The tanker contract battle between Northrop and Boeing — or Alabama and Washington — is getting hot. Sen Patty Murray (D, WA) fired this shot at Alabama's workforce (or supposed lack thereof) last week on National Public Radio's All Things Considered:
“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 build anything.”
Lt. Governor Jim Folsom, Jr. sent a letter to Sen. Murray this afternoon, correcting her misapprehension as to what Alabamians are capable of. From Folsom's letter, emphasis mine:
I noted with great interest the comments you made about Alabama during a recent interview for the program All Things Considered. Your exact quote was, “I would challenge anybody to tell me that they've stood on a line in Alabama and seen anybody building anything.”
Senator, on behalf of the over 5000 manufacturing companies in Alabama, I must accept your challenge. I have personally stood “on the line” in Alabama and watched hundreds of products being manufactured, including automobiles and space flight vehicles. I remain hopeful that in the near future, I will also “stand on the line” and watch the military's new refueling tanker be manufactured here.
Folsom referenced the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center's contributions to the Apollo moon launches and the Ares crew launch vehicle — and the auto manufacturing plants he was instrumental in bringing to Alabama.
The automobile manufacturing industry has also flourished in Alabama. Mercedes, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota, and hundreds of their suppliers and support companies call Alabama home. Senator, since 1995, over one million automobiles have been manufactured in Alabama.
Over 312,000 Alabamians are employed in the manufacturing industry. Any one of these committed men and women, or I, can attest that Alabama is on the leading edge nationally in the field of manufacturing, medicine, and technical research.
Folsom wrapped up the letter with a polite holiday wish for Senator Murray.
This is a perfect example of negotiating by tearing the other guy down — and I expected better from Patty Murray. Some of you may remember how she originally won her Senate seat by campaigning as a “mom in tennis shoes.” As a supposed champion for average Americans, Murray should have checked her facts before spouting what any educated person would realize was nonsense — and insulting, stereotypical nonsense, at that. We're not still chopping cotton down here, Senator, barefoot and illiterate. Alabamians have long since embraced modern technology. In fact, my neighbor is a farmer and uses GPS in his rig that keeps his combine on the exact same path his planter traveled months before, right down to a little wobble he might have made reaching to answer his cell phone.
Alabama workers built Saturn V rockets in the 60's and were instrumental in their design and testing and played major roles in the Space Shuttle, Spacelab, the Delta IV rocket (Delta and Atlas launch vehicles are now manufactured in a state of the art facility in Decatur, Alabama) and now Ares programs. Speaking as a former industry insider, I would put Alabama engineers and scientists — and yes, technicians and machinists — up against anything Washington state has.
Kudos to Lt. Governor Folsom for correcting the record. As for Senator Murray, she needs to get busy with some apologies or I'm afraid she'll be looking at a stocking full of coal on Christmas morning.