Friday, 26 November 2010

One Rule for Politically Powerful, Another for Us at Airports

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The Constitution explicitly prohibits titles of nobility. Members of government in America were intended to be citizens and not rulers. The last thing our Founding Fathers wanted was a class of Americans who were legally special and elevated. One of the noblest of the many fine character qualities of George Washington was his humility — he relinquished power. He was, perhaps, the first commanding general of a revolutionary government who quietly set aside his vast potential power to go home — to Mount Vernon.

When he chaired the Constitutional Convention, Washington could have pushed the idea of an American monarchy (and he would have been the only logical king), but he relentlessly rejected that idea. Finally, after serving two terms as president, Washington purposefully declined a third term, warning his countrymen that two terms was enough for any president (a precedent broken only by the dictatorial FDR, and then forbidden by constitutional amendment.)

What would our Founding Fathers have thought about the federal government arrogating to itself the power to compel citizens to be effectively strip-searched in airports, with no probable cause beyond being the passenger on a private airline? One of the great virtues of peaceable citizenship — the right to be left alone by government — has been taken away. What would those Founders have thought if certain citizens, powerful political and government administrators, would be exempt from those searches? One set of rules for the politically powerful and one set of rules for average citizens would have sounded very familiar to them. In fact, they championed a revolution precisely to escape that evil.

Yet that is just what is happening today. Top congressional leaders, for example, need not go through the humiliating procedures before boarding an airline; neither do many members of Obama's cabinet, including Janet Napolitano, whose Department of Homeland Security created the highly invasive body searches. These political figures are considered less dangerous than a Catholic nun, a hobbled grandmother, or a young girl who had not yet started school. These hotshots have already been screened and pose no security threats. The idiocy of TSA has, finally, allowed the very pilots who fly the airplanes (men who could crash the flights without any special explosives) to board their airplanes without being searched. Why? Well, organized labor, the pilots' union, objected, so common sense prevailed (though flight attendants are still searched.)

The TSA rules are intended to harass the politically weak and to spare the politically powerful from the consequences of government. Veterans who have fought for our nation in combat cannot be trusted on airlines. Police officers who have been wounded in the line of service cannot be trusted on airlines. Surgeons who work on the most vital parts of our bodies cannot be trusted on airlines, nor can psychiatrists who hear our most intimate secrets. Granddad cannot be trusted and clergymen cannot be trusted. But who gets a pass? Politicians in Washington who have hung onto their posts long enough to reach a position of power.

Not exactly what Washington would have had in mind. ?

Photo: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, left, admires Kizer, an airport security dog, partnered with state police officer John Staples, right, after a news conference at Logan International Airport in Boston, April 15, 2010.: AP Images

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