Friday, November 19, 2010

The Depths of Politics

My wife was incredulous that the Republicans blocked an extension of unemployment benefits. She runs a charity and knows how truly desperate some people are. And that more Americans are joining them every day.

She really couldn’t believe it when a lone Republican Senator threatened to sink a nuclear treaty. I know how she feels -- but I also know better. I told her one of my favorite tales to illustrate the depths of politics and I was surprised to find I hadn’t ever put it on my blog. Let me rectify that.

In 1942, President Roosevelt summoned the Congressional leadership to brief them on the Manhattan Project. Senator Kenneth McKellar (a Democrat from Tennessee) was running the Appropriations Committee at the time and was part of the delegation. After hearing Roosevelt’s plan -- and his need to hide the 2-billion-dollar cost in the budget -- Senator McKellar allegedly said,” Mr. President, I agree that the future of our civilization may depend on the success of this project. Where in Tennessee are we going to build it?”

(There are several versions of the story. Personally, I like Lamar Alexander’s version better. It’s more straight to the point.)

That’s just something for the younger controllers to keep in mind if they ever get to talk to a Congressman. They deal with a lot scarier things than getting a planeload of people killed -- and still remember to play politics while they’re doing it. Don’t go into total despair about it though. Congressmen are the ultimate frequent fliers and, like normal people, are into self preservation. They’ll pay attention to you. It just might not be for the reasons you believe they’re paying attention. Airports generate a lot of jobs. And, as I tried to convince my coworkers once, there’s not a Congressman worth his salt that wouldn’t like to have an ARTCC in his district.

Think about it: 500+ high-paying jobs. No pollution. No noise. Low key. What’s not to like? I proposed this place. Why only have two Senators fighting for you when you could have six?

Don Brown
November 19, 2010

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