I did a brief segment on Hardball this afternoon. And as I was waiting to go on, I listened through my earpiece to the preceding segment on the on-going TSA/pat-down controversy saga. The key is that I was mic’ed up so could only hear the audio. I wasn’t able to see who Matthews was interviewing. But it was a rank introduction to the level of lurid and vulgar demagoguery a lot of conservatives are resorting to to milk this story for political gain. The guy Matthews was talking to kept referring to people’s right not to be forced to have “nudie” pictures taken of them or their daughters and wives. Always with the menfolk unwilling to let their daughters and wives be ‘scanned’ — but that’s another story.
In any case, it’s worth remembering that the idea that your daughter or whoever strikes you as your most inviolable kin is having a ‘nude’ picture taken of them is just nonsense. Whatever else you can say about the backscatter scans, they usually reveal about as much as you do walking around the pool in a tight bathing suit. (Note: A number of the more revealing ‘backscatter’ pics you find on Google are actually fakes.) Of all the issues I’ve seen raised in this story, the invasiveness of the backscatter imaging strikes me as by far the weakest. And a poll out today shows that the public overwhelming approves of the use of the scanners as a tool to combat airliner terrorism. The pat-downs are another matter. And I’ve heard enough to make me wonder about the longterm risks of repeated exposure to these scans.
Next up was a clip from Mike Huckabee in a really gutter-minded, scurrilous voice daring President Obama to take his wife and two daughters to National Airport and have them get an aggressive pat-down in full view of the public if he wants ‘our’ wives and daughters to submit to the same. The mix of race and sex and populist demagoguery packed into Huckabee’s verbal slash was enough to bring you back to one of a hundred or a thousand rants below the Mason-Dixon line fifty or sixty or seventy years ago.
Now, let’s stipulate to the obvious fact that having me or you get a pat-down in a crowded airport while most people are more concerned about getting to their planes on time or aggravated about standing in line or whatever is a rather different matter than even imagining the sort of nutso media circus that would ensue with the president having to drag his 9 and 12 year old daughters down to DCA for a pat-down that would amount to a ritual humiliation in front of the international press corps. The comment itself, the visual created, is simply disgusting, as is the whole personalizing of the situation with regards to the president.
He’s president. He’s ultimately responsible. But President Obama didn’t come up with this idea. And bringing the air of looming sexual threat to his daughters or even his wife in cheap political hustler comments is just shameful.
There’s no other way to put it.
Late Update: I found video of the segment here.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.