Big Government

How Does Anger at Bush's TSA Signal Rejection of Obama's Ideology?

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New York Times political columnist Matt Bai argues that the uproar about TSA scanning and groping reflects a broader discomfort with big government—an attitude that the Obama administration does not understand. As much as I'd like to believe that's true, there is a crucial flaw in Bai's reasoning: Like Sean Wilentz, author of The Age of Reagan: 1974–2008 (which Bai cites), he glosses over the striking continuities between the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, both of whom have substantially expanded the size of government in almost every area. So while Bai is right that Obama's victory and the Democratic takeover of Congress did not signal an endorsement of big-government liberalism (contrary to the wishful thinking of many Democrats), that is partly because the Republican Party voters rejected, as represented by George W. Bush and his congressional accomplices, embodied big-government conservatism, in many ways indistinguishable from the alleged alternative.

In terms of spending on regulation, education, expanded health care entitlements, stimulus schemes, and bailouts of banks and automakers (not to mention two wasteful wars), Bush led the way for Obama. And lest we forget, the Transportation Security Administration, whose mindless requirements and ritual humiliations are the hook for Bai's column, was created on Bush's watch, along with various other liberty-infringing anti-terrorism measures that Obama has continued or expanded. Bai says the "the administration's surprise" at the intensity of anti-TSA sentiment "seems to indicate that it still doesn't quite get what the debate is really about." Bai's reality-defying assumption that Democrats stand for more government while Republicans stand for less seems to indicate that Obama is not the only one who misunderstands the debate.

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  1. …he ignores the striking continuities between the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama…

    I knew it! It has to be the racism.

  2. So while Bai is right that Obama’s victory and the Democratic takeover of Congress did not signal an endorsement of big-government liberalism (contrary to the wishful thinking of many Democrats), that is partly because the Republican Party voters rejected, as represented by George W. Bush and his congressional accomplices, embodied big-government conservatism, in many ways indistinguishable from the alleged alternative.

    Whut?

    1. Sentence got away with him.

      1. I struggled with that one too, until I gathered that “embodied” in that context is a perfect passive particple, rather than past tense verb.

    2. The period is your friend, Jacob.

      1. What I always said back in my randy youth.

    3. Premise: Republicans are differnt than Democrats.
      Theres your problem right therre.

      Nixon – created EPA, numerous other agencies, abolished gold standard, wage and price controls.
      Bush II – biggest entitlement expansion since the “great society” believes (or at least his vice president) that “deficits don’t matter” if we have a big military “use it or lose it” and of course more and more “security” theatre.

      As most people in parties have no principals (other than extract goodies from the other guys and the other guys are bad) why does it surprize people that the polity constantly is faced with the choice of tossing the bums out to only have as an alternative tramps.

      1. “”Nixon – created EPA, numerous other agencies, abolished gold standard, wage and price controls.””

        Don’t forget Title VII.

  3. Maybe voters are figuring out the government is the problem, moreso than the party?

    Republicans are benefitting because they claim to have figured this out.

    1. They claim to have figured it out and then set out to prove it whenever they get into power (apologies to PJ O’Rourke, I think).

  4. Whut?

    BUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSH

    It doesn’t have to be a sentence.

    1. Sure it does. Othewise, I’m think 1970s porno.

      1. Or possibly bad beer commercials.

  5. Posted by me elsewhere on the intertubez –

    In this way, the “Don’t touch my junk” fiasco raises, yet again, what has become the central theme of Mr. Obama’s presidency: America’s faltering confidence in the ability of government to make things work. From stimulus spending and the health care law to the federal response to oil in the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Obama has continually stumbled ? blindly, it seems ? into some version of the same debate, which is about whether we can trust federal bureaucracies to expand their reach without harming citizens or industry.

    Mr. Obama’s presidency? I’ve had little or no “confidence in the ability of government to make things work” for decades. Vietnam, wage and price controls, synfuels, AMTRAK, the Department of Education, Lebanon, flood insurance, DADT (remember, it was supposed to be an improvement), Katrina, Iraq part II, et al*.

    While it is nice to see the rest of the citizenry is beginning to understand we can’t “trust federal bureaucracies to expand their reach without harming citizens or industry”, I’d like grab them by the shoulders and scream in their faces “Where the Hell have you been? The government could fuck up a wet dream!”

    * A comprehensive list would take far too long to assemble.

    1. You left out the Nationally recognized statistical rateing agencies
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N…..ganization

      Of course, its not like they TOTALLY f*cked up the world – maybe only 8 trillion or so dollars.
      Oh, and there are some other failures too…

      1. So… how does an organization become a “Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organization”?

        1. Packets of cash in the right hands, I’m sure.

  6. Well, no, the anger is at Obama’s TSA — you know, the one that sexually molests people.

    Pissed about the shoes and the water bottles and whatnot? That started with Bush’s administration.

    The not-ending-the-shoes-and-water thing is the fault of the Obama administration.

    The sexual molestation is totally the fault of the Obama’s administration. That bastard could fire Napolitano and Pistole, and proposed disbanding the TSA and going back to private security firms.

