or the past week or so, editorial
writers all over the country have taken pot shots at United and at
the Air Transportation Stabilization Board and more than a few of
them seem to think we'd all be better off if both United and the
ATSB went away. We lean to the view that we'd all be better off,
including United, if the board went away.
Those of us who have been here before know from experience that
no airline is indispensible. If the industry can survive the loss
of such historic titans as Pan Am, TWA and Eastern, it can survive
the demise of United. It won't be pretty (it never is), but it can
But we think many commentators have gotten ahead of themselves.
The choice isn't between a government-backed loan and the
graveyard. The ATSB may hold a key to United's survival, but there
is more than one key (there always are). Even without a
government-guaranteed loan, United can survive. And we believe it
For that to happen, United would have to be smaller, its
employees and retirees would have to endure further reductions in
benefits, and its banks would have to open some lines of credit
without a government safety net.
United's restructuring to date has proceeded toward one goal:
qualifying for a loan guarantee. That was to be the magic elixir
that would enable it to emerge from bankruptcy.
In hindsight it now occurs to us that had the airline spent the
last 18 months working toward a different goal, its fate would be
in its own hands rather than in the hands of three government
appointees. Had there been no board, no possibility of a government
guarantee, United by now might have come to a better place than it
finds itself today.
• • •
The Nixon lesson
he most presidential thing that
Richard Nixon ever did was to make a historic and unexpected
overture to China in 1972. In spite of his ultimate disgrace, even
his harshest critics have to concede that he earned a place in
history for opening that door, an overture from which we continue
to benefit today.
This is not to say that everything that has resulted from
China's evolution over the past three decades can be credited to,
or blamed on, Richard Nixon. It is merely to recognize that he took
that forward-looking first step.
Alas, our government's Cuba policy, by contrast, remains mired
in the repressive past as the Bush administration further restricts
humanitarian activities and family travel to Cuba.
We can think of very few ways in which Fidel Castro's Cuba
represents a threat to the U.S. Cuba's military, economic,
ideological and diplomatic influence in the world pales by
comparison with the power wielded by what we used to call "the
Communist bloc," but even in the darkest days of the Cold War the
U.S. did not prohibit its citizens from traveling to Russia.
We await the emergence of statesmen with the foresight to turn
this page and begin a new chapter.