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Democrats, Republicans Reach A Tentative Debt Ceiling Agreement

Live Free or Die! (When the Right Guy Is President)

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

I'm thrilled so many of you are causing a commotion over the creepy, occasionally amorous and always intrusive policies of the Transportation Security Administration. It's about time. All this nonsense about our patriotic duty to surrender the Fourth Amendment to (illusory) safety deserves all the scorn Americans can muster.

But setting aside the indignities of flying, this debate also helpfully illustrates the hypocrisy of partisans.

Not so long ago, the left positioned itself as the defender of innocents against the Bush administration's war on terror, which was "just one tiny step away from fascism." The Constitution was sacred, especially when we faced danger -- and even more especially when a Republican was president.

It was not long ago that Democrats were regularly quoting Thomas Jefferson, who never actually said that "those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Every nanny-state initiative in existence exempted, of course.)

Yet today, left-wing pundits, typified by syndicated liberal columnist Ruth Marcus, implore Americans to grow up, become better automatons, get moving and submit. The admired liberal columnist Michael Kinsley first offers us tales of TSA kindheartedness and then tells us the same.

Many left-wing publications that cautioned us against George W. Bush's ham-fisted intrusions now defend Barack Obama's ham-fisted intrusions.

We all remember when Democrats passed the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights Act (with bipartisan support) to ensure that travelers have a right to, among other things, sit in a plane with a "comfortable cabin temperature." Well, how about the right not to have a stranger prying into your granddad's testicular area? Or how about making sure that the actual Bill of Rights is afforded at least the same deference as the bill of rights for passengers?

At least read the old guy his Miranda warning before confiscating his denture cream and bottle of water. Even real terrorists are given that much.

Some folks claim that this whole episode is just concocted outrage in an effort to help institute profiling at airports. We can agree that profiling is ugly, illegal, un-American and unconstitutional, darn it. Especially when you're profiling every passenger in the entire country as a potential terrorist.

Now, certainly, not every Democrat is insincere on the topic, nor is everyone on the right innocent.

For nearly a decade, Republicans have compromised and surrendered liberty in the name of more safety -- sometimes equating their policies with patriotism. And I simply can't believe that we would be witnessing anywhere near the levels of conservative outrage regarding the TSA's new security measures were we sitting in, say, 2005.

Even now, left and right can find common ground. For instance, Marc Thiessen, a conservative Washington Post columnist, sounds the call for gratitude, asking us to "stop and say 'thanks' to the men and women of the TSA who give up time with their families during the holidays to keep us safe from terror."

When a person chooses a career predicated on meddling in the lives and baggage of citizens, he doesn't deserve thanks any more or less than the Internal Revenue Service agent deserves your appreciation. The assertion that TSA agents keep us safe is also debatable.

But a new Zogby International poll found that 61 percent of likely voters oppose the enhanced security measures passengers are dealing with at airports across the country, which seems to signify a shift in public opinion away from "Thank you!"

And though I suspect we'll be back to airport lock-stepping at the first sign of danger, it would be nice if this renewed adherence to personal autonomy would gain some traction and consistency no matter who happens to be president.

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