Wednesday, July 09, 2003

The 'Weak' in (National) Review - Byron York attempts to debunk the charge that Halliburton was privileged in receiving the contract to put out oil well fires in Iraq because of its connection to Dick Cheney. York makes an interesting argument that the contract awarded was legal and consistent with already established practice. Fine. I'll agree with his argument, and even agree that Waxman's claims were hyperbolic, if not wrong. However, what York doesn't address is the bigger issue of whether or not the awarding of the contract to a Halliburton subsidiary was ethical. It may be an unfair price for Halliburton to have to pay, but it's just as unfair in similar ways to expect public officials to divest themselves of certain stocks/holdings/positions on boards, etc., because of the need to remove any shred of potential impropriety (even where none exists) from their public dealings. Dick Cheney's association with Halliburton, as unfair as it may seem, should disqualify Halliburton and its subsidiaries from government contracting precisely because the perception of impropriety will always be there. No matter how York tries to legitimize Halliburton's right to compete for government contracts, the perception that the company will receive favors from, and preferential access to, the White House will never disappear. No one in their right mind would think that Cheney's post as ex-CEO of Halliburton is not a plus for Halliburton when it comes to competing for government contracts. Again, it may sound unfair, but the overriding need for transparency in the way our government awards tax dollars and the avoidance of even a whiff of potential cronyism means Halliburton should be out of the running. Period.

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