Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Gene Healy points out an important facet of the current brouhaha over the TSA’s use of body scanners and, alternatively, a thorough patdown to catch would-be terrorists — how conservatives are suddenly up in arms over such matters:

In fact, even some of our most rabid terror-warriors, like former Sen. Rick Santorum and neocon stalwart Charles Krauthammer, now say they’ve had enough.

Santorum and Krauthammer blame a politically correct mentality that prevents profiling. But the Christmas bomber was Nigerian; the shoebomber, a Brit with a Jamaican father. Should we just give the “freedom fondle” to anyone vaguely swarthy?

And he explains the background:

I have a different explanation for how we got here.

For nearly a decade, Krauthammer, Santorum and too many others on the Right have relentlessly hyped and politicized the terrorist threat. But when every bungled attack — no matter how inept — gets the screeching siren treatment on Drudge, what do you expect that political dynamic to produce? Sober, sensible policy?

Conservatives could stand to think more clearly about ideas and consequences, cause and effect. Take last week’s comments from Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., a congressional father of the agency: “When the TSA was established, it was never envisioned that it would become a huge, unwieldy bureaucracy.”

Really, who could have known?

And when prominent conservatives brush off constitutional concerns with the bromide “the Constitution is not a suicide pact,” (or, as Mitt Romney put it in 2007, “Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive”) is it so surprising that liberty and dignity get sent to the back of the line?

Like it or not, we live in the world the alarmists have made.

Quite so. And now suddenly conservatives, like Captain Renault in Casablanca, are shocked — shocked — to find out the government might go overboard in order to soothe our exaggerated fears of terrorism — or to counter the right wing’s constant insistence that the current president is a friend of terrorists.

When President Bush proclaimed that he had the sole authority to arrest American citizens and lock them up forever without charges or access to family or attorneys, the right not only didn’t blink they defended that constitutional outrage. Likewise the warrantless wiretap policy and the Bush torture regime. Not a hint of outrage from Santorum, Krauthammer or their conservative allies (with a few exceptions, like Bruce Fein and John Whitehead).

What did it take to get their dander up? The prospect that some TSA agent might see anonymous nudity. Or that they might actually brush up against someone’s genitals. Because that’s icky. Or OMG, what if a gay TSA agent were to pat down someone of the same gender?

Of course, if this policy was aimed only at Muslims or Arabs or North Africans, or at anyone who vaguely resembles any of those groups, not only would we hear not a peep of protest from the right, they’d accuse anyone making the same arguments they’re now making of being a terror-loving communist.

And lest you need another level of irony, these are the same people who are forever accusing the left of engaging in moral relativity or situational ethics.