Wednesday, July 20, 2005

If Conrad is Batman, is Thune the Joker?

If Conrad is Batman, is Thune the Joker?

With the Batman Begins movie in theaters, I just had to make the analogy.

Let me mention again the great news regarding the Grand Forks AFB. As the leader of the delegation's effort to save GFAFB, Conrad deserves a big thank you for all of his hard work. When the GFAFB saw trouble, they sent the signal and Conrad began the rescue efforts.

Yesterday’s GF Herald noted that incoming Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley also fought hard for Grand Forks:

“The incoming chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force sounded like a big fan of the Grand Forks base … Lt. Gen. Michael Moseley was one of several military leaders who … praised the Grand Forks facility. Moseley was expansive, even redundant, reiterating the Pentagon's plan to send a new mission of unmanned aerial vehicles to Grand Forks, while offering hope that the plan to transfer out the 50 KC-135 air refueling tankers, along with 2,200 military personnel, might change in a few years.”

Compare this to Moseley’s lack of enthusiasm for Ellsworth AFB in SD:

“Neither Moseley, nor any other Pentagon official, gave any such slack Monday to Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, S.D. When BRAC panelists wondered by Ellsworth, once considered a top bomber base, no longer was … Moseley, in short comments, said the world had changed and that closing the South Dakota base made strategic and economic sense.”

There is no doubt that Conrad’s long-running and strong relationship with the Air Force paid off for GFAFB here. Remember, Ellsworth was once a candidate for the UAVs too, and they were trying to set up a Grand Forks vs. Ellsworth showdown for them. We saw yesterday who won that.

From a Grand Forks Herald article in June:

“The Pentagon slated Ellsworth …for closure on its May 13 BRAC list, although five years ago it named Ellsworth one possible bedding site for unmanned aerial vehicles. That's a mission the Pentagon now wants to hand to Grand Forks. The new mission would have brought 1,123 jobs and $171 million a year to the Rapid City area, but the Pentagon decided to base the drones at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Efforts to revive the issue at Ellsworth died with the Department of Defense decision to headquarter the UAVs in California, Rampelberg said. But Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., didn't give up. He picked up where other base communities left off and worked hard to revive the issue and bring an emerging branch of the operation to Grand Forks, Rampelberg said. ‘I know those guys in North Dakota have done a great job, and I have been watching them over the years,’ he said.”

Of course, John Thune told South Dakota voters as a Freshman Senator he'd "have the President's ear" he would be better positioned to save the base than 25 year political veteran Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle. We saw yesterday how much that matters:

Thune Claimed Relationship with Bush Would Keep Ellsworth Open. During an appearance with Senator Allen at Ellsworth Air Force base, Thune said his close relationship with President Bush would keep the base off the closure list. Thune said, “It puts Ellsworth in a lot stronger position than having someone who's going to be in the minority and someone who doesn't have a relationship with the president of the U.S.” (AP, 4/16/2004)

Thune Promised to Make Ellsworth a Priority, Touted Bush Relationship. In an op-ed on the economy, Thune said he would work to keep Ellsworth off the 2005 base closure list. Thune said he would work closely with Bush to do so, while also saying Daschle merely “claims to have worked with President Clinton in 1995 to keep Ellsworth from closing.” (John Thune Op-Ed, Rapid City Journal, 4/24/2004)

Thune Claimed He Was in a Better Position to Save Ellsworth than Daschle. During the KSFY/KOTA candidate debate, John Thune claimed that as a Republican, he was in a better position to help protect Ellsworth Air Force Base than Democratic Leader Tom Daschle. Thune said, "I think we have got to have somebody that has a relationship with the President of the United States, can work constructively across party lines in the congress to get this done if we're going save Ellsworth." (KSFY/KOTA debate 10-17-2004)

Thune Claimed Having an All-Democratic Delegation Would Hurt Ellsworth. According to the Rapid City Journal, Thune “said an all-Democratic congressional delegation would have little political influence if President Bush is elected to a second term.” (Rapid City Journal, 10/27/2004)

In the world of Batman, Thune is the Joker. Too bad nobody in South Dakota is laughing.