November 24, 2010

Airport Security, Another Right, Left Flip-Flop

(Updated below)

On his show last night, Bill O’Reilly pointed out [video] that the TSA’s new pat-down procedures are “whipping up a frenzy of indignation, especially in the conservative community.” He continued: “Now you would think the opposite, that right-wingers would want stringent security and that left-wingers would be opposed. But it is the opposite, with many left-wing pundits defending the airport chaos.”

And then, in a rare moment of sanity, O’Reilly said something that actually accorded with reality. “Why is the left on board with the intrusive security?” he asked. “Talking Points does not like to speculate, but I do think that it has to do with defending President Obama. I just can’t think of anything else. Remember, the left opposed nearly all of the Bush anti-terror programs. Everything. And now [they’re] okay with body-scanning and pat-downs?”

Not surprisingly, O’Reilly didn’t ask what seems like an equally relevant question: Why is the right suddenly against “intrusive security”? Now Peace Etc. does not like to speculate, but I do think that it has to do with attacking President Obama. For conservatives tended to think very little of civil liberties when Bush ruled the roost. For example:

Most conservative lawmakers supported the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the powers of federal law enforcement officials. They praised President Bush for creating the Department of Homeland Security. Many of them advocated and still support racial profiling at airports—claiming that "we" must sacrifice our liberty in order to maintain security from terrorists.

Outside of terrorism and airport security, conservatives have also endorsed wide powers for law enforcement officials. They hate the Miranda ruling, which requires police officers to inform detainees of their constitutionally protected right to remain silent. Conservatives often criticize judicial rulings that enforce the Bill of Rights in criminal cases as allowing defendants to “walk” based on “technicalities.” Conservatives love to bash the ACLU, even though the organization is an ardent advocate of constitutional liberty. And, in a recent moment of conservative extremism, Justice Clarence Thomas provided the lone dissent in a case which held that school officials violated the Constitution when they subjected a young girl to a strip search in order to find nonexistent tablets of Advil. (h/t Glenn Greenwald)

Indeed this recent TSA controversy reveals just how hypocritical most of this nation’s pundits and politicians are. With some notable exceptions, few actually care about doing what’s best for the American people. The name of the game is winning elections, Republicans condemning Obama for the doing the very things that they defended while Bush was in office, and Democrats defending Obama for doing the very things they condemned under Bush.

We at Peace Etc., of course, abhor such hypocrisy, and for this reason we’ve continued doing all we can to support liberty. Speaking of which, we encourage you to participate in National Opt Out Day. And when you come before your TSA groper, you might want to follow the lead of Sam Wolanyk, who decided to avoid a pat-down by simply dropping his drawers. If this is too extreme for you, Roger Young suggests:

[H]ow about arriving to the search line wearing no underwear? This should bring some interesting feedback and facial expressions from your assigned molester. You can add to their discomfort by emitting soft, agreeable cooing sounds during the course of the molestation. That might just be enough to cause the depraved, tax eating hack to immediately resign his phony job in understandable disgust. Quite possibly, his threshold of shame and repugnance will have been exceeded.

Young continues:

There are always ways to sidestep tyranny and humiliate your oppressors. All it takes is a bit of courage, a dose of creativity, and just a pinch of psychological knowledge. In the end, you may help free yourself and others from state sponsored cruelty and injustice. You may even help state terrorists realize the error of their ways. And you may even have some fun along the way. I realize the probable serious consequences that may result from such fun, but what the heck. Why not have a good laugh before they slam the gate at your gulag.
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 Update, 11/28:

 Ross Douthat makes the same point in his column today:
This role reversal is a case study in the awesome power of the partisan mindset. Up to a point, American politics reflects abiding philosophical divisions. But people who follow politics closely—whether voters, activists or pundits—are often partisans first and ideologues second...

A majority of Democrats spent the late 1980s convinced that inflation had risen under Ronald Reagan, when it had really dropped precipitously. In 1996, a majority of Republicans claimed that the deficit had increased under Bill Clinton, when it had steadily shrunk instead. Late in the Bush presidency, Republicans were twice as likely as similarly situated Democrats to tell pollsters that the economy was performing well. In every case, the external facts mattered less than how the person being polled felt about the party in power.

This tendency is vividly illustrated by our national security debates. In the 1990s, many Democrats embraced Bill Clinton’s wars of choice in the Balkans and accepted his encroachments on civil liberties following the Oklahoma City bombing, while many Republicans tilted noninterventionist and libertarian. If Al Gore had been president on 9/11, this pattern might have persisted, with conservatives resisting the Patriot Act the way they’ve rallied against the T.S.A.’s Rapiscan technology, and Vice President Joe Lieberman prodding his fellow Democrats in a more Cheney-esque direction on detainee policy.

But because a Republican was president instead, conservative partisans suppressed their libertarian impulses and accepted the logic of an open-ended war on terror, while Democratic partisans took turns accusing the Bush administration of shredding the Constitution.

Now that a Democrat is in the White House, the pendulum is swinging back. In 2006, Gallup asked the public whether the government posed an “immediate threat” to Americans. Only 21 percent of Republicans agreed, versus 57 percent of Democrats. In 2010, they asked again. This time, 21 percent of Democrats said yes, compared with 66 percent of Republicans.


Roger Young said...

Don- the hypocrisy you expose should not be surprising among those who view the state and its apologists with disdain. To statists, what’s right, wrong or truthful is irrelevant. It’s all about Power and who holds it. Power with a capital P.

Don Emmerich said...

True dat.