    That Obama hasn’t taken those steps is a strong indication that his campaign promises to be good on civil liberties was total bullshit.

    1. I agree. Someone is rejecting this type of invasion of privacy, and it ain’t Democrats or Republicans. It is Americans. Making people go through a machine that lets TSA see them naked, or groping crotches is not just the logical “next step” in security measures from metal detectors and water bottles. It is clearly an escalation. One is security theater, and the other is security theater porno.

    2. If Obama fired these clowns now and stopped this bullshit, he might actually have a chance at re-election. The fact that he can’t–or won’t–realize that says a lot about him.

      1. It’s because he doesn’t get it. We’re simply 1 big demographic in a hypothetical conversation to Obama, not free thinking individuals who have an issue who don’t want people fondling our naughty bits. We’re the collective which he is charged to protect at all costs, not people.

    3. That Obama hasn’t taken those steps is a strong indication that his campaign promises to be good on civil liberties was total bullshit.

      Not to mention keeping Guantanamo, rendition, patriot act,’Bush era wiretaps’ asserting the right to kill anyone anywhere without any oversight and guaranteeing convictions….

  7. Nice job making your own reality-denying comments, Jacob. Some of us remember the creation of the TSA. And remember the attempts to eliminate it.

    The reality is that the Democrats stand for more government, while Republicans stand for ineffectual protests against more government because public opinion is almost always solidly in favor of more government, at least when directed at someone else. (If you break down the pro-TSA screening polls, the majority is obtained entirely by strong support among people who don’t fly.)

    Libertarians also stand for ineffectual complaining about big government while refusing to do any of the practical work necessary to stop it. In this, it’s easy to see why so many are natural allies with Republicans.

    1. (If you break down the pro-TSA screening polls, the majority is obtained entirely by strong support among people who don’t fly.)

      I’d love to see the data, do you have a link?

    2. From John’s eleminate it link

      “”The law creating the Homeland Security Department has a sunset provision for the transportation security office. It says the TSA has only to be maintained as a distinct entity until November 2004….””

      So what happened in 2004? If you can’t get rid of it when you hold 2/3s of government, then when?

  8. More from Ask the Pilot — Patrick Smith

    http://www.salon.com/technolog…..index.html

    TSA tells us we need to stay “one step ahead of the terrorists,” but the evidence suggests they’ve been one step ahead of us. And that shouldn’t be shocking. Plainly put, we need to own up to the fact that we cannot protect ourselves from every conceivable threat. Short of turning our airports into fortresses, there will always be a way for a clever, resourceful enough perpetrator to skirt whatever measures we put in place. That’s not defeat, it’s reality. As is the fact that the true nuts and bolts of thwarting a terror attack is not the job of a TSA concourse screener. It’s the job of the FBI, CIA, Interpol, etc. It’s the job of law enforcement and counterintelligence. Old-fashioned detective work is a lot more effective and useful than a TSA screener arguing with somebody over the size of a toothpaste tube.

    1. Agree.
      Of course, if we thought (a radical idea I know) about it, we put up with 20,000 or so murders a year.
      Its always strange to me how some deaths or means of death of deaths make the news, and the boring common deaths are just….business as usual.

      1. Best example of moralistic differentiation of death – the “America shouldn’t have used the Bomb” crowd. I’ve never had one I couldn’t shut up when I mentioned that more people were killed by conventional and incendiary bombs in Tokyo than by nuke.

  9. 9 Super-Heroes That are Perfect For the TSA’s New Screening Policy

    At first it might seem like getting Plastic Man to do your searches is only going to result in the pat-downs getting creepier — and with the added drawback of a constant noise like someone rubbing a balloon — but with all the complaints, maybe the best option is to just not tell people when they’re being searched.

    Sure, there’s the whole massive, unconscionable violation of privacy inherent in that sort of setup, but as a tradeoff, you get the surprise of having a guy who could be anything. The X-ray scanner? Actually Plastic Man. The moving walkway? Actually Plastic Man. The entire Cinnabon franchise on the concourse? Actually Plastic Man.

    1. Superheroes won’t work, simply because if there is a superhero at some airport, some supervillain will show up trying to blow up the whole airport.

    2. Wow, I haven’t been keeping up with superheros, I never heard of most of them.
      Hazmat is kinda hot…and has the added advanatage of the built in excuse of after boinking her, you can leave, otherwise you will die. ‘love to stay the night babe, but you know with the deadly vapors…’

  10. Limited government fuckwits really just want government limited to taking care of their needs. Libertoid morons think shrinking government nearly out of existence is the thing to do even though there is no evidence that this is true. The prosperity we have enjoyed has been produced by a mixed economy with a vibrant public sector. So who doesn’t understand the debate, Sullum, you blinkered indoelogical hack? You pull faith-based opinions out of your fat ass.

      1. I’m all for limiting government fuckwits.

        1. I have to admit… I didn’t really write that post above, because I’m too fucking stupid to put those words in that order.

    1. vibrant public sector

      lol

  11. Obviously Bush’s approval ratings didn’t get so low because only Democrats had a problem with him. Some of his harshest critics on domestic policy were on the right.

