"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

This pork is a hog

rainey BARRETT


For many, many a moon, it’s been hard to say anything positive about our miscreants in congress. Especially those in the Grand Old Party of “NO.” About the time you think they’ve reached the bottom, one of ‘em digs a little deeper and any thoughts of saying something positive about recalcitrant elephants are immediately dashed.

But one fella – Idaho’s Second Congressional District part-time dentist – has acquitted himself with more positive job performance than a majority of others in the herd. Mike Simpson can be honestly castigated for making a number of wrong-headed votes in the name of Republican “unity” – a phrase rapidly becoming inappropriate for anything GOP. He’s gone along with his leadership on some things unnecessarily partisan. Still, on the whole – as far as his folks at home are concerned – he’s been quite helpful.

But now, he finds himself doing something for the sake of some of those same home folk that may be politically smart but it’s also politically abhorrent to a lot of us – and maybe even him – because it’s wasteful of our tax dollars and is little more than pork wrapped in the old American flag.

The brass hats in the Pentagon maze have been trying for years to thin out our inventory of obsolete, costly and no-longer-effective weapons systems. Things change. We move on. Technology keeps getting better. We can kill more people with less. And, sometimes, we can even kill them one-at-a-time from 5,000 miles away – if everything operates properly. So, some of the deadly toys we bought many moons ago should be retired or recycled.

But – when the folks on Capitol Hill – the ones who think holding elective office is a tenured “career” regardless of performance – hear such talk, there’s an immediate reaction of sphincter puckering and a rush to head off any loss of defense spending in the home district. One of the leaders in this embarrassment of pork preservation has been the Speaker himself. The Army has been telling Congress for years it doesn’t want any more copies of certain models of current tanks – wants to stop building ‘em – and it wants a particular company to stop refurbishing the ones damaged on current battlefields. Stop, already!

Ah, but the company that does all that tank rebuilding is where? Where? All together now – OHIO! And that district is represented in Congress by whom? All together now – SPEAKER BOEHNER! And in his mind, we’ll never have enough tanks – especially not enough rebuilt tanks – until Hell freezes over. It’s called “pork,” boys and girls. P-O-R-K!

So, what about Mike Simpson? Well, he’s now caught up in something very similar. He’s “going to the mat” to save a flying weapons system the U.S. Air Force doesn’t want anymore – the A-10 Thunderbolt. Or, as it’s more informally known, the “Warthog.” The “Hog” first flew in about 1976. It’s been called an “airborne tank” because it can take a lot of punishment and keep on flying. It’s a twinjet craft used in close support of combat troops for strafing, rocket launching and putting a lot of hurt on those threatening our people. It’s been a great airplane and the most effective aerial weapons carrier for such work.

But times have changed. Technology has improved. We’ve got new planes – drones – better ground weapons. USAF equipment buyers want to phase out the old “Hog” and spend our tax dollars on better, newer and more effective killing stuff. And therein lies the trap drawing Mike Simpson’s “Luke Skywalker” over to “the Dark side.” Fight for the folks at home. Support that pork!

Gowen Field is a small Idaho National Guard base on the South side of Boise’s busy commercial airport. It should have been moved years ago. One of the prime reasons it exists is to be Idaho’s home for “Warthogs.” A couple dozen of ‘em. And all the support personnel, local payroll and purchasing power it takes to keep ‘em flying. So you just know any USAF decision to disrupt that flow of federal dollars is going to bring instant screams from Idaho And that’s where our GOPer Simpson is caught.

I’ve known Mike for years. He’s a good head. And he’s done his share of pork banishment. But now the pork on the political spit is his. Gowen Field is about the distance of a Peyton Manning pass inside his congressional district. Just inside the line. So, after years of campaigning on the old Republican lie – er, line – of “lower taxes” and “an end to unnecessary spending,” our legislative tooth fixer is hoist on his own pork petard.

His chances of winning are very slim without some pork-passing help. The defense bill has cleared the House and is buried in the Senate. Of course, there’ll be some amending and some cutting and some pork added. But the lift to pull the aerial pork out of the fire is gonna be a heavy one. Unless senators from Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, Missouri and Utah jump in to help. They’ve got “Hog” bases, too, you see. Or “Hog” maintenance facilities. Got to spread that tasty “pig meat” around, don’t you know?

Given his long-standing, squeaky-clean conservative record, Simpson’s in a strange place. He’s waging a good fight. But whether he’ll have his whole Republican “cost-cutting” heart in the battle is another question.

Still, seems to me quite fitting that the pork at the center of Simpson’s political conundrum is a “Hog.” And remember, boys and girls – pork is always – ALWAYS – in the eye of the beholder.

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