The Campaign Spot

Obama Administration: The Pat-Down Outrage Is Overblown!

Via Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:

The White House and the Department of Homeland Security indicated today that they won’t yield to demands to amend new airline passenger screening rules that have been decried as wildly intrusive.

On the contrary, administration officials are quietly and aggressively defending the policies against what they see as a media frenzy of distorted information. For instance, the administration noted that fewer than one half of one percent of the 34 million passengers who traveled on airplanes in or to the U.S. last week were subjected to crotch-area pat-downs. 

They also disputed the very notion of a public backlash, even as those words played ubiquitously on news tickers and as video parodies of the Transportation Safety Administration were being emailed around the globe. Before press coverage of the new rules reached a roar late last week, TSA received only 700 complaints nationwide about its procedures, an administration official said. The official insisted on anonymity because the information was not intended for public release. The issue is sensitive because physical space intrusions are just about the last thing an administration cast by Republicans as prone to governmental overreach needs.

Er, one half of one percent of 34 million air travelers still adds up to between 170,000 and 340,000 TSA hands wandering around 170,000 crotches last week. (Depends on whether they used one hand or two.) If just one half of one percent of those searches involve some sort of inappropriate touching or other unprofessional behavior, that still means that 850 Americans got their privates groped or manhandled by government employees. Last week. This week will include more, because it’s a heavier travel week.

Remember, in many of these people’s minds, Clarence Thomas must forever be demonized as an illegitimate Supreme Court justice for alleged comments, but if a TSA agent starts grabbing and squeezing like a young Bill Clinton, then it’s just something we’ll have to live with.

It’s rather amazing that President Obama doesn’t have the political sense to realize he’s on the wrong side in this fight. (I thought we learned this during the last Democratic administration: It’s never good news when the president’s name and “crotch” appear in the same story.) It is bad that the rules are defended by government officials who will never experience them; it’s worse when Hillary Clinton publicly expresses relief she doesn’t have to undergo this ordeal.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that an administration that didn’t understand outrage over government outreach into the private sector would be similarly obtuse about government outreach into our privates.

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