Mineta Spin-Cycle. Get the Media to Blame Magaw. The Washington Post carries a front page piece on the problems at the Transportation Security Administration. The piece reports that the TSA avoided involvement in the July 4 shooting at LAX, hasn’t improved the security of cargo shipping, and uses outdated methods for selecting passengers to screen.
The piece lets Norm Mineta, the Transportation Secretary, off the hook. It quotes him offering a mea culpa: “We got to the point where we didn’t have credibility. . . . We were not moving the ball down the field.” Then says that Mineta has been trying to solve the problem — after all, John Magaw (Mineta’s deputy in charge of the TSA) was pushed out. That’s scapegoating of the first degree.
The thesis about what went wrong focuses on Magaw, and suggests that there’s just too much conflict between offering security and customer service. That’s just a cop-out.
It’s certainly true that the agency spent way too much time designing uniforms and a logo (and making the presentation of that logo a significant part of a presentation to airport managers!). However, the article is a very typical example of Washington gamesmanship — protect the boss (Mineta) by offering up a fall guy (Magaw). That works even better when the fall guy is already gone. Magaw is too loyal to the Bush family to object.
The paper does makes clear that Mineta was the one running the show, offering up a TSA budget presentation to the President where Mineta did all the talking. OMB Director Mitch Daniels tore the presentation apart. Magaw then went to Daniels to chew him out for being “disrespectful” to Mineta. Mineta was the boss and Magaw his henchman. Magaw shouldn’t be the one taking the fall here — Mineta should be.