Ken Blackwell

Americans might soon have another reason to ask themselves: “What is the president thinking?”

With the flourish of a veto pen, President Obama is likely to disappoint and confuse both friends and some foes this fall; an interesting choice given his approval-rating challenges.

How will President Obama manage to infuriate some conservatives and many liberals all at once? By vetoing a defense spending bill – a bill that would please some national defense conservatives by supporting our troops and please liberals by foolishly ending the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

So why would he miss what some political observers call a win-win opportunity?

The provision the Obama administration opposes (so strongly that they will choose a veto) is actually one many Democrats and Republicans support. If enacted as-is, the bill would anger social conservatives(we are group he never counts on) and one interested party: a large defense contractor.

As passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, the defense bill funds development of two engines for the Joint Strike Fighter – a plane that will be the fighter jet of the future for both the U.S. and our allies around the world.

Development of two engines means pitting two manufacturers against one another. The competition will breed innovation and cost savings over the life of the fighter jet’s program. The two-engine approach also means having a backup if for some reason there is a problem with the engine that ultimately makes it into the fuselage of the plane. For reasons from efficiency to safety, the development of two engines is the chosen approach of the U.S. House of Representatives. It also has a cost-benefit stamp of approval from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The competition that is encouraged by the two-engine approach is, however, not an ideal scenario for manufacturer Pratt and Whitney, who otherwise would fully own the Joint Strike Fighter’s engine development and production for as long as the plane is in the sky. That’s big money billions over decades - so it's not surprising that company has pulled out all the stops in its lobbying campaign.

Ken Blackwell

Ken Blackwell, a contributing editor at, is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union and is on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. He is the co-author of the bestseller The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency, on sale in bookstores everywhere..
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