Partisan Furor Over Blocked TSA Appointment

Sen. Jim DeMint stalls confirmation of TSA chief, fueling partisan feud over national security

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In the days since the failed terror attempt on Northwest Airlines flight 253, partisan bickering has erupted over matters of anti-terrorism efforts and national security. At the center of the most recent scuffle is Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-SC) opposition to TSA chief nominee Erroll Southers. DeMint has put a hold on Southers's Senate confirmation, believing Southers may support TSA worker unionization. Liberal commentators are outraged, saying the move politicizes a national security issue. But conservatives say this is a Democratic red herring. Meanwhile, others wonder why Democrats haven't made a bigger deal of this latest drama, given recent Republican attacks on the president's security policy. Here's the rundown on the key arguments:
  • Livid Liberals  Liberal Adam Serwer is outraged at Sen. DeMint's "implication that the Obama administration cared more about unionizing ... than national security ... The Obama administration doesn't care more about unionizing workers than terrorism," retorts Serwer. "Jim DeMint cares more about unionizing workers than terrorism." SJones at Politicususa points to a common theme throughout the left-leaning blogosphere: "Had Democrats refused to confirm a National Security Nominee under Bush, the media would have crucified them."
  • Why Aren't Dems Responding?  The Washington Independent's David Weigel is one of many to remark on "the inability of Democrats to flip this back on Republicans." He finds this, as Republicans continue to "[attack] the president for fumbling transportation security ... pretty hard to understand."
  • About Time for DeMint to Back Down, Perhaps?  Spencer Ackerman, also of the Washington Independent, suggests that perhaps the recent terror attempt "should make De Mint back down." Yet, Ackerman observes, "he still supports blocking Southers' nomination until he knows TSA workers won't unionize." Salon's Alex Koppelman thinks this may be about to change:

These kinds of holds are often the sort of thing that senators like kept quiet--hence the anonymous nature of many of them. DeMint's not one to do anything quietly, and he'd gotten coverage for this hold previously. But in the wake of the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253, he's getting some attention for the hold, and it's not a good kind of press for him or his fellow Senate Republicans ... For now, DeMint's office says the senator won't drop the hold. But don't be surprised if you see some pressure from other Senate Republicans leading to Southers' confirmation soon enough.

  • Hang On--Republicans Aren't the Culprits, Here  Mike Bates at Newsbusters is incredulous: "It took Obama almost eight months to nominate someone to the TSA post. It would take possibly as few as three days for the Democrats to push it through the Senate. Yet somehow it's all that 'very conservative' Senator DeMint's fault. Heck," Bates exclaims sarcastically, "maybe he's personally responsible for the Christmas terrorist attempt."
  • Problems with the Nominee  Conservative blogger Dan Riehl likewise points out the inconsistencies of the Democratic argument, and adds that, according to some reports, the appointment "wouldn't make much difference anyway, as the acting team is far more directly experienced for now." He also points to claims that "Error Southers has abused his authority wherever he's been." Riehl also defends the relevance of opposing unionization, wondering if Democrats prefer to have "government workers more concerned with protecting their jobs, than the land and people of the US."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.