Karen Heller: Corbett's dubious mission

Angela Merkel, one of the female European leaders Gov. Corbett probably won't meet on his business-oriented trip. MICHAEL SOHN / Associated Press
Angela Merkel, one of the female European leaders Gov. Corbett probably won't meet on his business-oriented trip. MICHAEL SOHN / Associated Press
Posted: March 18, 2012

Bienvenue and Willkommen, Monsieur/Herr Corbett, to France and Germany!

We hope you will enjoy your six-day trade mission to our beautiful countries, so rich in culture, gastronomy, and extensive national health care while dependent on the Greece-stained euro that our southern sisters seem intent on sinking into the Mediterranean Sea.

Your office states that our countries were chosen because "together they represent the state's fourth-largest export market."

Together? Have you studied France and Germany's storied history of not working together?

Lumping Germany with France to designate Pennsylvania's fourth-largest export market is a tad like what Newt Gingrich did Tuesday, attaching his electoral votes to those of Recovering Pennsylvanian Rick Santorum so he could claim victory over Mitt Romney.

Germany is the commonwealth's fifth-largest trading partner, while La Belle France is a déclassé 13th. If the commonwealth's mission was truly about favored-nation status, Herr Corbett would be heading to Canada, responsible for nearly a third of Pennsylvania's export dollars. France's purchases total less than 6 percent of Canada's $11.3 billion.

However, we applaud your inspired use of trade figures and diplomacy. Who wouldn't prefer to spend almost-April in Paris rather than Saskatoon?

Your mission is being subsidized by a public-private partnership, and not taxpayers, though perhaps it's not the best move for a governor already seen as très intime with private industry, especially natural gas, which operated so long without taxes/fees/whatever.

However, your practice seems preferable to the recent European jaunts of Monsieur Ed Rendell. Of late, he's been a frequent flier to our continent, visiting Paris four times and Geneva twice in eight months to make paid speeches on behalf of the violent, well-funded Iranian exile group Mujaheddin Khalq, or MEK. Rendell's trying to get the group removed from the State Department's terrorist list, which landed him in trouble with the Treasury Department.

When an organization lands on the terrorist list, Americans can't be paid by that group to solicit support. Rendell admitted he knew little about the MEK before becoming its frequent champion.

"Gov. Ridge was active in this even before I got involved," Rendell told The Inquirer, which seems like a he-did-it-first defense among past state chief executives. The revelation also suggests the career-path trajectory that awaits Corbett when he joins the select cadre of former Pennsylvania governors: serious revenue to advocate for questionable groups about which you have limited knowledge.

Then again, Rendell holds so many jobs, how can he possibly keep track of them all? Television pundit, lawyer, author, speaker, professor, board director, analyst of that sport Americans mistakenly call "football," possible newspaper owner, while being available to make highly reprintable comments on virtually any subject - especially Republicans - as long as it doesn't directly involve him.

Corbett's European spring trip now appears Teutonic in its precision timing. Last week, his approval ratings dropped, like so much foam on a glass of Doppelbock, due to his deep cuts in higher-education funding and increased government intrusion in women's reproductive health.

The governor appears less smart, and perhaps a tad defensive, for being as seriously overbooked as a third-rate tour operator. "I think I have scheduled 48 meetings in six days that I'm there. It's going to be a very busy time," Corbett said last week. "We're selling Pennsylvania."

We would rather that you learn more about us, your fifth- and 13th-largest global customers: our well-funded and affordable universities, extensive social services, generous national health benefits (first established in Germany in 1883), reproductive health services, and strong female leaders, Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde.

But you seem too busy with so many meetings, preferring a business bubble so as to not experience our countries at all. You might as well be in Canada. Before you know it, we'll be bidding you adieu and auf Wiedersehen!


Contact Karen Heller

at 215-854-2586 or kheller@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @kheller. Read her blog at www.philly.com/blinq.

|
|
|
|
|