EDITORIAL: Details Needed from Maloney on Chile Experience

HNN Staff

GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney has made his recent experience in Chile the very centerpiece of his current campaign. He speaks of it often in his stump speeches, he talks about it in interviews, and his campaign TV ads focus on this trip to South America enough to make you feel transported to Santiago.  But when will we hear more than the surface-level chatter about it?  

After all, if the trip to Chile is deemed this important to Maloney and his suggested leadership skills for the role of Governor, we need to see where the leadership occurred--and what Maloney's actual role was.  Did he spearhead the effort?  Was he the brains behind this impressive example of emergency planning?  Or was he just there to lend moral support?  The TV ads and political speeches really don't make that clear.

What we do know is that Maloney says that he started e-mailing others in the drilling industry when he saw that the estimates for relieving the Chilean miners was a possible four months of waiting.  The news reports featuring Maloney from September 2010 don't say whether others in his industry were already thinking along the same lines before hearing from Maloney, but in either case, Maloney appears to have taken some initiative in trying to get some of his professional peers interested in the plight of the Chilean miners.

After that, we hear a good bit about Brandon Fisher, of Center Rock Inc. in Berlin, Somerset County, Pennsylvania.  His company was the one that built new drill bits and other parts that fit a Chilean company's drilling rig so it could bore larger shaft openings.  This was a key part of the "Plan B" that Maloney talks about on the campaign trail.  But again, we are never told how much of the effort was spearheaded by Maloney, whose TV ads now seem to give him credit for much of the leadership involved.

Prior to the October 13th rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, Maloney had told a reporter that he planned on being in Chile for several weeks.  In a September 2, 2010 interview in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Maloney stated that he was on his way to Chile, having had his innoculations, and planned to be there for "a month or two."

However, a different result is recorded in a November 1, 2010 story in the Express-Times, a Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania newspaper.  According to that story, Maloney stayed in Chile only three weeks, returning to the United States, while other peers of his in the drilling industry stayed behind to continue the work to save the miners.

Now, perhaps Maloney's role, whatever it may have been, was completed within those initial three weeks.  But that might put a dent in his story about how responsible he was for the ongoing teamwork needed to save the miners.   After all, the rescue took three more weeks after Maloney left Chile.  Was he somehow leading the American drilling team in Chile from Cheat Lake?

We don't doubt that Maloney had a great humanitarian impulse that provoked him to want to participate in the rescue of the Chilean miners.  What is clear in an otherwise vague story is that Maloney wanted to do something to help, especially since it involved his area of professional expertise, drilling.  But as Maloney and his campaign has surely figured out, Governor's races are won on leadership, not on drilling expertise.

What the voters deserve to know is exactly what leadership role Bill Maloney played not only before he and his friends flew to Chile but also after they got there.   Why is this important?  That's simple.   Maloney has made his leadership skills, with the Chile trip as his chief example, the cornerstone of his campaign.  Maloney's entire campaign rises and falls on his Chilean experience, by his own design.

We need to know how Maloney led the team that saved the miners from the comfort of the U.S.  Why did he come back in three weeks after telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he expected to be down in Chile for one or two months?  Was his role more of a consultant, whose role was substantially ended, or the team leader?

This is an important question, because what West Virginia needs right now is a quarterback, not just a consultant.

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