Playing Politics with National Security – Sen. DeMint Holds Up Obama TSA Nominee
Before the Senate shut down for the holidays, in the days leading up to the Dec. 25 attempted underpants bombing of Flight 253, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint took it upon himself to place a hold Obama’s nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), counter terrorism expert Errol Southers.
DeMint’s stated reason:
…many Americans aren’t aware that the president’s nominee to lead the TSA appears ready to give union bosses the power to veto or delay future security improvements at our airports.
Unfortunately, I don’t have time to explain all of ways DeMint’s statement is wrong, but here’s a couple.
To begin with, his assertion that Southers “appears ready to give” is deceptive. Southers – a former FBI special agent, the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department assistant chief for homeland security and intelligence, and the associate director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events – isn’t “ready to give” anybody anything. As chief of the TSA, it wouldn’t be Souther’s call to make.
From a Dec. 29 Sphere report:
Southers has said he would not pass judgment on collective bargaining for TSA workers until he is in office and has heard from all parties. In reality, aviation security consultant Rich Roth said, the decision will be made above his pay grade — by the White House and the head of the Department of Homeland Security, of which TSA is one division.
Additionally, DeMint’s characterization of how TSA’s organizing might impact security can’t be substantiated. As Art Levine reported Dec. 31 at Truthout, thousands of TSA employees are already members of the American Federation of Government Employees. So are many other elements of America’s security apparatus.
Indeed, the Homeland Security Department’s customs and border patrol officers who regularly face criminals are already unionized, with no sign of the common right-wing mythology about union members: there are no goldbrickers loafing back at the union hall while drug smugglers and border-crossing terrorists are being ignored. As Bill Fletcher, the American Federation of Government Employees’ field services director, says, “It’s a completely baseless argument.” He adds, “It’s a game of sabotage: Republicans are playing to basic fears, and obstructing the appointment of a TSA administrator to make it nearly impossible for TSA to recognize and address problems in any kind of systematic way…”
It sounds as though the TSA is in need of an experienced, respected, no-nonsense administrator. As it turns out, Obama appointed just such a person in Errol Southers. But thanks to a single senator’s apprehensions about organized labor, the TSA will have to wait a bit longer.
I believe Rep. Eric Massa (D – NY 29) assigned the proper sentiment in a Dec. 31 DailyKos post:
I hope Senator Jim DeMint had a lovely Christmas while the permanent office of the TSA Administrator remained vacant because of his deep, personal vendetta against organized labor (heaven forbid we should allow those that work on the front lines to protect us from terrorists from earning a decent living and fair benefits).
Massa, however, should reconsider using the words “heaven forbid” within his admonishment of DeMint. As we have seen during the debate over health care reform, DeMint is bound to do just that( <—must see video)!
- David Dayden, “Practically Every Security-Related Industry is Unionized, Sen. DeMint.” FireDogLake.com, 29 December 2009.
- Matt Duss, “DeMint Uses Failed Terrorist Bombing to Attack Unions.” ThinkProgress.org, 27 December 2009.
- Christina Bellatoni, “Flight 253 Fallout: Obama, Congress To Probe National Security Intelligence.” TalkingPointsMemo.com, 31 December 2009.
Public Domain Image via USA.gov