09 February 2007

Pelosi's Plane And Murtha's Threat

There is a controversy brewing over which aircraft the Pentagon will be providing for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Let's hash that part out first, because it seems to be largely over-hyped in the media. I am using this ABC News story from KTRK as the basis for the statements of fact that I make in this post.

Due to security concerns following September 11th, the Speaker of the House was allowed to use a military C-20 to travel. The Speaker at the time was Dennis Hastert of Illinois, and the C-20 was able to make the trip from Washington, D.C. to Aurora, IL non-stop. In a statement to ABC News, an Air Force spokesperson said of those who used the C-20 that "it was himself [Speaker Hastert], and he usually had one to three staff members and two security staff -- members of the Capitol police force. His wife would sometimes fly, and he reimbursed the government for everyone."

That same C-20 will not always be able to make a non-stop flight to Speaker Pelosi's home district of San Francisco, CA. Again, due to security and the Speaker's place in line for succession to the Presidency, Pelosi requested another aircraft that could make the flight non-stop. This is where it gets fuzzy, and where the political spin comes in.

Pelosi has allegedly asked for a C-32 plane in place of the current C-20. A C-32 is basically a Boeing 757 intercontinental that has been modified for VIPs. The alleged request for this expensive and luxurious aircraft has brought about cries of foul-play. Pelosi says, however, that she only wants an aircraft that can make the D.C. to Frisco trip non-stop.

An interesting statement at the end of the ABC News story would seem to indicate that this is all much ado about nothing.
There are four types of planes available at the 89th Airlift wing, at nearby Andrews Air Force Base -- the C-20 Hastert once used, C-21s which are even smaller than the C-20 and thus not able to fly nonstop to San Francisco, and the fabled C-32.

There is also the C-37A -- a military version of the Gulf Stream 5, which is about the same size as the C-20, but is able to fly nonstop to California. One military source who asked not to be identified says that it may be that Pelosi and her aides were shown a C-37A and didn't understand that it was different and more potent than a C-20, since they look so similar.

Would Pelosi be willing to use a smaller plane than the lavish C-32 as long as it could fly coast to coast?

"Yes," said a Pelosi aide.
So, Pelosi and her aides claim that she just wants an aircraft that will get her back to her district, and the unidentified military source would seem to suggest that the C-37A wasn't requested because it is easily confused with the C-20 due to their similar appearance. If that is the case, then the Republican criticism is either unfounded, or just political spin.

But, as was also in the title of this post, there was a veiled threat from Rep. Murtha. While I don't think that this is Pelosi trying to give herself massive perks based upon what I've read about this controversy, Murtha made a statement that doesn't help to cast aside perceptions of misuse of office to obtain perks.
Late Wednesday afternoon, one of Pelosi's closest allies in the House, Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., chairman of the key Appropriations Committee subcommittee on defense, told CNN that the Pentagon was making "a mistake" by leaking information unfavorable to the speaker "since she decides on the allocations for the Department of Defense."
I think the furor over this is just a lot of hot air, and that the critics are jumping to conclusions or intentionally spinning the issue. Murtha, however, if the statement he allegedly made to CNN is accurate, is just unnecessarily adding fuel to the fire; and that is one of the many reasons why I continue to have no respect for him.


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