Napolitano Statement on Air Travel Delays Directly Contradicted by Airport Officials

According to the first paragraph of Alicia's Caldwell's report today at the Associated Press, aka the Adminstration's Press, Homeland Security Secretary Janey Napolitano told attendees at a Politico breakfast this morning (Politico's coverage is here) that, in Caldwell's words, "U.S. airports, including Los Angeles International and O'Hare International in Chicago, are already experiencing delays as a result of automatic federal spending cuts." Additionally, again in Caldwell's words, "she expects a cascading effect during the week, with wait times expected to double in worst cases."

Well, either someone forgot to tell airport spokesperson and the travel industry to fall in line, or said officials are refusing, according to follow-up stories at the Politico and the UK Telegraph. Notably, the AP had no such follow-up story at its national site as of 10 p.m. ET tonight, but did have a story by Pauline Jelinek ("HOW BUDGET CUTS COULD AFFECT YOU") published at the about the same time as the two follow-ups just noted dutifully echoing Napolitano's talking points. Excerpts from both follow-up stories are after the jump.


First, at the UK Telegraph, via Raf Sanchez (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Airports contradict Janet Napolitano's sequester claim

Airports have denied a claim by Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, that the sequester is already causing long delays for travelers at security screening checkpoints.

... When pressed for specifics she cited Chicago's O'Hare, Atlanta's Hartfield-Jackson and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), adding: "I don't mean to scare, I mean to inform."

However, when contacted by The Daily Telegraph, spokespeople for both O'Hare and LAX, as well as representatives from the travel industry, denied that airports had been hit by delays.

"We haven't had any slowdowns at all," said Marshall Lowe, a spokesman for LAX. Mr Lowe said that he had been on duty over the weekend and received no reports of unusual security delays.

DeAllous Smith, a spokesman for Hartfield-Jackson, said: "There have been no abnormally long lines at the security checkpoint nor unusual aircraft delays at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as a result of sequestration."

Their comments were echoed by Karen Pride, the director of media relations at Chicago Department of Aviation, who described operations at O'Hare as "normal" with "no unusual delays or cancellations".

... The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not immediately return a request for comment on Ms Napolitano's claim.

... A statement released Friday by the TSA said travelers "will likely not see immediate impacts at airport security checkpoints" but that delays would increase over time.

Now, from the Politico, via Burgess Everett, who felt he had to create an excuse for Napolitano and to remind us that really, really bad things will eventually transpire:

Sequester hasn’t strangled air travel yet

Despite a dire description from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, delayed flights and air traveler headaches aren’t here quite yet, but travelers could be in for a rude April Fools’ Day present.

Napolitano told a POLITICO Playbook breakfast Monday morning that lines at some airports are already “150 to 200 percent as long as we would normally expect,” although TSA said travelers were not yet feeling the impact.

... But first-person accounts of long security lines have yet to flood the Internet — and statements from TSA and Customs and Border Patrol suggested Napolitano may have been referring to customs checks for international travelers.

... During her warnings at the POLITICO Playbook Breakfast, Napolitano may have been referring to increasingly clogged international lines. Customs and Border Protection said that overtime has already been reduced at international ports of entry nationwide, which means big airports that receive lots of foreign flights are already feeling the effects of the sequester.

... Republican transportation leaders Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) ... contend the sequester cuts can be made without creating aviation gridlock.

Unfortunately, Conn Carroll has the most likely explanation of what's going on here, as expressed at the Washington Examiner early this morning:

Obama’s campaign of pain

President Obama is just 42 days into his second term in the White House but he is already done governing. As The Washington Post reported this weekend, Obama is already “executing plans to win back the House in 2014, which he and his advisers believe will be crucial to the outcome of his second term and to his legacy as president.”

... In other words, Obama is done trying to work with Republicans in 2013 and 2014. He is abandoning any real effort for bipartisan immigration, gun, or energy reform.

... And Obama’s first step in that campaign will be to maximize the amount of pain the sequester inflicts on the American people. ABC News reports: “Now that the sequester has gone into effect — bringing on the spending cuts Obama once guaranteed would never happen — the president is in the awkward place of rooting for it be felt as he and his administration has predicted.”

It would seem that ABC is wrong in characterizing Obama's position as "awkward." Since Obama and the Democrat-dominated Senate have turned away legislation which would have specifically enabled Cabinet secretaries to minimize the negative impact of sequestration. Obaam and his administration seem to believe that they are in an advantageous position to administer voter-intimidating pain.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.