Lauer Presses DeMint To 'Come Around' On Obama's TSA Nominee

NBC's Matt Lauer, on Monday's Today show, used the occasion of the bombing attempt of Northwest Flight 253, to press Republican Senator Jim DeMint to stop being the last "hold-out" and "come around," on approving Obama's pick for TSA director Errol Southers. However Lauer failed to mention Obama took eight months to make his choice as well as the fact that DeMint is concerned that Southers' choice could lead to collective bargaining that would "bring the security concerns of TSA under the authority of union bosses."

The following exchange came during the 7am half-hour of the January 4 Today show:

MATT LAUER: You say we're all on the same page. You are the single hold-out, Senator, in, in approving the President's choice for the director of the TSA, Errol Southers and I'm, I'm just curious, in, in light of Flight 253 are you still gonna hold out on that nomination or are you maybe gonna come around?

SEN. JIM DEMINT: Well unfortunately the President took eight months to even nominate someone for that position. And what I've asked for, Matt, is just some debate and a recorded vote. They, they want to pass Mr. Southers in, in secret, without a recorded vote. I think there's some significant issues. I've asked him if he is going to change the policy of collective bargaining within the TSA and he will not give me a straight answer. Secretary Napolitano has said she intends to submit our airport security to collective bargaining. This is all about politics, and not security. What I want is a few hours of debate on Mr. Southers, to help focus the nation back on security. And get this politics, particularly union politics out of our security apparatus.

The following is the full transcript of Lauer's interview with DeMint:   

MATT LAUER: Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina joins us now. Senator DeMint good morning to you. Happy New Year.

SEN. JIM DEMINT: Happy new year to you, Matt. Good morning.

LAUER: Thank you. Over the weekend John Brennan who's one of President Obama's chief counter-terrorism officials said when it comes to Flight 253, Northwest Flight 253 and the attempt to blow it up, there is no smoking gun, no single piece of evidence that should have alerted officials that this person was attempting this. Do you agree with that assessment?

[On screen headline: "'No Smoking Gun,' Why Did U.S. Miss Terror Warning Signs?"]

DEMINT: Well Matt the events of the last 10 days remind us of how important security is at our airports. And we need to remember that it's important that our airport security guards be flexible and able to change immediately as they are now. And that's why it's so important that we continue our vigilance. Now Mr. Brennan said there's no smoking gun, but there was a whole lot of smoke, Matt. That for a father to come in and say his son is involved in terrorist activities, for a passenger to buy a ticket with cash and no checked luggage and international flights. I think the President has agreed that there were a lot of signals here that we should have picked up on. Maybe not one smoking gun, but a whole lot of smoke.

LAUER: Does someone lose his or her job over this, Senator? Is there someone who was so lax in responsibility that, that person is out?

DEMINT: I think it's a mistake to look for one person right now, Matt. The system failed as the President said. The whole reason for the Homeland Security Agency is to make sure that the different agencies speak to each other. That apparently is not happening. The, the 9/11 bill that we passed in Congress that was supposed to help fix this, missed that most important point. To force these agencies to talk to each other. So we need to go back to basics here. Get the politics out of this. And focus on the security of our country.

LAUER: You, you hear a lot of people now criticizing the President, saying he's taken his eye off the ball with his focus on health care and with the economy, two things that were obviously important to him. Is, is there some reality to that, do you think? Or is that political grandstanding? People trying to score points with an attempted terror attack?

DEMINT: Again, I don't think we should try to blame whether it's the President or any other person right now, but a lot of us have been concerned over the last year, that the President did seem to downplay the threat of terror. He doesn't use the word any more. He hesitates to say that there's a war on terror. But in the last few days, he seems to have, have, have come around to the idea that there are people in Yemen and other places who are intent on hurting Americans and I think that puts us all on the same page. And hopefully we can take the politics out of this. Focus on security. And the President seems to be in the right place now.

LAUER: You say we're all on the same page. You are the single hold-out, Senator, in, in approving the President's choice for the director of the TSA, Errol Southers and I'm, I'm just curious, in, in light of Flight 253 are you still gonna hold out on that nomination or are you maybe gonna come around?

DEMINT: Well unfortunately the President took eight months to even nominate someone for that position. And what I've asked for, Matt, is just some debate and a recorded vote. They, they want to pass Mr. Southers in, in secret, without a recorded vote. I think there's some significant issues. I've asked him if he is going to change the policy of collective bargaining within the TSA and he will not give me a straight answer. Secretary Napolitano has said she intends to submit our airport security to collective bargaining. This is all about politics, and not security. What I want is a few hours of debate on Mr. Southers, to help focus the nation back on security. And get this politics, particularly union politics out of our security apparatus.

LAUER: Senator Jim DeMint. Senator, thanks for your time this morning, I appreciate it.

DEMINT: Thank you.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.