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)!

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Mari Basque
Mari 's8 years ago

Will they ever grow up and get along? They need a time out in the no no chair!

Terry S.
Terry S8 years ago

Sir Walk F - First off, they can hide the explosives inside the body and mule them in, the scanners will not see that. Second, if changing foreign policy was so easy, they would have done that. Now, just what do you see as a foreign policy change? And do not mention oil, since most of the oil used in the US comes from the western hemisphere. Canada, and Venezuela.

Sir Walk F.
Sir Walk F8 years ago

"None of the new security measures being implemented would have detected the explosive material in the location this bomber was carrying it, since it was in the crotch of his underwear."

Roger, you've said this twice now, but it just isnt true. Even Bill Oreilly admits it would have,

Regardless, it is a reaction after the fact and will likely do little to prevent further 'attacks'. We have to change our foreign policy and stop killing innocent people if we want to see an end to these kinds of attacks.

Shannon S.
Shannon G8 years ago

Republicans are the only ones playing the blame game? I am trying not to be shocked by that statment.

TheRise TheRise
TheRise TheRise8 years ago

I would hate to sound biased but for anyone buying the republican hype these past 12 months I suggest reading : Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party by Max Blumenthal

Carmen S.
Carmen S8 years ago

Roger the Republicans are the ones always using the blame game. And The Democrats just defend themselves but I thinki it is about time they started being a little more aggresive.

Roger H.
.8 years ago

The Republicans don't need any help blocking the necessary improvements to airport security. The White House has shown complete incompetence in the new security measures that they came up with. None of the new security measures being implemented would have found the explosives hidden in the crotch of the intended bomber's underwear and will not find explosives hidden in body cavities either (as is being reported by CBS network news and national security experts). The White House and Republicans both need to quit playing political blame game and enact the necessary airport security procedures of terrorist profiling and explosive/drug sniffing dogs.
Airport security is more important than politics and what the ACLU thinks.

Jane Hope
Jane H8 years ago

Sounds like a typical member of the Republican Party

Shannon S.
Shannon G8 years ago

I question this nominee, sorry.

Leia H.
Shelly H8 years ago

Also, I would remind everyone that after reading just half of Jeff Sharlet's book The Family, I don't trust anything DeMint says or does, because of his ties to that right-wing fundamentalist organization and it's behind-the-scenes manipulation of world politics. I think the entire conservative movement wants America to go down on it's knees in fear while they triumphantly cry: We Won! Now do as we say, or else! They want total control, not only of this country but of the entire world, like Hitler did, and if conservative followers are too captivated by the raw power of this once benign movement turned malignant to realize this, they had better get some awakening fast. (I shudder to think of what else these powerful people have up their sleeves!) Do some figuring. One powerful senator has the awesome power to hold up an appointment of a TSA administrator by a FAIRLY elected president. We then have another airline near tragedy from another fanatic, one that was thankfully foiled by fellow passengers on the plane. Curious timing, to be sure! The powerful senator then gives some lame, virtually meaningless excuse for the holdup of the appointment. Then we get peanut-gallery comments from the former VP, (who promotes torture), spitting yet more venom at our FAIRLY elected commander-in-chief. Anybody wanna do the math on this? Audrey says it like it is. Well said, Audrey!