Yesterday afternoon, President Obama announced that he will nominate Retired Army General Robert Harding to be the TSA Administrator. Harding is a well-known and highly respected military and intelligence officer, and under normal circumstances, his nomination should sail through the Senate. But these are not normal times in the Senate.
Unless the White House is willing to address, up front, the unionization issue that overtook the substantive merits of Erroll Southers’ nomination, General Harding’s nomination will likely be in limbo for quite some time – and that will be a sad state of affairs for an agency that is in need of new leadership.
It is a fact of political life in Washington, DC, these days that a person’s qualifications are only one factor in having the Senate confirm them for a politically appointed position. Senator Jim DeMint obviously did not care whether Erroll Southers was qualified, so long as Southers did not respond in the exact way DeMint demanded on the TSA collective bargaining issue – even through DeMint knew this was a decision made by either the DHS Secretary or the White House. It was not a decision Southers could make.
The same fate may await General Harding’s nomination, assuming he can get past any other Senate Commerce Committee questions – questions such as his ability to oversee outside contractors’ activities, given (according to the Harding Security Associates Web site) his own successful creation, operation and eventual sale of a government contracting business. I expect the government contracting community will be watching his nomination process with great interest.
So, congratulations to General Robert Harding, the new TSA Administrator nominee. Is anyone willing to place a bet on when the word “nominee” will be dropped from the previous sentence?