Ed Driscoll


THE FORREST GUMP OF THE FAA? Writing in Slate, Joshua Green says that Bob Woodward made the secretary of transportation a false hero in Woodward and Dan Balz’s six-part Washington Post epic, “10 Days in September”:

Mineta’s courageous performance has been widely praised, not least by Mineta himself in a Sept. 20 appearance before Congress, and again on 60 Minutes II a month later. Here’s his congressional testimony:

I immediately called the FAA, told them to bring all the airplanes down right now. All that we have learned since that fateful morning leaves me convinced that this unusual command or order was the right thing to do.

For Mineta, the genuflection this tale has engendered has been a welcome distraction from less mythic performances, such as his department’s problems getting the new airport security agency off the ground. Long considered a competent if unremarkable backbencher, Mineta has refashioned himself as a quick-thinking decision-maker with flawless instincts in an emergency.

He may be that, but he isn’t the hero Woodward and Balz make him out to be. According to insiders, that honor belongs to Monte Belger, at the time the No. 2 official at the FAA. A precise, diligent career bureaucrat known among colleagues as “the Forrest Gump of the FAA,” Belger was on a phone bridge with controllers at the David J. Hurley Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Herndon, Va., and ordered flights grounded 15 minutes before Mineta was even notified of the attacks. So, when the secretary issued his blunt order