Up in the Air

Let me point out a column for you to read and think about: Robert Novak's (search) syndicated column Monday goes after some new revelations of corrupt practices of the Boeing (search) aircraft company in cahoots with bureaucrats in the Pentagon.

Bad stuff happened. Two Boeing executives are in the clink right now and other people are ducking out of sight as the harsh light of document discovery rolls along.

Novak is calling for Sen. John McCain to keep digging to get to the red-hot center of corrupt dealing on a proposed Pentagon contract for a hundred or more new Air Force refueling tankers worth billions.

I also urge the senator to find the dirty dealing, but I think Senator McCain has a larger vision here.

Our current fleet of KC-135 (search) aerial refueling tankers is old, old, old. So why is McCain also calling for a study which may put a stall on the whole deal to buy new air tankers?

Maybe because waiting in the wings to grab this juicy contract away from Boeing is Airbus, the European consortium led by the French.

Airbus — the French — are already publicly looking for a U.S. town to place the factory to build the tankers. It will be American workers, building an American plane, say the French. But make no mistake about it, this is the French trying to weasel their way into American defense contracting and not merely for the money, but for the power of influence.

During the '91 Gulf War, the Brits were buying ammunition from the Belgians. When the Belgians found the Brits were ignoring Belgium's advice against going to war, the Belgians refused to ship the Brits munitions.

You can't go to war without things that go boom.

Now imagine you're George W. Bush and you feel it's necessary to launch a war against some nasty regime and your Air Force is driving French-built planes.

Far be it for me to suggest the French might be as pushy as the Belgians, but do you think Bush or any other president might — just might — find himself with a annoying and insistent backseat driver?

How do you say shut up in French?

That's My Word and have a great weekend.

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