Secretary Norman Mineta may not necessarily be the least impressive
Bush cabinet secretary there's competition there but
he is certainly the most dangerous.
Bush the other day said that he would be "madder than heck"
if his Secret Service agent had been ethnically profiled, he wasn't
just playing to the media or seeking to assuage the agent's feelings,
he was enunciating administration policy: no profiling on the basis
of ethnicity or national origin whatsoever.
As I write
in the latest National Review, this is an instance of a piety
of our racial politics no "racial profiling"
triumphing over experience and commonsense. Islamic terrorists will
necessarily be Muslims, and probably from the Arab world.
Not to try
to single out young males with these characteristics for extra attention
more extensive searches and questioning is folly.
It ignores, among other things, the successful Israeli experience
securing El Al from attacks.
something along the lines of the Israeli system would require a
tough-mindedness, and instead of tough-mindedness, we have Norm
Mineta. On the issue of profiling, Mineta's ignorance appears to
be nearly invincible.
family was interned during World War II. He implies at every opportunity
that by standing in the way of ethnic profiling, he is preventing
a similar enormity today. "A very basic foundation to all of
our work," he says, "is to make sure that racial profiling
is not part of it."
Asked on 60
Minutes if a 70-year-old white woman from Vero Beach should
receive the same level of scrutiny as a Muslim from Jersey City,
Mineta said, "Basically, I would hope so." Asked if he
could imagine any set of circumstances that would justify ethnic
and racial profiling, Mineta said "absolutely not."
To be fair,
other Bush cabinet secretaries at least pretend to be equally obtuse
on the question. According to Spence Abraham, eschewing profiling
is what the country is all about: "Ethnic stereotyping has
no place in a nation that cherishes its freedom," he says.
(Abraham apparently also thinks that there is no such thing as an
unhypenated American: "Each of us is an Arab-American or a
Japanese-American, Irish-American," etc., etc.)
But it is Mineta
who takes the anti-profiling position all the way to its most absurd
conclusion. "Surrendering to actions of hate and discrimination,"
he maintains, "makes us no different than the despicable terrorists
who rained such hatred on our people."
thinks "discrimination" includes ethnic profiling, this
must be one of the laziest statements of post-Sept. 11 moral equivalence
this side of Susan Sontag.
are only too happy to play along with this. A Sept. 21 memo to Delta
employees from CEO Fred Reid has the subject line "tolerance,"
and disavows ethnic profiling in the strongest possible terms: "We
cannot afford to follow this tragic behavior. It is exactly what
our enemies are striving for: the end of our open, diverse, and
tolerant way of life."
In other words,
if we take steps to frustrate the terrorists the terrorists
All this is
so much nonsense. I'm glad that American Airlines stood up for its
pilot who booted the Secret Service agent the other day, but there
is also something enjoyable in seeing the airlines' hoisted on their
it would never ethnically profile the very idea is unimaginable.
But are we really supposed to believe that in his long confrontation
with the Secret Service agent the American pilot never noticed that
the agent looked like the Sept. 11 hijackers? If not, he would have
been a fool.
that such conflicts are taking place in the first place is the lack
of real ethnic and national-origin profiling before anyone gets
near a plane. It contributes to the nervousness of pilots, passengers,
and security personnel who don't trust the current system and therefore
attempt to do amateur profiling on their own.
American Airlines should have the courage of its convictions and
let it be known that, to help keep its pilots from making such difficult
on-the-spot security decisions, it is going to add ethnicity and
national origin to the already existing computerized profiling system.
If Norm Mineta
doesn't like it, well, he can fly Delta.