Should Republicans blame the TSA for their loss?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Susan Verbeeck attended a rally for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney with her two daughters and a friend at the Virginia State Fairgrounds in Doswell, Va., earlier this month, she didn’t expect to be greeted by TSA agents.

But that’s exactly what she found blocking the entrance to the fair: a row of metal-detectors staffed by uniformed TSA agents.

“We’re accustomed to the TSA at airports when we travel,” she says. “But now it seems they are ubiquitous. I understand that the presidential candidates need security, but wasn’t the TSA originally formed for airport security?”

Well, that was the idea. But a look at TSA’s mission statement, which isn’t limited to air travel, means the agency could try to “protect” you anytime you set foot outside your home.

Photo policies and mission creep

When Verbeeck’s friend was selected for a special screening, and agents started wanding him, she began snapping photos.

“An agent walked up to me waving his arm at me and told me, ‘No picture-taking allowed!’,” she remembers.

She complied, but sent me the images.

The TSA has repeatedly insisted that passengers are allowed to take photos at a checkpoint. As long as it doesn’t interfere with the screening. Perhaps the agent patting down her friend didn’t get that memo.

But so what?

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I mean, stories about the TSA’s disregard for the law and its problematic mission creep are hardly new. The TSA is its own worst enemy. The agency wants the money for 37 new teams of VIPR screeners like the ones who screened Verbeek and her family, at a cost to taxpayers of $100 million a year. (VIPR stands for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response team. Its one of the most unfortunate acronyms ever used by the federal government.)

TSA and political influence

That’s not where the story ends, though.

“As Romney was speaking about the effects and efforts of Hurricane Sandy, a man in the crowd suddenly pulled out a handmade fabric banner that read ‘End Climate Silence’ and yelled out to Romney that ‘climate change caused Sandy’,” she recalls. “The heckler was escorted out and he continued to yell on his way out the door.”

“I guess the TSA did not notice his sign,” she adds.

The conspiracy theorists among us might connect a few dots here. I’ll do the heavy lifting for you. Have a look at the Democratic and Republican platforms, and pay attention to the campaign rhetoric, and you’ll see that only one party — the Republicans — presented any kind of threat to the agency’s status quo. Romney’s party had adopted a platform that included TSA reform, and it supported privatizing large parts of the agency.

But the TSA doesn’t want to be reformed.

Last week, it ratified a union contract, which many observers believed would never happen. As an institution, it wants to expand, not be reined in and privatized.

(Disclosure: I didn’t vote for either of the major candidates, for what it’s worth.)

TSA’s role in politics: a cause for concern

What would you do if you were assigned to screen supporters of a party that you knew presented a threat to your job security? If you answered: harass them, fail to properly screen them, and indirectly allow the candidate to be heckled, then congratulations — here’s your tin foil hat and your very own copy of “The X-Files: The Complete Collector’s Edition.”

Did the TSA cost the Republicans the presidency? In such a close presidential election, anything could have swayed the electorate. But I think it’s safe to say the agency didn’t exactly help. (Here’s how to handle the TSA when you travel.)

More to the point, the TSA doesn’t belong at political rallies. Anyone familiar with the history of totalitarianism in the 20th century understands the danger of having an amorphous, paramilitary security organization with an open-ended mission.

The next time you catch a uniformed agent outside a terminal, take a picture and send it to me with a short explanation of the circumstances. I’ll publish it. If enough Americans see this nonsense, maybe it will end.

Then again, maybe not.

Should Republicans blame the TSA for their loss?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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63 thoughts on “Should Republicans blame the TSA for their loss?”

  1. The republicans lost because voters understood their message. You know, the religious right, no gays, anti-Latino, pro-Life one.

    • Y’know, I’m in the center and I’m tired of this line. There are rightwing nutjobs just like there are leftwing nutjobs.

      I never once heard Romney (and no I didn’t vote for him) get on the religious right kool-aid.

      Obama is not for gay rights either. He made one statement that he was “educated on it” or some crap, but he hasn’t done jack for LGBT. So until he puts his money where his mouth is, I can’t consider him a true LGBT supporter.

      (This coming from a gun-toting, pretty conservative type guy in Texas who believes in LGBT equal rights)

          • Obama absolutely disavowed Wright’s offensive comments. And Romney absolutely disavowed Aiken’s offensive comments. Let’s give them both credit for what they actually did and did not do, as opposed to what we imagine they did or did not do.

