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The law of unintended consequences

We wake this morning to reports that embattled TSA nominee Erroll Southers was pulling his name out of consideration for the post.  The Washington Post leaves the stong impression that Jim DeMint’s only concern was the collective bargaining issue, yet concerns regarding Southers confessed activities at the FBI in illegally accessing private information was also in the forefront of efforts to block his nomination.

The problem is that he lied, acknowledging “he had given inconsistent answers to Congress on that issue.”  In his testimony he indicated he had only illegally accessed protected private information once through a representative.  Then afterward he acknowledged that he instead also accessed information illegally twice himself.  Which of course leads to questions regarding how much more is there really there.  As head of the TSA he would have access to troves of private information and as several in Congress, I’m not of the opinion someone who has shown an aptitude to illegally access private information is the right person to be putting in a situation where he could do it again.  Southers nomination is just further proof of an administration that performed a horrible job of vetting nominees.

Only Southers doesn’t see it that way.  Nor do many Democrats who see Southers as just the latest in a line of nominees to be raked over the coals, saying “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.”  Democrats have been complaining about this since the days of the Clinton administration, but they really have no one else to blame but themselves.  Lets ignore for the moment the fact there are real, legitimate concerns about this nominee and instead look to what started this “trend”.

Prior to 1987 there was a general understanding in Congress regarding the treatment of political appointees.  But in 1987 Justice Robert Bork was the first nominee to be “Borked”.  But he was hardly the last.  Next up was Justice Thomas.  The way in which these nominees were treated changed the face of the nomination process as it was known and has led directly to the scrutiny and treatment of nominees on both sides in today’s political climate.

Next time Democrats, be careful what you ask for, and understand you had better be certain of the consequences when you change precedent.

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