In the Great Junk-Touching Fight of 2010, There Are No Winners
“Drudge Wins,” charges Politico’s Ben Smith. He posits: “The weekend collapse of the Administration’s airline screening policy is hard to understand as a matter of messaging, with Clinton undermining the TSA’s screening regime and the relevant official sending a hazy mixed message on the subject, even as the screening policy remains in place. There’s no doubt about who won on this issue: Matt Drudge chose it and drove it, illustrating both his continued power and his great sense of the public mood, and it now seems a matter of time until he gets results.But the moment is also, a smart Democrat notes, representative of how this administration (and to be fair, everyone in public life) continues to wrestle with ‘populism as narrated by the Drudge Report.’”
Not to take anything away from Drudge and how he’s covered this continuing controversy, but Smith seems to make it sound like Matt has a giant “GENERATE OUTRAGE” button in his mysterious lair. Every once in a while, Drudge makes much ado about nothing — I recall the hyping of a British paper’s “Does John McCain have cancer?” speculation only to learn that McCain bumped his head getting out of a helicopter. But in those cases, the hype hurricanes dissipate quickly. No media entity can make the public care about something that they’re thoroughly and genuinely disinterested in; if you really don’t care about “Dancing with the Stars,” no amount of dramatic metaphors can persuade you this is a key indicator of Sarah Palin’s chances in 2012.
No, Drudge just recognized that air travel already stinks, Americans already hate that they’re all treated as potential terrorists, that too many TSA employees already behave in an unprofessional manner, and that in this shameless, too-often too-crude culture, giving $24K to $34K per year employees the power to touch strangers’ body parts is an invitation for chaos. At its heart, this entire policy is a reflection that our entire concept of this bureaucracy is to prevent TSA screeners from making judgment calls. Everything must have a national policy. Everything must have a checklist. Every decision must be able to survive the scrutiny of a gamut of lawyers.
The indicators of public outrage, disbelief, and incredulousness continue. On Monday night, Letterman’s Top Ten List was about this topic, suggesting aspiring TSA employees ask themselves if they really want their new job to include feeling the inside thighs of a fat guy.
Intriguingly, a pro-Obama site, Venice for Change, concludes that “Hillary Clinton gets it; President Obama not so much.”
Allahpundit, writing at Hot Air, points out that public attitudes about this will probably be set in concrete by early next week: “In any case, and needless to say, the acid test on all this is what happens tomorrow through Sunday, when a whole lot of Americans will get a taste of the new procedures firsthand. I think William Saletan’s right that “Opt Out Day” is apt to generate more of a backlash towards TSA skeptics than towards TSA itself as harried passengers stuck in line scream at them to just go through the scanner already. And if TSA can convince the public that the scanners are safe — which they are, provided that they’re only emitting the amount of radiation they’re supposed to emit — then this week might actually lead many fliers to develop a comfort level with the new procedures.”