      • Obama got rid of DADT. And, while not easily quantified, surely the President coming out (sorry for the pun) in favor of gay marriage surely did something to foster LGBT rights.

        • Please stop drinking the “Obama is Jesus” kool-aide.
          Seriously, the guy isn’t doing a great job here.

          • I’m sorry, but he’s got a good point. I’m not a huge Obama thumper, but he really did do some good for the LGBT community.

  2. Actually, we all lost. The conservatives could not convince enough voters that unbridled government intrusion is a bad things, the the liberals don’t understand that all the government give-aways they so deeply love and want are being charged back to all of us.

    • Please jump off the “all liberals want handouts” train. It’s untrue and ridiculous. Do you know any liberal people? Do every single one of them want the government to give them something every day for all time?

      There are people in this country who need help with food, housing, or health. These people span the entire political spectrum. Helping those in need to get past their troubled times, while keeping fraudulent claims to a minimum, is something both public and private institutions should do. The levels of public versus private can be calmly debated by rational people on both sides of the issue, but not if every time someone mentions GOP or Dem, hyperbolic and inflammatory accusations fly.

    • Right, and the GOP is all about less government, less government until it comes to social issues then it’s all of a sudden “we need a law!!”

      Wanda Sykes said it best “The republicans want to take their hand out of my wallet and put it in my vagina!”

  3. Unions have no place in government.

    Disclosure: I consider myself in the center. I vote both sides of the aisle.

  4. The GOP lost because they only appealed to white, christian voters. As long as the GOP is dominated by far right wing social conservatives who want to impose their values on the rest of us, the GOP will be irrelevant in presidential politics. The GOP needs to go back to being a conservative POLITICAL party, and not an organization who feels they have the right to be some sort of moral watchdog.

    You can’t legislate morality. What if the social conservatives did manage to overturn Roe v Wade? Those women who want an abortion would just go to Canada. So then what? You make every woman under the age of 50 take a pregnancy test right there at the border crossing? Even Samuel Alito wouldn’t uphold that.

    • Romney most certainly didn’t appeal to THIS white Christian voter. Please don’t paint us all with the same intolerant brush.

      • I don’t think cybr painted all white christian voters with one brush. He did paint all Romney voters with one brush, which is more or less accurate. That said, white Christian men overwhelmingly did vote for Romney.

      • Well, I didn’t mean to say that every white christian voter is an intolerant nut-job. But the fact is that the party is dominated by the far right-wing, so like it or not, they are the face of the party.

        Here’s a point to illustrate what I mean. The tea party republicans speak of Ronald Reagan like he’s some sort of political god. BTW, I think Reagan was a pretty decent president. But it’s my hunch that if Ronald Reagan was alive today and running for political office, the tea party people would hate his guts, because he would work with the other side to get things done, and that seems to be a mortal sin according to tea party republicans.

  5. Neither major party had any credibility on the issue of reining in the TSA, even though it was a small part of the Republican platform. I voted for Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate, because of the TSA and other issues. Gary Johnson got more votes than any libertarian candidate has ever received in a presidential election.

  6. Wait a minute. I *have* the complete X-Files set, but I didn’t get the tin foil hat with the set. I think I was scammed. 😉

    • Disclosure: I own a copy too. It’s one of my favorite shows. But mine didn’t come with a tin foil hat, either.

      • This is making me sad because I have the complete set on VHS and I have not had a VHS player for several years and now I want to go re-watch it.

        • Go try a site called “”. Post a “wanted” ad for a VHS and you might find someone who wants to get rid of one. You get to watch your X-Files and the VCR stays out of the landfill, for a while anyway.

  7. Interesting, the day AFTER the union contract was signed with TSA, the spending for Uniforms has doubled.

    “Those must be some gold plated union patches on your sleeve.”

    In fact, a Second Lt.. gets a ONE TIME $400 toward uniforms, and a TSA Agent gets over $450. per year now.

  8. No, ladies and gentlemen, the Republicans lost because their ground game, getting the voters to go to the polls on (or before) election day, failed miserably.

  9. Yes, TSA is blamed for almost everything bad in the USA. Why not blame them for Romney’s loss? And blame them for Hurricane Sandy too. If they hadn’t screened so many people, global warming would not take place and such horrible 100-year storms would not occur every ten years!

