Thursday, November 1, 2007

Hit Piece On Old Naval Ordnance Misses Mark

It's one thing to dislike Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell or his record; it's quite another thing to impugn this public servant's integrity without any basis in fact.

But that is exactly what Lexington-Herald-Leader reporter John Cheves has done in his latest hit piece on the Senator. Essentially, Cheves complains about Senator McConnell including an earmark of federal funds that a British company, BAE, will use to build munitions at the Old Naval Ordnance in Louisville.

The Justice Department is investigating allegations that BAE bribed the Prince of Saudi Arabia. BAE, like many other companies, has donated to Senator McConnell's campaigns. It also made a donation to the McConnell Institute at the University of Louisville.

From these facts, Cheves implies that BAE has bribed McConnell. Of course, Cheves didn't make his accusation that succinctly. He didn't need to: his friends in the left-wing blogosphere took this non-story to its illogical and unsubstantiated conclusion.

First, a little perspective on the author. Cheves would have his readers believe that he is a detached and impartial observer of Senator McConnell and politics generally; he ran his piece as a news story, not a column or an editorial.

He didn't tell his readers that he recently worked in the office of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). He should disclose where he is coming from politically, just like this blog identifies its leanings in the first word of its name.

Nor did he provide any context for the so-called "ethics watchdog," Melanie Sloan, whom Cheves quotes to criticize McConnell. Sloan is executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). CREW is a left-wing litigation group, funded by George Soros's Open Society Institute and Barbara Streisand. Supposedly bipartisan and tax-exempt, CREW nonetheless has a long history of targeting Republicans.

Cheves' intellectual dishonesty (and that of other liberal activists posing as journalists) is why newspaper circulation is plummeting.

Now as to the merits of Cheves' allegations, note that Senator McConnell's big sin is to use his considerable influence and seniority to steer federal money to Kentucky to support local jobs. McConnell's ability to protect Kentucky bases and share of defense appropriations -- good Kentucky jobs -- is exactly why voters keep electing him, again, and again, and again.

As a practical matter, if McConnell did not include the earmark, one of his colleagues would, and those jobs would just go to another state.

In any event, the earmarks do not go directly to the company, but rather to the Department of Defense as a line item in its budget.

As for the allegations that BAE has bribed public officials, recall that this is a British company accused of bribing a Saudi prince. Liberals who claim the United States has no moral hegemony over other countries have yet to explain why it is our government's business to regulate the affairs of a foreign company in a foreign country.

BAE has not been indicted, let alone convicted. Even if BAE is found to have bribed the Saudi prince, however, that proves nothing with respect to McConnell. That's why courts tend to exclude such evidence; it's inflammatory, and yet irrelevant.

A word on the BAE's contributions to McConnell. What Cheves fails to mention is that BAE donates to many politicians, on both sides of the aisle -- including Ted Kennedy and Congressman John Murtha.

Regarding the BAE contribution to the McConnell Center at University of Louisville, Cheves ignores that it is a truly non-partisan institute that gives scholarships based on merit, not political persuasion or loyalty.

Cheves apparently missed the McConnell Center's most recent speaker: Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid. Senator Ted Kennedy has spoken at the McConnell Center, as well, and has even given internships in his Senate office to McConnell scholars -- the same students whose scholarships are funded, in small part, by the BAE contribution.

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