TSA Chief Defends Scanners, Pat Downs As Holiday Travel Week Begins

TSA Chief John Pistole made the rounds on the network news shows this morning, urging passengers–and cable news hosts–to bring some “common sense” back into the discussion of increased airline security as the country moves into the holiday flying season.

Telling MSNBC’s Morning Joe that he’d been through an “enhanced pat down,” the procedure richly parodied in a fake TSA ad on SNL over the weekend, which was also noteworthy for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement on Face the Nation that she wouldn’t go through a pat down “if she could avoid it.”

Pistole said he felt the intrusive searches do their job: “I felt it was doing exactly what it was designed to do–protect people from somebody trying to kill hundreds of people.”

Pistole, whose agency released a confusing statement over the weekend suggesting that the stepped-up procedures could be rolled back, said nothing will change as the holiday season arrives. “Reasonable people can disagree,” Pistole said on MSNBC, saying that the searches had turned up contraband, but only in the form of smuggled drugs–no explosives or other weapons that might be the tools of terrorists.

Pistole also said the backscatter scanner that some fear may be dangerous was, in fact, “safe for everyday use.” Asked if he’d be willing to be scanned by the machine four times a week, Pistole said “yes.”

Watch Pistole make clear those invasive searches won’t be going away anytime soon, via CNN:

Too Close For Comfort? TSA To Make ‘Junk Touching’ Security “Minimally Invasive”

What a difference a few hours makes.  John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, appeared on CNN’s State of the Union this morning guns blazing in his declaration that the TSA’s controversial security procedures were “not going to change.”  Now all of sudden, just a few hours later the TSA has released a statement saying the procedures “will be adapted as conditions warrant.”  The statement goes on to read:

We welcome feedback and comments on the screening procedures from the traveling public, and we will work to make them as minimally invasive as possible, while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve. We are constantly evaluating and adapting our security measures, and as we have said from the beginning, we are seeking to strike the right balance between privacy and security.

In all such security programs, especially those that are applied nationwide, there is a continual process of refinement and adjustment to ensure that best practices are applied and that feedback and comment from the traveling public is taken into account. This has always been viewed as an evolving program that will be adapted as conditions warrant, and we greatly appreciate the cooperation and understanding of the American people.

Maybe it was the invasive questioning from CNN’s Candy Crowley, State of the Union host, that convinced Pistole to change his mind or maybe he has a flight scheduled for tonight, but either way this has got to be one of the quickest about-faces on record.

Watch Pistole’s original position in the video courtesy of CNN below:

Reliable Sources Panel: Is Palin The Next President Or The Next Oprah?

On CNN’s Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz brought in a panel of media experts to talk about the frenzy of Palin media coverage this past week: her new book America by Heart, the New York Times Magazine profile of her, her new reality show, and her family’s online dramas. Amongst all the buzz about Palin this week, the panel cut right to the heart of the matter when they said: Sarah Palin has to decide whether she wants to be a pop culture figure, or a political figure.

The panel included Steve Roberts, Margaret Carlson, and Matthew Continetti. Roberts claimed “She’s created her own network — PNN, the Palin News Network — through Twitter and through Facebook….She’s really like Oprah. That’s what she’s become, with her own TV show, her own book…except Oprah’s not running for anything.”

Watch the video below:

Former First Lady Barbara Bush To Sarah Palin: Stay In Alaska

Former First Lady Barbara Bush is certainly not known for mincing words, though this may be one of the more subtle hints she’s thrown down in a while. Speaking alongside her husband, President George H. W. Bush, to Larry King in an exclusive interview, she delivered a doubled-edged critique of Sarah Palin– “She’s beautiful,” she tells King, but “she’s very happy in Alaska, and I hope she’ll stay there.”

The interview with King is set to air on Monday, and covers a variety of topics, including their son’s book and the current right-wing political climate. Asked about the Tea Party, President Bush was frank, albeit not entirely hostile: “I don’t know what it really is, Larry,” he replied, noting that he is “confused” by the movement, though “some of the ideas make a lot of sense.” While the First Lady did not comment on the politics, she did note that she would like to see Palin stay in Alaska, a comment that, knowing the weight of it, appeared to make her smile, and elicited laughter from her husband and King.

The segment, released by CNN today, below. The interview will air in its entirety on Larry King Live on Monday:

President Obama: TSA Pat-Downs “An Inconvenience For All Of Us,” Except Me

With all the “junk-touching” and pat-downs required by new TSA rules that arrived just in time for the holidays, it was inevitable that at the first possible opportunity some intrepid reporter would bring the subject up to President Obama. Taking questions at a NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, the President attempted to explain the logic behind the pat-downs, but prefaced his reasoning with a disclaimer that he has never and will likely never experience such a thing.

