The White House has decided not to comment on a looney complaint brought by the National Labor Relations Board that argues Boeing shouldn’t be allowed to open an aircraft plant in South Carolina because building such a facility in a right-to-work state could undercut the bargaining position of labor unions in Washington State. It’s an absurd argument that has reawakened every fear businessmen harbored about the president being a closet socialist. Speaking as an independent who voted for Obama in 2008 and expects to vote for him again, I’m embarrassed by the whole affair. But what really worries me is that if the White House keeps making bad calls on major aerospace and defense issues, the electoral fallout could destroy its re-election chances.
Mr. Obama is by no means a shoo-in for reelection, because his election in 2008 was largely the result of a promise to end the unpopular war in Iraq and his approval ratings since being elected have seldom managed to rise above 50 percent. Personally, I think he made the right calls on bailing out Detroit and reforming healthcare. But he can’t afford to offend any of the swing states that will probably decide the outcome of the 2012 election — states like Florida, Iowa and Ohio — and lately his subordinates seem to be working overtime to do just that.
Take the National Labor Relations Board effort to block the opening of the aircraft plant in South Carolina. The NLRB is sure to lose if the case goes to a federal court, but in the meantime, thousands of people in South Carolina who might have secured good-paying jobs at the new Boeing plant will have to keep searching just because they live in a right-to-work state. Obama wasn’t going to win South Carolina anyway, but how are people going to react to this crazy case in other right-to-work states like Arizona, Iowa and Virginia? Not by voting for the president. Why doesn’t the White House just admit the NLRB made a mistake and drop the case?
Or take the administration’s inept handling of NASA’s human spaceflight program. Thousands of NASA employees in the critical swing state of Florida are losing jobs because the Space Shuttle is retiring and the White House decided to cancel a successor program called Constellation. Voters in Florida’s central region around Cape Kennedy hold the electoral balance of power between the state’s conservative north and more progressive south, so wiping out thousands of jobs there with a poorly conceived plan to restructure the manned spaceflight program could kill Obama’s prospects in the Sunshine State. Is it possible that White House political operatives don’t recall how a few thousand votes in Florida delivered the White House to Bush in 2000?
And then there’s Ohio, the one state that candidates must carry to win the White House. I can’t fault the administration on pushing to kill an extra engine for the F-35 fighter that would have been built in Ohio, because the engine was a total waste of money. But to also propose closing the nation’s only tank plant, which is also located in Ohio, is just plain dumb — dumb as a management strategy (the Army wants to reopen it three years later), dumb as a security policy (we need at least one warm production line for heavy armor), and dumb as an electoral move (Ohioans can’t help noticing that they always seem to be in the cross-hairs of administration budget cutters).
When is this White House going to wake up to the fact that the aerospace and defense industry is one of the last big concentrations of organized labor left in the private-sector economy — an industry whose workers could provide the margin of victory in swing states like Colorado and Missouri and Pennsylvania and Virginia? I’m not saying the administration should be backing bad ideas just to win votes, but on NLRB, NASA and the tank plant, it is doing foolish things that alienate millions of voters. A few more mistakes like these and we could end up with Governor Christie as president in two years.
Find Archived Articles: