The push and pull between pork and priorities was on display in a major way this week. There has been an epidemic, a pundit and politician pandemic in fact, of happy horse shit talk about difficult decisions, priorities, debts and deficits. The fact remains, that when the rubber meets the road, elected officials are more likely than not to side with local jobs over national priorities. That is especially true when leaders don’t lead.

For weeks on the radio show, I’ve been using the example of the Joint Strike Fighter back-up engine battle as an example of that contradiction, and our problem going forward. This week the House took a stand and the results were illuminating.

From Wednesday’s New York Times, House Votes to End Alternate Jet Engine Program

In a sign that more than half the Republican freshmen are willing to cut military spending, the House voted 233 to 198 on Wednesday to cancel an alternate fighter jet engine that the Bush and Obama administrations had tried to kill for the last five years.

The vote was another instance in which some of the new legislators, including several affiliated with the Tea Party, broke ranks with the House speaker, John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, where the engine provided more than 1,000 jobs.

Also from Wednesday’s New York Times, Boehner in His Element as Spending Cuts Elicit Free-Flowing House Debate

WASHINGTON — For Speaker John A. Boehner, the budget-cutting frenzy taking place on the House floor merges two of his animating political passions — the need to shrink federal spending and the willingness to risk a free-flowing debate.

Throw in a new conservative Republican majority and Mr. Boehner is confident of the outcome.

“I have no doubts in the coming weeks and months that people will see our resolve around solving our deficit problem,” Mr. Boehner said in an interview. “We are going to cut spending. There aren’t any ifs, ands or buts about it.”

What Speaker Boehner means is that he is passionate about cutting spending in other peoples districts. Instead, this week he voted in favor of $3 billion in new spending to save 1000 jobs in his district. On a project described by the Secretary of Defense as “an unnecessary and extravagant expense” and one that has been opposed by the last two administrations.

He should have asked himself WWCCD?

What a missed opportunity to lead. I would expect a back bench congressman, like John Tierney, to support the pork and protect jobs in his district. It goes against a politicians natural instincts to vote against jobs in their district, we all understand that. Even though the Tea Party candidates acquitted themselves well on this vote, the Times went on to note,

But in some ways, the votes of the Republican freshmen also broke down just like those of veteran members in both parties, with jobs in their states a primary concern.

For instance, all nine of the Republican freshmen from Ohio and Indiana voted to save the alternate engine. It is being developed by General Electric and Rolls-Royce in those states, while Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies, is building the other engine in Connecticut.

Many will say, that’s what they are supposed to do. It is, to a point. The way I look at it is this, we are either in dire fiscal straights that require all hands on deck, or we are not. The defense budget is not out of bounds, not at $600+ billion annually. There is plenty to cut without cutting effectiveness. The JSF back-up engine is a tailor made example. Boehner is the Speaker, the alleged leader of this new era of fiscal austerity and he just voted present. Actually, worse. He voted status quo. What these congressman need to make the right decisions is leadership by example. Imagine the message Boehner could have sent on spending by leading, and voting no. Could have been a seminal moment. Instead, by exempting his own district, Speaker Boehner has shown me he is not much of a leader and still part of the problem.