Responding to a request for his opinion on the matter from NBC’s Chuck Todd, President Obama opened with a confession: “I don’t go through security checks to get on planes these days, so I haven’t personally experienced some of the procedures put in place by TSA.” He then proceeded to defend this measure which he will never experience– one which everyone from Geraldo Rivera to Anderson Cooper seem taken aback by:

“I will also say that in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing, our TSA personnel are properly under enormous pressure to make sure that you don’t have somebody slipping on a plane with some sort of explosive device on their persons. And since the explosive device that was on Mr. Abdulmutallab was not detected by ordinary metal detectors, it has meant that the TSA has tried to adapt to make sure that passengers on planes on safe. Now, that’s a tough situation. One of the most frustrating aspects of this fight against terrorism is that it has created a whole security apparatus around us that causes huge inconvenience for all of us.”

Whenever there arises a conflict of interest between freedom and safety, it corners leaders to grasp at answers that, while possibly correct, seem to many inadequate. This was not an easy question for President Obama to answer. That said, prefacing his commentary with the fact that he is immune from the problem only to later note that the problem causes inconveniences for “all of us” is the kind of “let them eat cake” moment conservative commentators await with bated breath every time the president takes to the podium.

His full answer to the question via CNN’s coverage of his NATO summit speech below:

James Carville Un-Apologizes For Crude Obama Joke Yet Again, Isn’t Going To Rehab

A few days ago, James Carville resuscitated a 2008 campaign joke about the respective number of testicles President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton possess. This joke was about as well-received as it was in 2008 (not at all), and Carville visited John King USA to explain just how much he didn’t regret it. This apparently wasn’t enough, however, as he took his case to Anderson Cooper last night, as well, and was just as unapologetic.

Last time around, on John King USA, Carville squarely said he wasn’t sorry “and I don’t apologize.” He didn’t change his tune on AC 360º– in fact, he used almost the exact same phrasing, adding that, “to me, it’s not that big a deal” and, lest anyone think he has a conscience, “I’m not going to rehab; I’m not praying with my priest; I’m not reconsidering my life” over the joke, he explained.

Unlike last time, however, he went a little deeper in to the reasoning behind his bizarre accusation: “I thought the president should be tough on these banks.” Carville expressed his distaste with the way the bank bailouts were handled, adding that “we should have done something to show that we were unhappy with what they did,” and that he didn’t “blame” the American people for voting Republican as a way of expressing displeasure with the bank policy. That doesn’t quite explain why Carville made the joke in 2008, though he agreed with then-Senator Obama’s logic the first time he deflected the joke– Carville is not in public office, and is in the business of saying eye-catching things. “He’s right,” Carville conceded, “I’m a cable TV commentator.”

Carville’s second CNN non-mea culpa from last night’s Anderson Cooper 360º below:

Lawrence O’Donnell Close To Catching Greta In Tight Thursday Night Ratings

Cable news ratings, November 18, 2010:

Lawrence O’Donnell came very close to winning the 10 p.m. time period Thursday, with 311,000 viewers 25-54–just off the pace of usual time slot winner Great Van Susteren, who won with 324,000.

•HLN’s Nancy Grace had a big night Thursday, beating Keith Olbermann’s Countdown and tripling the anemic performance of struggling Parker/Spitzer on CNN.

Here’s the full scoreboard:

TV NEWS RATINGS: 25-54 DEMOGRAPHIC (L +SD)
Fox News CNN MSNBC CNN Headline News
5 pm Beck

520

Blitzer

149

Matthews

152

Showbiz

59

6 pm Baier

442

Blitzer

128

Ed Show

195

Prime

87

7 pm Shep

446

King, USA

111

Matthews

168

Issues

163

8 pm O’Reilly

655

ParkerSpitzer

96

Olbermann

289

Grace

310

9 pm Hannity

547

King

151

Maddow

330

Behar

158

10 pm Van Susteren

324

Cooper

149

O’Donnell

311

Grace

139

11 pm O’Reilly

311

Cooper

104

Olbermann

148

Showbiz

143

TOTAL DAY 297 102 135 125
PRIME TIME 509 132 310 197
Data by Nielsen Media Research. Live and same day (DVR) data.
TV NEWS RATINGS: TOTAL VIEWERS (L +SD)
Fox News CNN MSNBC CNN Headline News
5 pm Beck

2336

Blitzer

619

Matthews

528

Showbiz

145

6 pm Baier

2419

Blitzer

456

Ed Show

737

Prime

231

7 pm Shep

2141

King, USA

434

Matthews

692

Issues

456

8 pm O’Reilly

3078

ParkerSpitzer

427

Olbermann

1281

Grace

876

9 pm Hannity

2275

King

777

Maddow

1032

Behar

623

10 pm Van Susteren

1637

Cooper

563

O’Donnell

819

Grace

481

11 pm O’Reilly

1195

Cooper

398

Olbermann

408

Showbiz

425

TOTAL DAY 1314 393 464 299
PRIME TIME 2330 589 1044 647
Data by Nielsen Media Research. Live and same day (DVR) data