Bench Memos

Oh How the Left Misses Nixon, Exhibit Two

Wouldn’t it be just perfect to discover that the Bush White House keeps an “enemies list” and that one’s name is on it?  (I can see Daniel Schorr jumping for joy, since he never misses a chance to mention his naming on Nixon’s list.)

Something like this frisson of pleasure seems to have captivated Walter F. Murphy, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence emeritus at Princeton.  On the lefty blawg Balkinization, and in some e-mail traffic I’ve received, Murphy has told the tale of the horror that greeted him at the Albuquerque airport on the first of March, as he made ready to fly east to give a talk at Princeton on his latest book.  You can read his entire account here and some further speculations about it here, then come back to my comments . . . .

Okay, ready?  Taking every factual assertion of Professor Murphy at face value (since he is nothing if not an honest man), here is what we know for sure:

1. Professor Murphy was denied a boarding pass by someone at curbside check-in.

2. He went into the airport and had a conversation with an airline clerk.

3. The airline clerk went to talk to TSA staff and came back saying he could get Professor Murphy’s boarding pass.

4. Professor Murphy thereupon flew without incident to Newark.

5. On his way back to Albuquerque a few days later, his luggage was lost (subsequent whereabouts unexplained by Murphy).

That’s it.  The rest is all stuff that Professor Murphy was told–and not by TSA.  Someone at curbside said he was on “the Terrorist Watch list.”  Would that person know that?  An airline clerk inside asked him if he’d been in any peace marches, because “a lot of people” get flagged for that.  An airline clerk would know this how?  Professor Murphy mentions, preening himself just a bit, that he gave a lecture last year “highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution,” and that it can be seen on the Web.  “That’ll do it,” says our worldly airline clerk, who seems to know just what interests all the president’s men.

And to top off this tale of oppression and outrage, Professor Murphy’s luggage is lost on his return trip!  Coincidence?  Professor Murphy doesn’t think so!! 

I’m still laughing over Professor Murphy’s minor inconvenience, his major ego, and his outlandishly credulous imagination.  He believes he’s been “targeted” because he wants to believe it.  But there’s no earthly reason for anyone else to believe it.

UPDATE: The blog “Threat Level” has reactions from the TSA and American Airlines. HT to Ramesh at The Corner.

Matthew J. Franck — Matthew J. Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

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