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Reaction to Erroll Southers's decision to withdraw

By Ed O'Keefe

Reaction to Erroll Southers' decision to withdraw as President Obama's nominee to lead the Transportation Security Administration. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below:

Statement by Erroll Southers, as released by the White House:

“I was extremely excited about the opportunity to lead the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and fulfill Secretary Napolitano’s objective to develop it into the best organization of its kind in the world, however, it is apparent that this path has been obstructed by political ideology. I have decided, after deep reflection and in consultation with my family and friends to respectfully withdraw my name from consideration for confirmation as the Assistant Secretary for the TSA.

"It is clear that my nomination has become a lightning rod for those who have chosen to push a political agenda at the risk of the safety and security of the American people. This partisan climate is unacceptable and I refuse to allow myself to remain part of their dialogue. The TSA has important work to be done and I regret I will not be part of their success. I would like to thank the President, Secretary Napolitano and all of the people at the Department of Homeland Security who worked tirelessly to successfully move my nomination through two Senate committees during the past seven months.”

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who led Republican opposition to Southers:

"Americans deserve a leader at TSA with integrity and with an unwavering commitment to putting security ahead of politics. The White House never responded to requests for more information relating to Mr. Southers false testimony to Congress and his censure by the FBI for improperly accessing files. 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. I hope the President will quickly put forward a new nominee that is fully vetted and that will put the safety of the American people first."

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.)

"The senator thought the combination of his law enforcement and aviation security skills uniquely qualified him to lead the TSA," said spokeswoman Leslie Phillips.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the Senate Homeland Security Committee's ranking Republican and the only lawmaker to publicly question Southers about his FBI censure:

"Erroll Southers’ decision to withdraw his name for head of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is regrettable. Today our national security system lost a skilled law enforcement officer with needed expertise and leadership qualities because of political games – and that is a real shame. I urge my colleagues to more carefully focus on America’s security not partisanship. I am confident that President Obama will quickly nominate a new candidate to run TSA. I am committed to putting another qualified person in this critical job and will hold Commerce Committee nominations hearings as soon as possible. Our national security should always trump politics and anyone who doesn’t share that commitment isn’t serving the public effectively.”

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who has sponsored legislation that would grant collective bargaining rights to TSA workers:

“Erroll Southers is an experienced law enforcement professional who was uniquely qualified to lead to the Transportation Security Administration. The Christmas Day attempted airline bombing is only the latest example of why TSA needs skilled leaders like Mr. Southers to make the agency effective, efficient, and professional. It is sad that Mr. Southers’ confirmation was held hostage by Senator DeMint to make a political point regarding collective bargaining for transportation security officers. It’s time to stop playing politics with national security and recognize the threat air travelers face is from terrorism, not labor unions. I urge President Obama to nominate and the Senate to approve quickly a skilled professional to lead the Transportation Security Administration.”

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee:

“The withdrawal of Erroll Southers as the nominee for TSA Administrator will be beneficial to both Mr. Southers and the agency for which he was being considered to lead, which is currently in turmoil. While Mr. Southers appeared to be a personable and enthusiastic candidate for the position, his level of experience was not commensurate with the level of leadership the position now requires. My opposition to his confirmation was not based on politics or partisanship, but rather on the necessity to find the most qualified individual to fill this vital national security post.

"I pledge to work with the Administration, Democrats and other interested parties to make sure the TSA position is filled as soon as possible, and I am working with my colleagues who assisted in the creation of this agency to provide legislation and any other assistance to attract the very best candidate.”

Craig L. Fuller, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association:

“The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association continues to support commonsense enhancements to general aviation security that have real and positive effects on national security while imposing the least possible burden on general aviation pilots. The Association has a strong working relationship with the Transportation Security Administration at the operational level, and looks forward to developing a similar relationship with the new Administrator once that person is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.”

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union:

"I am disappointed with the withdrawal of Erroll Southers to be administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It was clear from the beginning that Southers was extremely well-qualified for this critical homeland security post. Two Senate committees agreed and he had more than enough bipartisan support to overcome politically-motivated delays to his confirmation. ... I spoke with Erroll Southers this morning and this conversation only confirmed for me NTEU’s belief that he would have made a difference and TSA would have been strengthened by his leadership. At the end of the day, it is disappointing that politics convinced a qualified nominee to withdraw his candidacy and has left this agency unable to reach its full potential in securing the safety of the traveling public."

John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (from a conference call with reporters):

“I didn’t know about it until this morning, and I talked to Mr. Southers today. He called and I think he was upset that he was not able to finish this. But I still think he would have been a strong leader for TSA and that’s the biggest thing, because I hear this from TSA TSOs all over the country. … I think it’s really unfortunate that TSA has gone this long without an administrator and looks like it’ll go a little longer. So we’re encouraging the Obama administration to step right out and get another nominee out. ... I would hope that we would get somebody new and extremely qualified to run the TSA. I don’t really have a comment on that. I do think the administration should move out on the rights issue. We have tremendous momentum there. This is a bump in the road, but we are very committed to continue our fight.”

Steve Lott, spokesman for the International Air Transport Association:

"During a time of heightened security, it is a shame that politics is getting in way of the necessary work to strengthen our security strategy. The failed terrorist plot of Christmas was a vivid reminder for the need to strengthen aviation security in the U.S. and around the world. Not having a TSA Administrator slows our work to achieve that goal. We look forward to working with White House and DHS as they work to forward a new nominee to Congress as soon as possible."

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association

"Further delay is unacceptable. We are deeply disappointed that it took eight months to have a nominee and four more months for him to be considered at a time America's transportation system is obviously under threat. Northwest Flight 253 serves as a wakeup call that we have critical security issues that must be addressed. We demand a fast-track nomination and immediate Senate consideration so we can put a leader for this critical agency in place as soon as possible. More than 100,000 employees at the Transportation Security Administration have now gone 365 days without leadership. If the U.S. cannot get a TSA administrator in place, we're clearly not committed to security or the travel process itself. Secure and efficient travel needs to be a bipartisan and immediate priority."

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 20, 2010; 11:05 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Revolving Door, Workplace Issues  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: TSA nominee Erroll Southers withdraws
Next: Experts: Southers exit signals several mistakes


Political Ideology?? I worked for Pacific Bell for many years. More than once, employees were walked to the door, because they looked up a relative or friend's telephone bill. You were terminated for that breach, no questions asked (or allowed). Did Southers lose his job? Heck no, and yet the Dems are whining that he's being railroaded. Typical.

Posted by: rjmoore12 | January 20, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Political ideology? Nah--DeMint will oppose any Black person. Always has, always will.

Posted by: lowercaselarry | January 20, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Despite the attempted cover-up by Southers and his knee-jerk supporters, the issue is not politics but ethics. Why was Southers not fired as soon as the discovery of his
unauthorized access was discovered? One may assume that politics played a crucial role in his job retention. He should never been in the situation in which he needed to lie to Congress about his actions. Even the truth, which he apparently finally told, should be an absolute disqualification for government employment. I worked in Federal personnel for decades: no one of any race or ethnic
background would have been hired by any of my offices after such information was disclosed. For eight years I worked in facilities in which African-American predominated and most often under African-American supervisors--none of whom would gave hired or retained such an unethical

Posted by: scat2 | January 20, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

It is high time we bring back ethical behavior on both party sides. When someone is held back from a position because of confidentiality breaches we scream "injustice". What has gone wrong with us? This is just the kind of crap we Americans are sick of. We want to be able to trust and look up to our officials. This man would have a position of SECUTITY! If he was unable to display honest ehtics in a previous position, what would make us think he will do it now. God forbid should his ex-wifes boyfriend want to travel, or anyone else he doesn't like! It is also very disturbing how Mr Southers sums up pro-life people who identify themselves as Christians. History will tell you that these are exactly the kind of people that founded this great nation. By the way, we are not anti-government. Most of us are not really even left or right. We want to go back to "Government by the people and for the people". Government positions are offices of service, not a life long meal ticket! Stop whining and put on your big boy pants. If you want to be a leader in this country then ACT like it. If you are incapable of acting like it, then do the right thing as Mr Southers has done. Step down.

Posted by: snjmoore | January 21, 2010 12:55 AM | Report abuse

How dare you call this political. I'm sick and tired of certain groups blaming everybody else for their screwups. Mr. Southers you are a pathetic excuse for a person. That is why you do not get, nor do you deserve, to be in charge of an agency tasked with protecting the traveling public.

Posted by: nosuchluck | January 21, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Mica is wrong, Errol Southers is eminently qualified for this key position and Mica's comment is nothing but a dodge.

DeMint, who has been hoping that a failure in health insurance reform would be, in his own words, "Obama's Waterloo", is not fit to serve in the Senate,along with his naysaying cohorts. Add to that his trip to Honduras to butt into the ouster of their president and he is verging on treasonous.

This is a shame!!!

Posted by: tescherm | January 21, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

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