In the Arena


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Barack Obama has to be feeling whipsawed by the current hoo-hah over airport body searches. First, he catches all sorts of grief for the terrorist near-misses in Times Square and by the Undiebomber. Now, he’s catching all sorts of grief because of amped up TSA security measures. A Washington Post poll┬átoday shows solid approval for the new airport scanning machines, but the public equally divided on the issue of patdowns. And the usual suspects–i.e. the same wingnut noisemakers who went berserk after the Undiebomber and Times Square incidents–have made body searches their holiday pinata.

So which is it to be, greater security or greater liberty? This reminds me of another bind the President finds himself in: The Republicans–and the priestly journalism-finance Establishment–want him to reduce deficits. But he can’t raise taxes to do it. And the public hates the idea of stinting on old age pensions and health care.

So which is it to be, higher taxes or fewer services?

Two years in, President Obama probably understands that he’s going to get slammed by the Foxnutters whatever he decides. What he has tried to do in the past is assuage both sides–on this and other questions–by downplaying the severity of the division. I’m certain that the President will continue to struggle toward appearing reasonable, toward acknowledging the arguments on both sides; that’s who he is. But, having done that, he then has to take clear positions on these issues. And he needs some people surrounding him–I’d vote for departing governors Ed Rendell and Ted Strickland–who can, on a regular basis, go out and lacerate those who are trying to use these issues to batter him.