November 20, 2004


Mineta left dangling as Bush considers choices for Cabinet (Zachary Coile, November 20, 2004, SF Chronicle)

With President Bush in the middle of a shakeup of his Cabinet, speculation has centered on whether Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta -- the former San Jose mayor and congressman, and the lone Democrat in the Cabinet -- will be forced out before a second Bush term.

Mineta, who recently turned 73, has suffered some health problems in recent years. But friends and supporters say he has recovered fully and is ready to continue running an agency with 58,000 employees and a $57.4 billion annual budget.

The resignations by six of Bush's 15 Cabinet members over the past two weeks have raised concerns among Mineta's backers that the secretary might be quietly pressured by the White House to step down.

"Obviously, we hope he stays on," said Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a longtime friend of Mineta's who represents San Jose. "It's the president's choice, but I think (Mineta) certainly has done a very capable job. I would like to think that his competence would be rewarded."

No one has questioned Mineta's vast experience as a leader on transportation issues. As a congressman, he chaired the House Public Works and Transportation Committee and wrote ground-breaking legislation that transformed how highway construction and other transportation projects are funded.

As transportation secretary, Mineta is credited with leading the agency's efforts after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to overhaul security at the nation's airports, including hiring 60,000 new federal security screeners and thousands of new air marshals.

"Transportation is his life's work, from the days he spent as a council member and mayor in San Jose to the work he's done here and his time spent in Congress," said Robert Johnson, Mineta's spokesman.

Not only has he done a good job but at a time when the President was too radioactive for other Democrats to join his government Mr. Mineta agreed to stay on from the Clinton Administration. Mr. Bush needs to honor that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 20, 2004 10:35 PM

He's done a good job?

How come NRO is always moaning about him?

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at November 21, 2004 4:01 AM

What does this Department do with $58 billion? That's about $200 for every man, woman and child in America.

Posted by: Bart at November 21, 2004 6:23 AM


They're libertarian nut-jobs, who think having your shoes scanned at the airport is a step towards the Camps.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2004 9:35 AM

The efficacy of TSA is dubious, but if Mineta wants to do something, then fix the FAA. It has been unable to update the ATC system for 20+ years. Even the nuclear waste repository has moved faster than that.

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 21, 2004 12:12 PM


No one wants to spend the money.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2004 12:23 PM

oj - They're upset that Mineta is not allowing tougher screening of Middle Eastern males than American grannies; and imposing fines on airlines if they investigate Saudi males more closely than Des Moines seniors. That's a reasonable complaint.

Posted by: pj at November 21, 2004 12:23 PM


About the President.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2004 12:32 PM


Just in today's paper, there was a lengthy wire piece about the looming decline of the ATC ranks. Right now, LA, PHL, CHI, ORD, and a number of other locations are at about 80-85% of their complement of controllers. The retirement age is 56, and by 2007, a large percentage of those hired after PATCO will be eligible to retire.

In the 2005 budget, there is no money for new hires.

I understand the $$$ situation (and the fact that fliers and airlines have little lobbying power), but why has this situation gone on for 20+ years? You would think that at least ONE Secy. of Transportation would have been able to stir the pot? Wasn't Andy Card Secy./Trans. under Reagan?

Perhaps Boeing and Airbus need to lobby for better radar and more controllers along with military contracts.

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 21, 2004 4:34 PM


Because planes aren't crashing. Responsibility should be shifted to the airlines where fear of lawsuits would drive modernization.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2004 4:42 PM

The airlines were responsible for airport security prior to the creation of TSA. The concomitant liability didn't impress them then - why should it now?

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 21, 2004 5:26 PM

I meant ATC, but there hadn't been a hijacking in twenty years.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2004 5:36 PM

TSA is a stupid and expensive joke.

pj got it about right.

Orrin never leaves his time zone, so he hasn't been observing what goes on in airports.

Mineta was psychologically ruined by FDR as a youth. That's too bad, but it isn't qualification to be in the Cabinet.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 22, 2004 9:17 PM

No hijackings or bombs--he's doing something right.

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2004 11:21 PM