Erroll Southers, President Obama’s pick to head the Transportation Security Administration, withdrew today, claiming his nomination had become a lightning rod for those with a political agenda.
The decision was a blow for a White House already under fire by critics for its handling of the attempted Christmas bombing of an American airline.
Southers’ nomination had been held up by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint who expressed concern Southers would attempt to unionize TSA security agents.
In an e-mail to friends and colleagues, Southers stated, “It is unfortunate that we are residing in such contentious political times, that exceptional, ‘apolitical’ candidates have to seriously consider their willingness to participate in public service.”
In Senate hearings, Southers had avoided giving a “yes” or “no” answer over whether he would unionize airport security workers. Unions across the U.S., however, have been lobbying hard for Southers’ confirmation.
Critics charge unionizing airport security would impose rules on union workers that could impede national security efforts in combating terrorist threats.
Columnist Michelle Malkin, who had written about the issues surrounding Southers, said, “The withdrawal spotlights the Obama administration’s reckless evasions of public information requests about its nominees – and its embrace of radical nominees who show contempt for the rule of law. The Southers debacle, like the USAO nominee Stephanie Villafuerte debacle, the green jobs czar Van Jones debacle, and the Charles Freeman debacle, shows that neither the White House nor the vast majority of mainstream media outlets care about vetting at all.”
DeMint, R-S.C., said it was a case of administration officials just refusing to provide the information that was needed about a candidate.
“And Mr. Southers was never forthcoming about his intentions to give union bosses veto power over security decisions at our airports. TSA screeners can already join unions, but collective bargaining would force TSA officials to ask union bosses for permission to make critical security changes. The Senate could have had an open and transparent debate this week to approve Mr. Southers, but apparently, answering simple, direct questions about security and integrity were too much for this nominee,” he said.
WND first reported Southers had boasted to a major union that he looked forward to “joining” with them to add value to TSA security.
The website of the American Federation of Government Employees, District 3, Local 332, which is part of AFL-CIO, the largest union federation in the U.S., is boasting of an e-mail from Southers on August 7, just after his nomination was announced.
In the e-mail, Southers told the union, “I look forward to joining you and adding value to the homeland security mission at TSA.”
“This says a lot about this man who will lead the TSA,” states the AFL-CIO website.
Southers’ e-mail is also re-posted on the website of AFL-CIO District 2 Local 2617.
Separately, WND also reported on Southers’ suggestion terrorists have attacked the U.S. because of the country’s alliances with Israel and France.
In a 2008 video interview with the VideoJug website, Southers was asked, “How high should the war on terror be on our list of national priorities?”
He replied: “It should be high on our list of priorities because of – speaking globally – the threat that exists. Due to connectivity that we have with countries such as Israel, France, countries that are seen by groups – by al-Qaida as being infidels or anti-Islamic, by the true nature of our alliance with them means that we are subject to being attacked as well.”
Scores of terrorist leaders, including senior jihadists interviewed by WND, explained attacks against the U.S. are primarily carried out to spread Islam around the world. While al-Qaida has listed U.S. support for Israel among its grievances, the global terrorist network gives more prominence to its gripe that foreign troops are deployed in Islamic countries.
Despite a growing domestic Islamic threat, Southers during the interview stressed that white supremacists and anti-abortion groups are the greatest domestic terrorist danger.
Southers currently is assistant chief in charge of security and intelligence at the Los Angeles airport’s police department.
The White House said today Obama had accepted Southers’ withdrawal with great sadness and continued to believe Southers would have made an excellent TSA administrator.