Sen. Michael Goldfarb (R-Weekly Standard)
I haven’t really followed the aftermath of Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb, a veteran of the McCain/Palin campaign, claiming that the White House was “threatening to put Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base on the BRAC list” if Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) didn’t vote for health care reform. Not only did Goldfarb attribute the story to a single anonymous source, and not only did everyone involved deny it, but Goldfarb subtly changed the details of the story in two interviews. So I’m surprised to see 20 Republican senators — half of the conference! — sign onto a letter that out-and-out-accuses the White House of doing this without a shred of evidence.
“It has been reported that the Obama Administration threatened the closure of a U.S. military installation for political purposes,” the senators write, demanding hearings. “Specifically, various media reports have stated that the Obama Administration would put Offutt AFB in southeastern Nebraska on a future BRAC list because of a vote on healthcare reform.”
What media reports? Also, who exactly should testify? I put in a call on that question, and I’ll update if I get an answer, because it’s a serious question–do Republicans believe that the White House should send, say, Rahm Emanuel to testify on an unsourced rumor printed by a conservative blogger?
The whole letter:
Dear Senator Levin and Senator McCain:
It has been reported that the Obama Administration threatened the closure of a U.S. military installation for political purposes, thereby bringing into question the integrity of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. The BRAC process was established to remove political influence so that the decision to close or not to close a military installation could be based upon military utility.
Specifically, various media reports have stated that the Obama Administration would put Offutt AFB in southeastern Nebraska on a future BRAC list because of a vote on healthcare reform. While we recognize the importance of Offutt AFB as the headquarters of U.S. Strategic Command and the approximately 10,000 individuals that work there, we feel that this installation should remain open or be closed on its own merits.
Therefore, we respectfully ask that a hearing be held as to whether the BRAC process has been compromised. We do not want to see the name of a base from our state on a BRAC list and think it has been put there to settle partisan scores. We also do not want our bases to be more vulnerable to closure because political arm-twisting has taken another installation off the table. National security not partisanship should determine how BRAC decisions are made.