In 1501, Pope Alexander VI admitted that he had fathered his daughter’s child. Now that was a scandal. Scandals nowadays seem to be less clearcut. In fact, sometimes it seems that what becomes a scandal is more a matter of subjective preference and aesthetics than any objective standard. Take the controversy surrounding efforts by former Boeing executive Michael Sears to hire Air Force acquisition czar Darleen Druyun before she had recused herself from official business involving Boeing. Sears got caught, and has been sentenced to four months in jail. Druyun got nine months, after admitting in court that she may have shown bias in a series of contract competitions.
No doubt about it, Sears and Druyun broke the law — although even some of the reporters covering the case are beginning to suspect that Druyun’s admission may have had more to do with shielding her daughter from investigation than any belief on her part that she’d done real damage to the government. But O.K., let’s concede the point that there was wrongdoing. Now let’s ask the harder question. Why is it that major newspapers have devoted hundreds of column inches to reporting this story while ignoring other problems in Air Force weapons procurement with potentially greater consequences?
Take the case of aging aircraft. Due to a multi-decade drought in weapons purchases, America’s Air Force is falling apart. Literally. Did you know that the Air Force’s top-of-the-line fighter, the F-15, is so decrepit that it operates with flight restrictions due to metal fatigue in its wings and tail structure? Did you know that the Air Force grounded aged C-130E transports due to cracks in their wingboxes the same week that Secretary Rumsfeld proposed terminating production of planes that were supposed to replace them? Did you know that the aerial refueling tankers the tanker lease was intended to replace are over three times the age of the commercial airliner fleet, and spend a third of their time out of service due to maintenance needs? Did you know that the antique engines on the Air Force’s ground-tracking radar planes are so old that they require twice as much repair as called for in their technical manuals?
You’d know these things if you read a trade publication like Inside the Air Force. But why can’t you learn them from reading a daily newspaper? What’s more important, a former aerospace executive going to jail for four months or the Air Force losing its capacity to execute wartime missions? Apparently the latter story won’t be ready for primetime at most media outlets until aging aircraft start falling out of the sky, and then editors will turn to the same left-wing commentators who are attacking weapons purchases today for “analysis” of how the military got into such a mess.
What’s wrong with the traditional media in reporting news is what’s wrong with the Democrats in running campaigns. Their frame of reference is inward-looking and insular; they talk to themselves rather than listening to outsiders. So they can’t see how biased (not to mention boring) their concept of the reality is. If they talked to people beyond the metaphorical Beltway, they’d see that few readers really care about Mike Sears, but a lot of them care that their kids serving in the military are flying around on dangerously ancient airframes. Maybe the reason editors don’t consider that news is because it isn’t their kids on the planes.
Find Archived Articles: