Too much baggage?

U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration, Erroll Southers, has withdrawn his name from consideration for the job. Reportedly, Southers considered himself too much of a lightning rod for controversy. Arch-conservative Sen. Jim DeMint put him on hold, concerned over Southers' willingness to let TSA employees bargain collectively -- and the senator hasn't backed down. After the TSA sat leaderless the day of the attempted Christmas Day pantsbomber attack, Southers apparently had enough.

I profiled this issue yesterday, in a story called "Help Wanted." Southers was just one of 177 appointments held up by the Senate, many via "holds," a congressional tradition -- not an actual constitutional parliamentary maneuever -- that lets single senators stop or pause the confirmation of nominees by threatening to gum up the works. Holds are an old story, mostly a way to force horse-trading, perpetrated by Democrats on Republicans and Republicans on Democrats. But, I write, they've reached a fever pitch one year into the Obama administration.

What I can't figure out is why Obama didn't make use of a real consitutional parliamentary maneuever to get Southers working: the recess appointment. Article II, Section II says, "The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session." Bush did it. Clinton did it. Presidents have done it since the time of Washington. 

It only gets the nominee a year in the spot, and therefore isn't very useful for judicial nominees. But why on Earth didn't Obama appoint Southers, widely considered a good person for the job, even if just for a year?


Great moments in public relations

How clueless can you be? U.S. military spokesman John Redfield says he doesn't see a problem with American troops using gun sights that have the numbers of Bible verses inscribed on them:

"The perfect parallel that I see," said Maj. John Redfield, spokesperson for CentCom, told ABC News, "is between the statement that's on the back of our dollar bills, which is 'In God We Trust,' and we haven't moved away from that."

Said Redfield, "Unless the equipment that's being used that has these inscriptions proved to be less than effective for soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and military folks using it, I wouldn't see why we would stop using that."

Maybe because it's incredibly bad PR to have Christian religious verses on the business end of guns being used to kill Muslims in countries where the United States is constantly battling false perceptions that it's there as part of a crusade against Islam?

One of the citations on the gun sights, 2COR4:6, is an apparent reference to Second Corinthians 4:6 of the New Testament, which reads: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

Other references include citations from the books of Revelation, Matthew and John dealing with Jesus as "the light of the world." John 8:12, referred to on the gun sights as JN8:12, reads, "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Tom Munson, a spokeman for Trijicon, the company that makes the gun sights, told ABC News that whatever group first raised the issue is "not Christian." In another statement emailed to Detroit News, the company said, "As long as we have men and women in danger, we will continue to do everything we can to provide them with both state-of-the-art technology and the never-ending support and prayers of a grateful nation."

Incidentally, Trijicon's slogan is "brilliant aiming solutions." Seems the company missed the mark on this one.

(By the way, the language of the ABC News report and some of the other media on this is kind of bizarre, as anyone with a passing familiarity with the Bible would know what the scriptural references mean. They aren't "secret" or "coded" messages. Still, a bone-headed move by Trijicon and the U.S. military.)

"We are aware of the issue and are concerned with how this may be perceived," the U.S. Marine Corps is now saying. "We will meet with the vendor to discuss future sight procurements."