Friday, August 06, 2004

John Lehman Nails It, As Usual

Rod Dreher, posting on The Corner, shares his notes from an editorial board session with John Lehman. Here's my favorite:
8. "The Secretary of Transportation is obsessive about [racial profiling]. He will not relent on it...."

He raked Norm Mineta over the coals for his "absurd" fear of racial discrimination, which prevents common sense screening at airports. Lehman said we have limited resources, so we should apply them intelligently.

"We're spending nine-tenths of the money we have on people who have 99/100ths of one percent of the likelihood of being terrorists, because we want to be politically correct. It's crazy," Lehman said.

One of my colleagues suggested that perhaps as a Japanese-American who was interned as a child during WW2, he has a special perspective on how badly things can go when profiling goes too far. Lehman wasn't having any of this.

"Look, that's his problem, not my problem," he said. "I've got problems too, and I don't take them out on [public policy]."
Lehman leapt into prominence as Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. Unlike most Navy secretaries, who were content to be figureheads, Lehman actively pushed his agenda: rebuilding the Navy, which had shrunk considerably in the aftermath of the debacle in Vietnam.

One of the obstacles Lehman had to overcome was a nay-saying "think piece" -- a pseudo-scientific piece of claptrap -- that emanated from the think-tank where I worked at the time. Lehman soon took care of that. The think-tank had been operated for 15 years by a university under a contract that the Navy had habitually renewed. But no longer. The contract was let for competition and, lo and behold, the university didn't win the competition. Under new management the think-tank began to produce a lot less claptrap and a lot more hard analysis of real data. That is, it rediscovered its original mission, with some help from Mr. Lehman.