Feature

The partisan’s necessary hypocrisy

For a perfect demonstration of the “awesome power of the partisan mind-set,” said Ross Douthat in The New York Times, consider the recent furor over airport security.

Ross Douthat
The New York Times

For a perfect demonstration of the “awesome power of the partisan mind-set,” said Ross Douthat, consider the recent furor over airport security. If it had been George W. Bush making travelers choose between a full-body scan and a “private security massage,” liberal pundits would have vented their outrage over “yet another Bush-era assault on civil liberties.” But with a Democrat in the White House, the script “read in reverse”: The Right fulminated against the intrusive procedures while the liberal commentariat generally defended them. That just goes to show that however much we talk about ideas and philosophies, “we tend to reverse-engineer the arguments required to justify whatever our own side is doing.”

Such purity can be maintained only through hypocrisy: Liberals who once accused Bush of “shredding the Constitution” give Barack Obama far more leeway in fighting the war on terrorism, while conservatives who applauded the Bush administration’s security initiatives now fear a looming police state run by Homeland Security chief Janet “Big Sis” Napolitano (as the Drudge Report has dubbed her). Our side, you see, always means well. “The other guys can’t be trusted.”

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