order to apply pressure regarding the tanker deal. Boeing plans to assemble its planes mostly in Washington and Kansas, so it's hard to figure what "Chicago politics" had to do with anything.
* Barack Obama Might Be Growing A Spine--Shelby's words clearly were a shot at President Barack Obama and his home base of Chicago. Does that mean Obama extracted payback on Shelby and fellow U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for their obstructionist tactics on presidential nominations? It's possible, and if that's the case, it means Obama finally is growing a pair. That is welcome news in these quarters. Now maybe Obama can get his worthless Justice Department to clean up the ethical cesspool Shelby and Sessions have helped create in Alabama.