The One has lost a lot of messiah status now that he’s actually governing and having to deal with realities like “So, where are you going to put the Gitmo detainees?”, Congress putting in earmarks regardless of Obama’s insistence that a vote for him meant the end of earmarks, and “Well, we’re going to have to leave 50,000 troops in Iraq…”
(from my hands-down favorite political cartoonist: Michael Ramirez)
Then, of course, the problems of the various appointees continue to mount. We’ve had- what?- five tax evaders so far appointed to high-level offices? This is looking like a pretty good idea. (Ramirez again)
The latest appointment snafu, if you haven’t heard, is the nominee for head of the National Intelligence Council, Charles Freeman. He said the real problem with the Tiannamen Square Massacre in 1989 was that the Chinese government was too cautious, too slow to act. Yep, that’s what I’d say about 2,600 dead, 7,000 wounded, and tens of thousands rumored to still be in the Chinese prison camp system. At least, that’s what I’d say to back up Secretary of State Clinton’s realpolitik comments which said, “We need your money, so do whatever you feel is necessary internally and we’ll pretty much ignore it.” (According to the tourist guides in Beijing, most Chinese only found out about the whole thing after the fact, and then usually from foreigners asking what they thought about it. “Think about what? What massacre?”)
And then Wall Street continues to tank. It was insufficiently awed by the proclamation that Obama was going to fix everything, apparently. For a while there, every time someone in the administration started talking about Wall Street, the DOW dropped. Like everyone else, we don’t look at 401k statements in our house anymore; they go straight into the filing cabinet while we repeat, “It’s like buying stock on sale. It will come up. It’s like buying stock on sale…”
So, to fix Wall Street and his falling approval ratings, President Obama has done what any reasonable man would do: try to distract everyone from the situation.
Don’t like the news pointing out your broken campaign promises? Give them something else to chew on for a few cycles. In this case, it’s Rush Limbaugh and those evil defense contractors. Limbaugh was left to the staff. President Obama got to put on his I-will-save-the-people face and present the case against defense contractors:
“Last year, the Government Accountability Office, the GAO, looked into 95 major defense projects and found cost overruns that totalled $295 billion… let me repeat, that’s $295 billion in wasteful spending….”
Yes! Yes! Burn the heretical defense contractors at the stake for wasting our money! They’re just parasitical mercenaries anyways! The military should have to hold bake sales to build missiles and the money should go to poor little school kids, because the national average of about $11,000 per child is just too low!
As they say in my husband’s profession, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
My husband is a defense contractor. Pretty proud of the job he does, too; in his case, he’s involved in testing for future weapons systems and ships. Among other contracts, his company works for the command that likes to call itself “the Consumer Reports for the Navy.” The testers tend to be something of a speedbump, since they’re always bringing up things that got missed in the development meetings or pointing out that the ship isn’t meeting its tests and the project is in jeopardy of being cancelled. And you can’t get that kind of oversight with only military officers who keep transferring every two years because of the demands of duty station rotations.
So, my first question is, “What, exactly, did the GAO report?” Cost overruns. That doesn’t mean the money went straight into funding the defense contractors’ caviar and champagne buffet. It means someone tried to say the new jet would only cost $15 million and it ended up costing $22 million. Or the ship was supposed to be small, fast, and cheap… and wound up being five times the initial estimate because the Navy kept adding things to the design requirements. Or the military agreed to the design, then wanted to change the design after all the engineering and testing was done because of some emerging threat, creating a huge cost overrun because of re-engineering and re-testing.
When Obama said, “Let me repeat,” he wasn’t actually repeating; he was changing “cost overrun” into “wasted money.”
In further discussion, President Obama fingered no-bid contracts. Presumably, he has in mind what most people will have in mind (if anything): Halliburton (which, of course, is tied to that Bush administration bogey man, Dick Cheney, reemphasizing that this is all really the Republicans’ fault). Never mind that the need for them was rather sudden; they should have gone through the drawn out tree-killing exercise (i.e. it wastes paper… and lots of it) called the defense acquisition process. At least it might quiet Obama’s base down (including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi), which is pretty upset about the “immediate end of the war in Iraq” running into reality and becoming “50,000 troops left after the general withdrawal in 2010.”
Now, granted, I’m seeing things from the other side. I hear the complaints about how the stupid contract had to go through the bidding process, even though there was really only one company able to do the job as requested. And then some other company low-balled the bid, dolled up their qualifications, and won the contract… and then completely botched the job because they really weren’t qualified and the Navy was stuck with them for two years because of the contract. The bidding process is not always a great idea… especially when some new officer in charge decides to go for change, even though the current contractors have been doing a great job and the competitors seem to be a little less than truthful about their abilities, even if they are a few thousand dollars cheaper.
I hear about the new regulations that have bundled contracts, forcing smaller defense contractors (like the one my husband works for) to be “managed” by the huge defense companies to be part of the bundled contract. Of course, the “managing” company skims some off the top of what my husband’s company is paid, so, to maintain profitability, the small company has to charge the government more than it would have. Those fees are passed on to the taxpayer, ultimately. Like any company, the bigger it gets, the more middle management you have and the more money that is wasted on providing very little, if any, improvement to the end product.
I would like to think that President Obama is honestly trying to fix problems.
But I’m left with a strong suspicion that this is just another diversion aimed at an organization or group he wanted to discredit in the first place, with the added benefit of drawing attention away from the freefalling economy.
I’m still waiting for change I can believe in.