Ross has qualified the claims he made in his column, and explains how he thinks partisanship affects political opinions in a new post. He writes:
So the great T.S.A. debate doesn’t show that conservatives are about to repudiate everything the Bush administration did on national security….What it does show, though, is that conservatives are increasingly open to criticizing security policies that are specific to Obama from a libertarian rather than a national-security perspective (something you could also see happening a bit in the debate over assassinating Anwar al-Awlaki), if the libertarian argument offers the more plausible and popular case.
That makes some sense. Even so, it is worth pointing out that conservative critics of the executive’s claim that it has unreviewable power to order the death of U.S. citizens on the basis of secret evidence have been relatively few and far between. The al-Awlaki case has been one where the Obama administration has expanded on the power grabs of the Bush administration in a genuinely dangerous and destructive way, the libertarian argument against this power grab is the only plausible one there is, and yet for the most part there has not been any real backlash, not even from a “hypocritical and inconsistent opposition.” What that tells me is that most conservatives are not unduly concerned about Obama claiming powers to order the deaths of citizens without due process or judicial review, but many seem very agitated that they must go through an obnoxious airport ritual that they and the TSA agents and everyone else knows has nothing to do with thwarting terrorism. Consistency may be overrated, but one would think that the priorities would be the other way around.
If the partisan mindset were so very powerful, surely the executive’s claim to have unreviewable assassination power should generate more pushback than obnoxious scanning devices at airports. The assassination power claim is a new issue, and one that has far more frightening implications and potential for abuse than anything that the TSA is doing, but it goes largely unnoticed or even wins applause from the right. To make sense of this, it helps to compare it to mainstream conservative critiques of the war in Afghanistan, which usually take aim at its “nation-building” aspect. These critics are frustrated with nation-building as wasteful, but remain basically supportive of nation-destroying: the former is time-consuming, expensive, and complicated, while the latter can be quick, relatively “cheap” and “easy” and largely painless (at least for most Americans). Likewise, the TSA procedures are time-consuming, inconvenient, obnoxious and more directly affect people we know, and the other issue is remote and mainly affects other people. Whatever virtue there is in having a “hypocritical and inconsistent opposition” to act as a check on the concentration of power in the executive and in Washington would seem to be lost if the opposition can’t bring itself to protest against the truly egregious power grabs by the executive.