Jim Hightower

How Newsworthy Can You Get?


Time for another Gooberhead Award presented periodically to people in the news whose tongues are going 100 miles per hour . . . but who forgot to put their brains in gear. As a matter of fact, I have a network of Goobers for you—the honchos of NBC, CBS, and ABC. These media barons decreed that this year’s national political conventions were worthy of only one hour of prime-time coverage in only three nights of each convention. The corporate arbiters of our public airwaves deem it more important to broadcast re-runs of sit-coms than to cover our nation’s quadrennial rituals of democracy. The honchos say that the conventions are scripted events that are not “something we need to cover on the broadcast television network,†as ABC’s news president so regally put it. Even news icon Dan Rather of CBS, who has fought in the past for more air time for convention coverage, now refers to them as a “money-raising, lobbyist-hunting-ground infomercial.â€

Well, yes—what takes place inside the hall is a parade of pontification and posturing. But why not go outside the hall, where two huge stories of national importance are playing out?

First is the very lobbyist hunting ground that Rather decries. It would be great TV to have investigative reporters poke their cameras into the exclusive watering holes where corporate lobbyists are schmoozing with top elected officials and blatantly buying our government. Second is the astonishing police crackdown against ordinary citizens who dare to protest at these conventions. Like a Third World dictatorship, our government now routinely uses massive and abusive force to shut down democratic expression, and it’s time for the media to expose it.


Still another Gooberhead Award goes to Washington lobbyist Frank Keating. He’s the former right-wing governor of Oklahoma who tried to get a top political job in the Bush regime, but ethical problems disqualified him. So Frank sank to a lower ethical stratum, hiring on to hustle legislative favors for life insurance corporations.

Appallingly, Frank recently stood up for several insurance firms that are engaged in a shabby insider deal to fleece young American soldiers who are on their way to war in Iraq. Often posing as military instructors in personal finance, insurance agents from these corporations have duped unwitting young troops into buying rip-off life insurance policies that are unneeded and nearly worthless.

It’s an abominable, totally unethical act of war profiteering. But here came Keating, the industry mouthpiece, to blame the victims: “Someone who is mature enough to fight and quite possibly die for their country,†Frank pompously intoned, “should be freely able to decide how much and what kind of life insurance they should have.â€

What a Goober. He knows that this is not about free markets or free will. These low-ranking solders are set up for the insurance predators. The sales pitch often comes as part of compulsory military “classes.†The soldiers are not even told they’re buying insurance, and many of the insurance agents are retired military officers. These 18-, 19-, 20-year- old soldiers, conditioned to obeying the commands of senior officers, believe that retired Colonel-So-and-So is telling them something they must do. And so they sign up for insurance without questioning.

Yet Keating is still lobbying Congress to let his corporate clients continue picking the pockets of the underpaid grunts heading to Iraq. Is this the “freedom†they’re being asked to die for?


Actually I’ve got a whole nest of Goobers for you—all of whom are nesting in the fraud-ridden Pentagon . . . except when they fly that coop to feather their nests with top jobs at Lockheed, Boeing, Halliburton, and other corporations that pocket billions in bloated Pentagon contracts. The scam of such Goobers is to work a while at the Pentagon, gain insider knowledge and contacts, then peddle their insider connections to corporations wanting more fat contracts from us taxpayers.

Take Pete Aldridge, who has made a career of spinning in and out of the revolving door between the Pentagon and military contractors. He was Secretary of the Air Force, then he left to become president of Air Force contractor McDonnell Douglas. Then George W. brought him back inside to be in charge of all Pentagon purchases. Last year, he left again, this time to become a highly-paid board member at Lockheed—but just before leaving, he personally approved a $3 billion contract for 20 jet-fighters to be made by—you guessed it—Lockheed.

Even while Pete’s on Lockheed’s payroll, Bush named him chairman of a space exploration commission. Pete’s commission recently called for privatizing NASA. Guess what corporation stands to gain the most from such a move? Bingo, if you said Lockheed!

About his glaring conflicts of interest, Pete simply declares that he’s in compliance with current ethics laws. But of course these laws are shams, written by lobbyists for Goobers like Pete. “Legal†isn’t the same as moral.

If you want to learn more about all the Petes who are now nesting in top jobs with military contractors, call the Project on Government Oversight: 202-347-1122.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Thieves In High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country And It’s Time To Take It Back. His latest book is Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale now from Viking Press.