Thursday, January 21, 2010

What TSA worry?

Now comes word that Errol Southers, President Obama's nominee to be director of the Transportation Security Administration has withdrawn from consideration after having the vote on his nomination blocked by a handful of Republican senators.

The Senate stands athwart democracy. It starts as a supremely unrepresentative body. Within that, archane practices effectively give individual members unilateral veto power.

Senate gamesmanship has cost the country the services of a consummate law enforcement and security professional. Southers began his career with the Santa Monica police department, was an FBI agent, and headed security for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In 2004, he was appointed by Republican governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar to be the deputy director of California's Department of Homeland Security, and in 2007, he moved to become the assistant chief at the Los Angeles World Police Department. He has also taught at the University of Southern California on security since 2003.

Souther's record included a blemish--while an FBI agent 21 years ago, he misused his authority to order and conduct a background check on the boyfriend of his estranged wife. He was censured by the FBI. As the record shows, however, Southers went on to have an exemplary career and enjoyed bipartisan support.

It's also clear that Southers had strong bipartisan support in the Senate had there been the opportunity to hold a vote.

Southers case is just one of dozens that the Republicans are holding up. As of last Friday, 177 of President Obama's nominees still await Senate votes. Meanwhile vital national work goes undone.