Flyers, Politicians Riled Up Over Scans, Pat-Downs

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Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole says the agency will work to make airport screening "as minimally invasive as possible." The procedures have angered the public and politicians. Also discussed: Sarah Palin's new book and plans for President Obama to meet with corporate CEOs.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now, even as the U.S. faces the threat from North Korea, it is trying to guard against threats to airplanes. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about that over the weekend. And we're going to speak about it now, with NPR analyst Cokie Roberts, who joins most Monday mornings.

Cokie, good morning once again.

COKIE ROBERTS: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what did the secretary of state say?

ROBERTS: Well, she said she doesn't want to second-guess the security officials. But when she was asked on CBS's Face the Nation, yesterday, whether she would submit to the kind of intrusive patdowns that a lot of passengers are complaining about, here's what she had to say.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (State Department): Not if I could avoid it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Secretary CLINTON: No, I mean who would?

INSKEEP: Hmm.

ROBERTS: Now of course, passengers protest that they can't avoid it. And some are threatening to have something of a sit in or a stand in on Wednesday, the busiest day of the - travel day of the year - to slow things down even more.

INSKEEP: Do you have any sense about how widespread the discontent is here?

ROBERTS: Well, I think that the TSA says that 80 percent of the American people accept security. But it's clearly making both passengers, and especially pilots, cranky. And Congress is vowing to hold hearings as soon as they come back.

And I think that, you know, the problem that people are finding is that if you travel a lot, you just don't see a whole lot of common sense - you know, kids are crying because their snow globes have been confiscated.

INSKEEP: Um-hum.

ROBERTS: And we've all seen, formerly, what were called absolutely necessary security requirements, suddenly aren't security requirements anymore. They come and go. But I think the administration figures that passenger and pilot complaints pale in comparison to any real attack, and so they're going to be very cautious.

INSKEEP: Now I want to make sure I understand the 80 percent figure you gave. The TSA is saying that 80 percent of the people go through these high-tech scanners?

ROBERTS: No, 80 percent of the people say it's fine with them to have enhanced security.

INSKEEP: Oh, OK. And the other 20 percent are...

ROBERTS: Right.

INSKEEP: ...quite angry, to say the least. Plenty of people are angry at various things the government is doing. That was certainly shown in the election earlier this month. And now President Obama is trying to reach out to some people who have not been terribly happy with him, or at least not universally happy with him, corporate CEOs. What's he doing?

ROBERTS: Well, you know, it's interesting. The president has - is apparently considering having a retreat with corporate CEOs and maybe a walk-in to the Chamber of Commerce building, which is, you know, is right across the street -across Lafayette Park from the White House. The Chamber of Commerce spent tens of millions of dollars in the last election, trying to defeat Democrats and succeeding in many cases. But now the administration wants to work together with them on issues like trade and job creation.

It's interesting, Steve, because apparently according to all reports, a huge sense in the business community that this administration is anti-business -with Wall Street regulations and some new taxes. And of course, as you know, there's this sense among voters that Washington has pampered rich CEOs with bailouts and TARPs and all that. So the president is going to have to walk a fine line here, if he reaches out to business. And he's looking, of course, already, to his own re-election, 'cause that's where we are now looking to 2012.

INSKEEP: Which is where many people will be looking, as Sarah Palin publishes a new book this week.

ROBERTS: Yes, she has a new book coming out tomorrow; she has a new television show. There are reports she might have a new team on the ground in Iowa, which certainly leads you to believe that she is thinking about that presidential run. Now there are a lot of Republicans very worried about that. And Barbara Bush said on Larry King, that Sarah Palin seemed very happy in Alaska, she might like to stay there. But I think that she is certainly taking a look at this presidential run and if she decides not to do it - new books, new TV shows - that will be money in the bank.

INSKEEP: Republicans worried, because why? They don't think she could win in the general election?

ROBERTS: That's right. They think that she's not a candidate, at the moment, at least, who has the credibility to win in a general election.

INSKEEP: OK, thanks very much. That's analysis, on this Monday morning, from NPR's Cokie Roberts.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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