"Certificates should be like passports"
Exactly the consensus at the time. Governments oversee their registries/NICs which should register & authenticate KEYS in the same process as NAMES. Simples.
Worried the malignant quasi-fascist government regime you live under might be MITMing email and hoarding it all in a hollowed-out mountain somewhere? ..or spoofing your contacts to manufacture an excuse to treat you to a touch of extraordinary rendition? No problem, just use a service from a more civilised country like jmail.co.jp or kitznet.at or spray.no or bluemail.ch or Yandex.ru or...
Whole thing would have self-regulated. Every potential point of failure would have a single, static, accountable authority which the end user could simply and unambiguously select.
NSA "NIST" would hear none of it. Kept muttering some brainless drivel about "market forces" and "capitalism" as it busied itself sabotaging our security.
Still, on the bright side, it was
NSA "NIST"s insistence on valuing racketeering over security that gave Mark Shuttleworth the gazeeeeeeeeeeeeelions he's using to help pull the rug out from under the keeper of the NSA_KEY. Karma?