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Friday, March 7, 2008 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Washington Voices

Disappointment, outrage two very different things

The Pentagon's choice of Northrop Grumman and a European partner to build the Air Force's next refueling tankers was a surprise and disappointment in Washington state, Kansas and other areas with Boeing payrolls. But despite what some political and labor figures say, it wasn't an outrage.

Air Force officials stressed that the Airbus design offered by Northrop and European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. bested Boeing's proposal. They called it more flexible and more dependable, with greater capacity for fuel and cargo. Those considerations are more important than where the jobs from the $35 billion deal will go, even if some go overseas.But Sens. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, and Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, both denounced the decision that will cost their states thousands of expected jobs. Labor leaders want a congressional investigation.

In contrast, Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama cheered the announcement as "the right decision for our military." Alabama can expect a new Northrop assembly plant and 5,000 jobs.

Credit Spokane Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers with enough circumspection to await more details rather than blurt out a hasty criticism.

Meanwhile, Americans can expect more decisions of this sort as the military-industrial complex meets the new global economy. Three years ago, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. said it was unthinkable that any part of Marine One, the president's helicopter, should be built by foreign workers. But the contract went to Lockheed Martin in partnership with an Italian company.

Sikorsky survived the loss of that $6 billion program. Boeing will survive, too, by following the sound business principles that have made it the nation's second largest defense contractor behind Lockheed.

Here in Spokane County, a small but important cluster of aerospace businesses also must adapt to the changing environment. When Triumph Composites bought the former Boeing plant in Airway Heights, one of the expected benefits was that the business could make components for multiple aircraft builders, not just one.

Those companies' future shouldn't depend on compromising the military's interests. It should hinge on competence and competition, not parochialism.

— The Spokesman-Review, March 4

Take one of your safe automobiles

and drive off into the sunset

Apparently Ralph Nader believes the fifth time is the charm.

The 74-year-old announced a week ago that he's going to make his fifth run for the White House based on his tired platform that the public is yearning for something other than the two major political parties. Nader sees himself as a viable alternative to politics as usual.

He's not viable. Getting three-tenths of 1 percent of the national vote in 2004 shows how insignificant he is. And anyone who thinks a vote for Ralph Nader in 2008 is in any way meaningful is simply kidding himself or herself.

Nader had his chance. He spun his wheels and got no traction with the American public. As John Geer, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University, said, "The truth is that Nader's time has passed."

Amen to that.

In 2000, Nader got 1.6 percent of the vote in Florida, enough to tilt the national election from Al Gore to George Bush. As the public has learned in the intervening eight years, there's a big, big difference between what could have been with a Gore presidency, versus the horrible reality of Bush's presidency.

Nader cost this nation dearly.

Ralph Nader needs to take his inflated sense of self-importance and simply go away.

— The Olympian, March 3

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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