The holidays are over. But the November 28 WikiLeaks diplomatic cable dump is the gift that keeps on giving. The latest present was unwrapped by The New York Times in a story published Sunday. It seems that when it comes to multibillion-dollar commercial and military airplane deals, U.S. government officials might as well clock in as Boeing salespeople.
United States diplomats were acting like marketing agents, offering deals to heads of state and airline executives whose decisions could be influenced by price, performance and, as with all finicky customers with plenty to spend, perks.
The story outlines the way that--despite a trade agreement that tries to remove politics from large international business doings--backroom deals and politicking are still very much involved.
One example of such backscratching involves Saudi Arabian King Abdullah and a $3.3 billion deal to buy 12 Boeing 777-300ER airliners. Apparently his highness would only agree to the deal once an American diplomat--one Israel Hernandez of the Commerce Department--promised him that he would first arrange to pimp out the King's personal jet with the same tricks that George W. Bush had on Air Force One.
Apparently King Abdullah wouldn't buy Boeing aircraft until his personal plane was as cool as his boyfriend George W's.
"I am instructing you," he told Mr. Hernandez politely, according to the State Department cable, "to speak to the president and all concerned authorities," as the King "wanted to have all the technology that his friend, President Bush, had on Air Force One." Once he had his own high-tech plane, with the world's most advanced telecommunications and defense equipment, the king told Mr. Hernandez that " 'God willing,' he will make a decision that will 'please you very much.' "
The article goes on to point out that Boeing's chief rival, Airbus, seems just as willing to use political influence to get its airplanes sold. So really it's not that surprising to see government officials cheerleading one of the country's biggest job producers.
Just one more fascinating tidbit about how our government really works that we might not have known if not for Assange the Friendly Ghost and his steaming data dumps.