    Who are authorizing these TSA people to do these things? That is the question. I sense the Secret Service and FBI play a part here. The former has the specific responsibility to protect the major presidential candidates with the assistance of the latter.

    • I really don’t know why TSA was out of their little airport cubbyhole. It seems ridiculous to have ill-trained screeners doing “security” at a political event, unless the organizers didn’t expect any genuine threat.

  10. being harassed by the tsa did not help..esp in va. ps if u did not vote for the 2 primary candidates U VOTED FOR OMAMA by omission… it is amazing that about 12 counties in florida went blue and caused all of us to suffer as blue..

  11. As a Canadian, I can say from my flying experience – the TSA is a huge waste of your tax $. From the thefts, to pat downs bordering on criminal, to the agents “supposed” to be checking the machines, but busy talking to fellow agents.
    PLUS the rudeness, & disdain when treating the travelling public, Never mind trying to “fix” this, either start a much better interview selection or a vastly improved training seminar. These thugs have to realize they are not police or your FBI but clerks meant to aid the safety of passengers. A WASTE!!!!

    The airlines, counter clerks & the TSA combine to make air travel in your country a nightmare. BUT having,written the above the worst offenders are the airlines & then the TSA

  12. I am till bitter about the search and pat down TSA gave me in Penn Station a few years ago. WTH, and this was in the LIRR section.

  13. Why not, they are blaming everyone else. I am sure Romney is grateful for your vote, Chris. But quite frankly, I don’t think voters in any meaningful numbers voted based on their feelings about TSA. Please steer your fans — and I am one by the way — to an article in which you specifically lay out what should replace TSA and how it should operate. I must have missed it.

    • Chris stated very clearly in the article that he did NOT vote for Romney, nor for Obama. You didn’t ask for my opinion, but here it is: TSA or whatever replaces it should operate under the same laws that govern police interactions with citizens in every other context in the continental United States, which means they must demonstrate articulable suspicion to search a specific person. Let me state that more directly – get a warrant or probable cause before you go sticking your hands down an innocent child’s pants!

  14. The republicans lost, not only because of their platform and obstructionist tactics, but because their attempts to gerrymander the voting districts in their favor gave the opposition more determination to vote.

    • Can’t speak for other states, but we here in Maryland – an overwhelmingly Democratic state – had the opportunity to vote down a gerrymandering bill this election, but it was passed almost 2-1. We have arguably the most outrageous-looking voting district map in the country through decades of Democrat-controlled legislature. Just sayin’. Wouldn’t want to confuse the issue with fact.

      • join the club we have corrine brown and the left wing district of debbie wassernman who tortured our wonderful black candidate ALLEN WEST most of america does noy get it the blue dems won with 12 out of 88 counties in florida very sad for the reat of the 76 on -lib counties…

        • I really shouldn’t have to explain this, but it’s population. 1 county can have 5000 people, another can have a million, are you suggesting they should hold equal weighting? Your statement is just silly.

  15. I’ve been sexually assaulted by the TSA. I live five minutes from Doswell and wanted to go see Mitt Romney but as soon as I found out the TSA was going to be there sticking their disease-ridden digits in panties and rubbing vaginas, I avoided that place like the plague!

  16. The biggest problem I have with the apparent widening circle of TSA influence is that I don’t know what my rights are with respect to them. If I had turned out for the Virginia event and felt – as I would definitely feel – that TSA had no role to play here (after all, they are the TRANSPORTATION Security Administration and I don’t think there was any TRANSPORTATION going on at this rally, was there?), what are my options? I certainly would have willingly submitted to a security check from the Secret Service with no issues; but the TSA? Would I have been arrested for putting up an argument? On what grounds. They’re not officers, as we all know. Who would have arrested me?

    • Absolutely valid point and something I have wondered myself. Just one more example of the slippery slide we are headed down. One day my liberal friends are gonna wake up and wonder when we ALL lost our freedom from illegal search and seizure and I’m going to remind them how much they thought we needed agencies like the TSA to keep us ” safe”.

      • Extramail, Conservatives do not have a monopoly on protecting Constitutional rights. I’m a liberal and I’m just as concerned as you are, as are most of my liberal friends. I supported Obama because I think he is an effective leader who has put us on the right path, and because I think the Republicans have not managed this country effectively. But that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed in the President’s apparent lack of concern about the TSA. Just because a candidate is “my guy” does not mean I agree with everything he does; everything is a compromise. Romney’s idea of privatizing the TSA would have meant that instead of violating our constitutional rights, the TSA would violate our constitutional rights *and* turned a profit at taxpayer expense. Not a solution. Still, that doesn’t mean that liberals aren’t concerned. Let’s not forget that this climate of overreaction that lead to the compromise of Americans’ rights and liberties started under a Republican president.

