Today's Oregonian reports that the Transportation Security Administration is firing 150 of Portland International Airport's 490 baggage and passenger screeners - that's almost one-third, making Portland, already understaffed, one of the hardest hit airports in the country. This, when Portland is experiencing a rapid surge in the number of passengers.
New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport will lose 162 screeners under the new plan -- 9 percent of its screening staff. Among large airports, only Pittsburgh takes a comparable hit to Portland on a percentage basis, losing 122 of its 340 screeners, or 36 percent.
By contrast, Las Vegas' McCarran International is adding almost 250 screeners, or nearly one-third. Houston is adding 151 screeners, or 17 percent, and West Palm Beach, Fla., is going up by 101 screeners, or 50 percent.
The TSA claims that this is all just part of a regular reallignment of its relatively fixed number of personnel. Yet one cannot help but notice that Oregon, Pennsylvania, and New York voted for Kerry in 2004, and that Nevada, Texas, and Florida went for Bush. Moreover, Portland recently withdrew from the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, much to the dismay of the Bush administration. While the TSA is not saying so, the political implications of today's decision resound in the dirtiest of politics.
In addition to longer delays, more lost bags, and job cuts, the TSA's reshuffling will leave Portland, New York City, and Pittsburgh much more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. When "routine adjustments" leave Red states well defended and Blue states vulnerable, it's time to tell the GOP to stop playing politics with human lives.