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Help Still Wanted: TSA Chief With Ability to Quietly Unionize Screeners

By Doug Powers  •  March 27, 2010 12:25 PM

President Obama is two for two so far in his choices to head the Transportation Security Administration — his second pick withdrew from consideration yesterday:

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Harding took himself out of the running as head of the Transportation Security Administration, another setback for Obama after his first choice withdrew in January because he faced a tough confirmation struggle in Congress. The Obama administration has called the job the most important unfilled position on Obama’s team.
Questions arose after his nomination about a contract his company had with the government to provide interrogators in Iraq. After the government ended the contract early, in 2004, Harding Security Associates claimed more money from termination of the contract than the Defense Department’s inspector general said it was entitled to get. The firm refunded $1.8 million of that money in a 2008 settlement with the Defense Intelligence Agency.

A little over two months ago, Erroll Southers withdrew his nomination to lead the TSA after it became apparent he would have trouble winning confirmation. In that episode, questions were raised about a reprimand that Southers, a top official with Los Angeles police, had received for running background checks on his then-estranged wife’s boyfriend two decades ago. He acknowledged giving Congress inconsistent answers to Congress on the matter.

Obama had waited eight months before nominating Southers. Now Harding’s withdrawal means more delays in filling the top job in transportation security when the nation is trying to fortify defenses against attacks such as the Christmas bombing attempt on an airliner bound for Detroit, which was foiled by passengers.

Don’t worry, though, because Janet Napolitano is still on the job and protecting America from man-caused disasters.

Obama’s nominations for the TSA job have far more to do with unions like the SEIU than with national security (big surprise, I know).

As Sen. Jim DeMint helped point out in January, the nomination of Southers was intended to usher in collective bargaining for screeners, thus allowing unions snouts even deeper in the public trough.

Harding, however, didn’t want anything to do with unionizing TSA screeners — just kidding, of course he did or else Obama wouldn’t have nominated him. This from a CNN story just two days before Harding withdrew:

President Barack Obama’s second nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration side-stepped questions Wednesday about whether he supports unionizing the nation’s 40,000 airport screeners, but acknowledged the president’s support for unionization of screeners and said any such plan should be done in a way that would not hurt national security.

Harding’s admission that there are ways to unionize the TSA that would be harmful to national security doesn’t do much to help the argument of those who are pro-unionization.

If this job remains open for much longer, Obama might be forced to abandon his dreams of unionizing the TSA and nominate a good, old fashioned tax cheat just to get the position filled. He knows plenty of those.

Can you imagine a unionized TSA?

Screener: Step aside please for additional checking.

You: But my flight is in 10 minutes!

Screener: And my mandatory break is now. I’ll be back in a half hour. Don’t go anywhere.

You: Can’t somebody else do it?

Screener: Against regs. Wilma over there is only allowed to check women’s bras and Frank’s out on disability leave. See you in 30 — or you rent a car and drive where you’re going. I don’t care.

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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