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Chip Drago
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Murray gazes down from Olympia upon fetid backwater of Alabama

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
U.S. Sen Patty Murray gazes down upon Alabama from Olympia (Washington) and sees a fetid backwater, but also a battalion of bubba's-in-arms --  Democrats and Republicans, whites and blacks, men and women, all rising up to denounce her "condescending and ignorant" remarks about Alabama and
the competition between
Boeing and Northrop
Grumman/EADS over the $40
billion contract to supply the
U.S. military with a new aerial
refueling tanker aircraft.

According to Murray, Airbus,
not Northrop Grumman/EADS,
submitted a proposal that is
based on deceit and suspect
tactics that amount to the "bullying of an illegally subsidized foreign competitor who has made no secret of its attempts to undermine the American aerospace industry and the jobs it supports.”

In an interview with National Public Radio, a U.S.-subsidized media operation, Murray said, "“I have stood on the line in Everett, Washington, where we have thousands of workers who go to work every day to build these planes. I would challenge anybody to tell me that they've stood on a line in Alabama and seen anybody building anything."

If you want to get an Alabamian riled up, insult his mother, kick his dog, question his work ethic, take your pick.

Elected officials and candidates for office are falling all over themselves to be Murray's most prominent critic. Boobs, we may be, but our politicians know a political opportunity when they see one.

With that, some excerpts from the various defenders of sweet home Alabama's honor:

"Bradley (Byrne) took great offense to her comment." according to a spokesman for the GOP gubernatorial hopeful.

In a letter to Murray, the former chancellor of Alabama's two-year college system offers "to personally pay your way to Alabama to see (the state's extensive manufacturing capabilities) for yourself."

"I invite you to come stand on the line of our Boeing operations in Huntsville, Ala., where Alabamians are working within the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program, a program that has supported nearly 5,600 jobs.

"I would also invite you to visit our Thyssen Krupp steel plant in Mobile, which is soon to make Alabama the second largest steel producing state in the nation. Or the Austal USA facility, whose modular facility uses a cutting edge process for creating aluminum modules that will provide the most effective ship building process in the world.

"Alabama is home to a host of car manufacturers including Honda, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz, where we could certainly watch thousands of Alabamians build cars that are shipped across the country and around the world. In fact, Mercedes-Benz must be impressed by Alabama's workforce because they're moving the production of their C-Class sedan from Germany to Alabama-unlike Washington state's flagship manufacturing company, Boeing, who is moving their second line of the 787-class airliner to be manufactured in South Carolina. As former Chancellor of Alabama's two-year college system and chairman of the state Work Force Planning Council, I know first-hand what the people of Alabama are capable of, and I'm not surprised at all by the interest and confidence Alabama's work force has generated.

"Senator Murray, simply because you haven't stood on a line and seen Alabamians building world-class products using cutting-edge technology, that's no reason to imply that it isn't happening."

Mobile Mayor Sam Jones thought it more prudent to bypass the senator in favor of someone with concern for her physical and mental well-being.

To Murray's "personal physician," Jones wrote:

"Dear Doctor,

Would you please check on your patient? Her recent remarks indicating that she has 'never seen anybody in Alabama building anything' makes me believe that she may be off her medications.

As you and the rest of the informed world know, Alabama is an epicenter of high-tech industrial production. That is why Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, and Honda have located state-of-the-art assembly plants here. There are over 300 Alabama aerospace industries producing the rocket boosters for our space program and missiles for our national defense. Ironically, Boeing has recognized the strength of the Alabama workforce as it is one of our largest defense contractors.

We knew that Senator Murray was slipping from her past remarks when she attacked our partners in the U.S. Air Force refueling tanker competition who also happen to be important to her own State’s economy. As you may be aware, Northrop Grumman and its suppliers currently employ over 400 persons in Washington State and have an annual economic impact of over $500 million. If a dual acquisition award were to be made, in addition to the Boeing jobs which she currently touts, Washington would benefit by 2,700 more jobs with an additional annual impact of over $145 million.

Among the Washington suppliers supporting the Northrop tanker are: ELDEC Corporation in Lynwood; Honeywell in Redmond; Kaiser Aluminum in Spokane Valley; Accra Manufacturing in Bothell; and Exotic Metals Forming Company in Kent. A dual award would be a win for Washington, for Alabama, for the Air Force, as well as for both competing companies.

In addition to whatever therapy the Senator might need, you may want to consider prescribing a curative change of scenery and a restorative vacation in Mobile, Alabama. I will be pleased to host Senator Murray, give her a tour of some of the most sophisticated manufacturing facilities in the world and introduce her to a workforce that is second to none. After she tours the next-generation littoral combat ship USS Independence, built in Mobile by Austal Shipbuilding, and the many existing aerospace facilities at Brookley Field, this may provide medical relief if not a cure for Senator Murray’s current delusion."

Mobile County Commissioner Stephen Nodine did not take Murray's challenge lying down.  

Nodine's letter reads:  

"I was quite surprised to hear you recently on National Public Radio’s 'All Things Considered.' In discussing the on-going refueling tanker competition you said, 'I have stood on the line in Everett, Wash., where we have thousands of workers who go to work every day to build these planes. I would challenge anybody to tell me that they've stood on a line in Alabama and seen anybody building anything.'

I accept the challenge.

In Mobile, Ala., I’ve stood on a line and seen thousands of technicians keeping what Boeing builds in the air. At the Brookley Industrial Complex next door to where Northrop Grumman and EADS would build their tanker, workers at ST Mobile Aerospace Engineering perform scheduled aircraft maintenance and major aircraft modifications on a wide range of wide-body and narrow-body aircraft. The company is Mobile’s largest private employer.

Maybe the last time you flew to Washington you were on a United Airlines jet repaired in Mobile. Much of Federal Express’ fleet has been worked on here. ST Mobile Aerospace Engineering provides service on avionics, aircraft structure, and aerospace systems. The company services six models of Boeing commercial aircraft, from the 727 to the 777.

While not working on the line, hundreds more at the Brookley Complex are striving for aerospace excellence. These are the scientists designing next generation aircraft at Mobile’s Airbus Engineering Center.

Across town, adjacent to the Mobile Regional Airport, more men and women are servicing state-of-the-art aircraft. Airbus Military North America’s new 30,000 square-foot, repair and overhaul delivery center supports the U.S. Coast Guard’s fleet of C-212 and CN-235 tactical transports and makes sure these aircraft are capable of performing their life-saving missions.

Throughout the tanker competition, Boeing supporters such as you and others in Washington state have portrayed Alabamians as simpletons incapable of producing such an aircraft. This is stereotyping at its worst. It is insulting to the thousands of Alabamians already working in aerospace industries in Mobile … not to mention those in Huntsville, including Boeing workers, who over the past 50-plus years have built the rockets that have launched our NASA astronauts into space.

Please come down to Alabama for a visit sometime. I’d love to show you all we are doing in aviation and aerospace."

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions acknowledged his "great admiration" for Murray, before noting "that the people of Alabama get a little bit offended when people suggest they are not able to produce anything of world-class quality."

Sessions employed Senate rules allowing him five minutes to wander from the subject at hand to deliver perhaps the longest rejoinder to Murray.   
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