ASIAN AMERICAN ISSUES
Norman Mineta: Living Up to AA Expectations?
is appointment as Transportation Secretary won a 100-0 senate nod following a "lovefest" confirmation hearing. Politicians on both sides of the aisle, as well as the media, fell all over one another to applaud the selection. It was a rare instance in American political life when the applause was entirely sincere -- Norman Mineta was easily the most qualified candidate for the post. Not only had he served on the House Transportation committee for virtually all of his 20 years in Congress, he had chaired it with great skill during his final two terms before leaving to join defense contractor Lockheed-Martin as a top executive.
While some Asian Americans were ambivalent about Elaine Chao's appointment, most were enthusiastic about Norman Mineta's. He had shown himself to be a doughty champion of AA causes. As a congressman he had co-founded the Congressional Asian American Caucus and spearheaded passage of the Japanese-American reparations bill.
Then came September 11.
The Bush Administration's rush to shore up American confidence in domestic security -- especially airline security -- meant that Norman Mineta would be thrust into the limelight. It was a rare opportunity for an AA male to be shown playing a central role in the running of American society. But some Asian Americans were disappointed to see Mineta being overshadowed in media coverage by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft and even National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
One reason for Mineta's faltering media image may be George Bush's initial decision to oppose federalization of airport security personnel. Mineta, a democrat, was tasked with selling Congress on the more laissez-faire Republican version of the Airport Security bill which didn't sit well with an American public desperate for the strongest possible response to the terrorist threat. Mineta's media image suffered more erosion in December when he issued a statement assuring existing airport security employees that they would be retained regardless of their educational levels. Equally unpopular is his refusal to sanction greater security scrutiny for Arab passengers.
By January the dream AA cabinet officer seemed on the verge of becoming another Judge Lance Ito -- an Asian male public figure derided, fairly or not, for failing to show a requisite degree of firmness and strength in a dicey situation.
Mineta's personal history shows him to be a daring, dedicated and skilled political player who has always managed to end up on top.
Norman Y. Mineta was born November 12, 1931 in San Jose, California to immigrant parents. Following U.S. entry into the World War II, the entire Mineta family was interned for two years, along with 120,000 other Americans of Japanese ancestry. Norman attended UC Berkeley and graduated with a B.S. in business, then served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1956 as an intelligence officer. Back in civilian life he worked ably for his father's insurance agency before becoming the first minority to win a seat on the SJ City Council in 1967. In 1971 he broke another barrier by becoming the first Asian American mayor of a major city. In 1975 Mineta was elected to Congress from a district that was over 80% white. Mineta led the long push for passage of H.R. 442, the J-A Reparations bill signed into law in 1988. Mineta served on the Public Works and Transportation Committee for 20 years, chairing it with a strong hand from 1992 until democrats lost congress in 1994. He decided against seeking another term, and in 1975 joined Lockheed -Martin as a senior vice-president. In 2000 Mineta was tapped to serve as Commerce Secretary during the final six months of the Clinton Administration. He is married to a blonde former United Airlines flight attendant named Danealia. He has four sons, including two stepsons.
Is Norman Mineta blowing his opportunity in the national spotlight or positioning himself for a more sustained climb?
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WHAT YOU SAY
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Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 04:58:54 PM)
I don't know anything 'bout Mineta's political leanings. But, it was gratifying to see him keeping his cool and doing a good job under heat. Good role model.
Wednesday, October 23, 2002 at 20:42:10 (PDT)
Norm Mineta has positioned himself well. In spite of the fact that his family was part of the "sell-out" to liberal interests, I can look past those digressions to his service during the worst crisis in our generation.
Mineta's previous experience in air transportation served our nation well during the September 11 aftermath.
Mineta deserves accolades, not spears. I've wondered if the liberal media may attempt to stone Mineta's record. Is this how the liberals treat men who change from liberal to conservative Republican alliances?
Let's face it.
Something special is in the air!
Yonsei Rebel Alliance
Tuesday, June 11, 2002 at 23:14:41 (PDT)
I knew Norm several years ago and I for one think he is a principled and effective leader. Yes it is true that he does not rush up to the cameras or release statements every alternate hour of the day. I think this is entirely appropriate given the fact there are quite a few already in the media spotlight briefing the press from the Pentagon, from the White House and from the Capitol. I do not know how any of them get any useful work done given the number of press briefing we are given to expect.
I do hope that the Bush administration is fully utilizing Mineta's strategic thinking in policy formulation.
Monday, April 15, 2002 at 08:31:11 (PDT)
As a Japanese-American, I find Norman Mineta a refreshingly candid and honest public servant. He is someone I would truly trust, to put forth and represent my best interests. In Chicago, I see nothing but politicians interested in getting their 'pork barrel' politics passed. Norm possesses a great deal of intelligence as well as impeccable integrity. There is no bullshit in Norm, which is what distinguishes him from many of the high level office holders. Am I bullish on him simply because he is of my race? No. I felt that S.I. Hayakawa was the biggest bullshitter this side of his buddy Ronald Regan.
Tuesday, March 19, 2002 at 15:09:23 (PST)
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