      • Please stop blaming liberals for the loss of rights. It was a republican government that created the TSA and supported them for 7 years, and a democrat government for the next 4. BOTH are to blame.

    • MarkieA, your rights are with respect to the TSA are laid out in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution:

      “The right of the people to be secure in their persons… against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
      violated… but upon probable cause.”

      Simply wanting to fly (or attend a Romney rally) is NOT reasonable cause for an unreasonable search. THIS IS WHY THE TSA HAS TO GO. They are violating our Constitutional rights, and our elected officials are FAILING to stand up to them!

      I’m a Democrat, voted for Obama, but I am deeply disturbed that the man who swore to uphold the Constitution seems to be doing nothing about this out-of-control organization.

      I do my bit by writing to my elected officials and refusing to go through the Nude-O-Scopes. (Luckily I don’t have body/sexual issues with the pat-downs but I understand why people do.) Ironically, my favorite small airport has the old-fasioned metal detectors, and I have been accepted into the Trusted Traveler program, so I am often subject only to reasonable (and Constitutionally legal) screening. Go figure.

  17. The poll question is ridiculous. A better question would have been “Should the TSA perform screenings at political rallies?” Now that’s something to debate. But to even ask whether the TSA is to blame for Mitt Romney losing the election…that’s a ridiculous question, and doesn’t even make sense. Even if you ask if the TSA is ONE OF THE FACTORS which caused Romney to lose would have been a better question.

  18. We all know the TSA is a huge expensive joke, but Romneys major problems were , 1 religion (money hungry Mormons), 2 he’s effectively a banker, more hated than lawyers, who on the social scale are more hated than used car salesmen & 3 he’s arrogant

  19. Slightly off topic – I think VIPR was a purposely conceived acronym, meant to sound intimidating to people who encouter them outside of the airports so they will submit to searches more readily, NOT an unfortunate accident. It sounds ridiculous to me, but I imagine others think it sounds ominous. I shudder to think what might happen if they get the additional funding they are asking for!

  20. The TSA did not cause the Republicans to lose the election. The Republican party-or at least those at the top-caused themselves to lose the election,

    They are out of touch with REAL Americans. We are not all white, Christian. heterosexual men. Romney had no real things to offer-his budget consisted of tax cuts for all and 2 trillion more in defense spending, all while promising a balanced budget. Most people know you can have less money coming in (taxes) while spending a lot more (Defense) and balance the budget unless you make massive cuts elsewhere. His foreign policy experience is nil and his advisers-are the same one Bush used. *shudder*. He has stated he is against abortion (yes he flip-flopped several times but we all know he is against it). The elected President will be appointing 2 Supreme Court judges. Wanna bet if he had won those two judges would have helped to over turn Roe v. Wade? He was going to repeal the AHCA, throwing millions of people off healthcare. He would likely have turned Medicare into a voucher program, which would have made it harder for seniors in the future to get affordable healthcare.

    I have little quarrel with Republicans at the local level. I vote a split ticket locally and State if I believe the Republican would be a better choice. But frankly the RNC scares the shit out of me. Unless they can become less far right wing? They will never get my vote and I suspect will never win the Presidency. They have to realize that America is a very diverse country and look to govern accordingly.

    And I am hoping Obama will address the issue of the TSA. As well as get DOMA repealed.

    • Don’t look for Obama to do anything about TSA. He’s already had four years and his best shot was to state that “we don’t have any alternatives” to the body scanners.

      Of course, that statement was made after he had travelled to India in the company of Deepak Chopra, CEO of Rapiscan, the manufacturer of body scanners. Chopra was also a donor to Obama’s campaign, so I don’t think Obama is going to go against his good buddy.

      That’s why I voted for Gary Johnson. He’s the only candidate who opposed TSA.

  21. Huh. The conspiracy theory makes no sense. If the TSA was somehow shilling for Obama, why did they remove the anti-Romney heckler? I’m no fan of the TSA, but this is nothing more than inflamatory nonsense, especially considering that the only “targeting” in this story suggests the OPPOSITE conclusion. Shame on you, Chris!

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