Obama takes credit for Boeing deal

Neil Munro White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama displayed his focus on government Friday by thanking his own administration for Boeing’s new $21.7 billion sales deal with Lion Air, a fast-growing Asian airline company.

“The U.S. administration and the Ex-Im Bank, in particular, were critical in facilitating this deal. … I want to thank all of the administration officials who were dogged in trying to get this completed,” he said, in a statement from the island of Bali.


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Obama next credited the Indonesian airline, Lion Air, before congratulating Boeing, whose 157,000 workers design, manufacture, market and maintain the aircraft. Roughly 78,000 Boeing workers are employed in Washington state.

“I want to, first of all, congratulate Lion Air for their incredible success. I want to congratulate Boeing for making outstanding planes. … This is an example of a win-win situation where the people of the region are going to be able to benefit from an outstanding airline.”

His emphasis on government’s role will likely fuel Republicans’ growing criticism of Obama for statements in which he called America lazy and soft.

Republicans also criticize Obama for his appointees to the National Labor Relations Board. The appointees are strongly critical of Boeing’s executives for opening a new production line in South Carolina, where state laws hinder unions’ recruitment efforts.

The new Lion Air deal calls for the delivery of up to 230 aircraft, and is the largest deal for Boeing since Indian airlines bought $11 billion of aircraft in January 2006.

Obama’s focus on his administration’s role stands in contrast to President George W. Bush’s comments about other Boeing deals.

Two months after Boeing signed the 2006 India deal, Bush visited India and talked up trade, but he emphasized customers and companies, not government middlemen.

“Americans who come to this country will see … Indian businesses buying American products like the 68 planes that Air India recently ordered from Boeing. They will also see American businesses like General Electric and Microsoft and Intel, who are in India to learn about the needs of local customers and do vital research that makes their products more competitive in world markets,” he said.

In November 2005, Bush visited China, whose government announced it was buying 70 Boeing aircraft.

Bush didn’t try to take credit, but instead told press that he met with China’s top official “to make sure that we’ve got access to Chinese markets like they’ve got to ours. … I was pleased to see that the Chinese government ordered Boeing aircraft.”

Obama’s Friday comments also downplayed the role of Boeing’s workers, while emphasizing his own record and that his of his appointees.

The Lion Air deal “is an example of how we are going to achieve the long-term goal that I set of doubling U.S. exports over the next several years. … And our workers back home are going to be able to have job security and be able to produce an outstanding product made in America,’ he said just before ending his statement with “so congratulations, gentlemen. Thank you so much.”

Obama’s self-congratulation contrasts with his critical comments about Americans.

“We’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades, and so we have failed to do enough to attract foreign investment,” the president said Nov 12. during a scripted conversation with Boeing CEO James McNerney, Jr. at a summit for Pacific region business leaders.

In September, Obama told a Florida interviewer that “this is a great country that had gotten a little soft, and we didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades.”

Bush’s emphasis was different.

In a March 2004 ceremony where he awarded a prize to Boeing, he declared, “We’ve got the world’s hardest-working people. We’ve got the most productive work force in the world. We have an attractive climate for our businesses to expand. We have innovative, dynamic companies which are producing world-class products and services.”

“America’s best companies are emphasizing quality and service, and developing world-class methods for production,” he said at the Arlington, Va., event. “By selling good ideas and good products in markets not only here, but across the world, we’re creating jobs — good, high-paying jobs for the American citizen.”

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