Chris Matthews: TSA Uproar Meant to Hurt Obama

posted at 2:30 pm on November 24, 2010 by Matt Lewis

Tuesday night on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” host Chris Matthews described the recent uproar over the TSA as “the right wing’s ginned up controversy.”

This, of course, is a narrative liberals are hoping to push.

During his discussion with The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney, Matthews went on to imply that conservatives are only outraged over the TSA’s procedures because they want to hurt President Obama politically.

Here’s an excerpt:

Matthews: … Generally speaking, the American right wing is pretty tough on law and order, and if a cop wants to stop a guy and frisk him, you’ve never had a problem with that on the right.  Ever.  Now you have a problem with people being scanned on airplanes.  Why is there a big difference?

Carney: Well, if this is leading to Americans, you know, conservatives, becoming more skeptical of governmental power …

Matthews:  No.  I think they’re seizing it as an opportunity to put the president under pressure and to attack his administration …

This, of course, is not the first time liberals have argued conservatives are applying a double-standard to Obama.  We also heard that during the Tea Party protests (which the left initially referred to as “astroturf”).  In that instance, liberals wondered why conservatives were suddenly outraged by Obama’s spending (they never mention that Obama makes Bush look like a green eyeshade budget hawk).

And while liberals are, themselves, hoping to score political points by pushing the notion that the TSA outrage is just cheap politics, that doesn’t mean the question isn’t worth examining.

Are conservatives just using the TSA uproar as a cudgel to bash Obama?

First, it should be noted that there are plenty of consistent conservatives.  As Carney said to Matthews on “Hardball” Tuesday night, “Did you object when Bush’s NSA was listening in on phone calls?  I did. I know you did — I read your columns.”

What is more, whether or not you believe the TSA should continue their screening policies, dismissing the outrage as purely bogus strikes me as a misreading of the public’s mood right now.

And it’s also worth noting there has long been a tension on the right between preserving law and order and protecting civil liberties.

Civil society, of course, requires a government to perform certain functions.  Even hard-core libertarians are not anarchists.  But as the saying goes, “a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”  That’s the rub.

Coming of age politically in the 1990s, as I did, the current environment — where the libertarian strand of conservatism is a bit more prominent — strikes me as the natural state of conservatism.  Someone a few years younger (or older) might disagree.

That conservatives wrestle with this issue is not terribly surprising.

But let’s be honest — Matthews raises a legitimate point.  There is some truth to the notion that conservatives tend to become more skeptical of government when Democrats are in charge, and more trusting when Republicans are in charge.

This does not mean conservatives are intentionally trying to politically hurt a Democratic president, but it may mean conservatives are, perhaps, too trusting of Republican presidents.  (To some extent, this makes perfect sense).

Regardless, rather than impugn the motives of conservatives, I think it’s worth having a real discussion over this topic.  Operating on the assumption that the recent uproar over the TSA reflects a sincere belief that the government is over-stepping its authority, let me end with this parting question:

Would this same outrage have manifested itself if George W. Bush were still president?


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Comment pages: 1 2

Poor Chrissy. Everyone’s picking on his Obamassiah.

GarandFan on November 24, 2010 at 6:39 PM

Matthews: … Generally speaking, the American right wing is pretty tough on law and order, and if a cop wants to stop a guy and frisk him, you’ve never had a problem with that on the right. Ever. Now you have a problem with people being scanned on airplanes. Why is there a big difference?

Actually, the right wing would have a problem if cops were arbitrarily stopping people and frisking them. When cops stop and frisk someone, it is almost always because an actual crime had already been committed, and there is a reasonable basis for suspecting that the person being frisked might have been involved in the crime. At the airports everyone is treated as if he were reasonably a suspect in a committed crime, when it is obvious that (i) there has been no crime, only the potential for a crime in the near future, and (ii) there are no facts on which to reasonably come to a conclusion that any of the vast majority of people at the airport would commit the feared crime.

Ira on November 24, 2010 at 6:47 PM

The straw man is much more reliable than the facts.

CWforFreedom on November 24, 2010 at 7:51 PM

Well, here we are, almost two years into the Obama presidency, and there still has not been a successful terrorist attack on American soil — how come people never use that “the President has kept us safe” line anymore?

factoid on November 24, 2010 at 4:57 PM

Ft. Hood.

ajacksonian on November 24, 2010 at 8:14 PM

Would this same outrage have manifested itself if George W. Bush were still president?

The answer to this question is yes, only it would have been liberals who were outraged, just as they were with the Patriot Act and listening in to phone calls. Tingle’s question is 2 sided, a similar question could be asked of himself and the rest of the left: If Bush were still president would the left be as silent on this issue as they are now?

Dollayo on November 24, 2010 at 10:47 PM

I guess in Chrissie’s world, a tea partier called Lil Kim and asked him to shell S. Korea just so we can make Obama loo bad.

Bevan on November 25, 2010 at 9:29 AM

There is some truth to the notion that conservatives tend to become more skeptical of government when Democrats are in charge, and more trusting when Republicans are in charge.

… and vice versa, with steroids. My word, when 0Stalin and the Dhimmicrats implement their tyrannical policies, I shake my head and can imagine how they’d be going PSYCHO if Bush and the Republicans were doing the same thing.

It’s not a left/right issue. I don’t like being frisked or irradiated, ever.

FlatlanderByTheLake on November 25, 2010 at 8:17 PM

Hey Mathews, my wife has had cancer. Do you think she/we object to the TSA procedures because we have health concerns or because we want to hurt Obama?
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My buddy has shrapnel in his back and sets off alarms every time he flies. His wounds are obvious (to anyone but TSA anyway). Do you think he objects to more x-rays because he has health concerns or he wants to hurt Obama?
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Like TSA, you haven’t given this matter much thought, if indeed that is at all possible.
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diogenes on November 26, 2010 at 11:48 AM

Comment pages: 1 2