  12. I dunno, I keep seeing variations on this argument, designed to paint TSA-hate as purely partisan, and to me it’s like saying the Left couldn’t be against the Vietnam war because it was started by a Democrat. Well, people mostly weren’t against the war until they started facing the possibility of getting drafted, and people didn’t really find the security state intrusive until it was groping their nuts, that’s just human nature. But a slow boil isn’t proof that nothing is boiling at all.

    1. I keep wondering when the democrats started thinking that the 4th amendment isn’t worth having.
      I think we are in a media world that reduces everything to red-blue, and now that the blues are in charge, it is their program and therefore it is good.
      And it is astounding that some ‘left’ commentators defend it by saying that people who oppose it thought it was ok when Bush started it….
      I hate to say it, but I have to quote Mom “If all your friends got their nuts testicles squeezed, would you get your testicles squeezed?”

  13. Someone is rejecting this type of invasion of privacy, and it ain’t Democrats or Republicans. It is Americans.

    I think there are a lot of people who viscerally understand that these “enhanced” searches have no real value in terms of safety.

    That’s why the establishmentarian media have put on a frenzied full court press to pooh-pooh the naysayers.

  14. Personally, I like the idiots like Kevin Drum and The Nation who decide that they have to be in favor of the TSA scannings simply because they hate those dirty Koch-funded libertarians so much and the libertarians are the ones pushing the opposition.

    1. I kinda wish the republicans would go back in favor of the TSA so that the people who control the gubermint could be against the TSA.

      1. that’s a sadly compelling argument.

    2. This. The whole fiasco may be worth it if I can finally convince my “Liberal” family members those in charge and those they read hate liberty.

  15. was created on Bush’s watch, along with various other liberty-infringing anti-terrorism

    And enabled by and cheered on loudly by the likes of Hillary Clinton.

  16. Does anyone else suspect that the TSA’s periodic screening enhancements are design to garner public support of high speed rail?

    1. Plenty of people do, but Drudge linked to this article where the Administration says that trains, boats, and the Metro could be next for scanners.

      1. Bring in on, bitches. The more Americans they piss off, the sooner we get this nonsense over with.

    2. Are you under the impression that men in blue shirts will not be at Barack’s shiny new high speed rail station, anxiously waiting to fondle your twig and berries?

  17. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the Obama administration could be so stupid, from a political standpoint, to introduce the TSA full-body screens and pat-downs. It’s given the Republicans a perfect opportunity to make the period from 2001-09 disappear by now claiming to believe in individual liberty.

    1. Had they waited until after thanksgiving, it doesn’t get wrapped up in the annual “busiest day ever” stories.

  18. Bai’s reality-defying assumption…

    Isn’t that a pre-req for working at the NYT Jacob? Better than a piss-test.

  19. And lest we forget, the Transportation Security Administration, whose mindless requirements and ritual humiliations are the hook for Bai’s column, was created on Bush’s watch, along with various other liberty-infringing anti-terrorism measures that Obama has continued or expanded.

    The Iraq War was started on the “watch” of a Democratic controlled Senate. Does that mean that it’s “reality-defying” to say that the election results in 2006 and 2008 represented Americans turning against the war?

    1. For this to be true you would have to be working under the assumption that The American People(tm) understand that only congress can declare war. Thats a big assumption…

  20. Does anyone else suspect that the TSA’s periodic screening enhancements are design to garner public support of high speed rail?

    Is anybody actually dumb enough to think the TSA isn’t already laying the groundwork for their expansion into ground transportation?

    1. They’ve already publicly stated they are:

      http://thehill.com/homenews/ad…..the-metro-

      1. Anyone with experience with the NYC subway knows they can’t use those scanners for it, it takes too long. Too many people per minute entering the system.

        I do agree that they want to use the new technology (Scanners) every where possible. They may make an apperance at a Superbowl game soon.

        1. They don’t have to use them. So long as they buy them Chertoff is happy.

  21. At least we can rest easy, knowing Nancy Pelosi will keep Obama from being like Bill Clinton.

    Pelosi will lead Democrats “in pulling on the president’s shirttails to make sure that he doesn’t move from center-right to far-right,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., a co-chair of the liberal Progressive Caucus in the House. “We think if he’d done less compromising in the last two years, there’s a good chance we’d have had a jobs bill that would have created real jobs, and then we wouldn’t even be worrying about having lost elections.”

    Behind Democrats’ decision to keep Pelosi as their leader after historic losses lies intense concern among liberals who dominate the party’s ranks on Capitol Hill: They fear Obama will go too far in accommodating the GOP in the new era of divided government. Pelosi is seen as a counterweight to that political phenomenom.

    Thanks, WaPo.

    I’ll sleep better tonight.

    1. “In order to maximize our chances of hitting the traitors, we’re going to stand in a circle when we convene the firing squad.”

    2. I really don’t get where this theme that Obama compromised too much comes from. It’s just spin right ? A mental defense mechanism.

      1. Because he hasn’t rounded up and shot the kulaks out of principle.

        1. With a preemptive “blow-me” to the hyperventilating Moynihan.

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