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?