by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
Republicans vying to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in 2012 are mocking her complaints this week about airport security screenings.
They said she’s just now experiencing the humiliations of air travel because she no longer owns a private jet.
McCaskill (D-Mo.), who sold a private plane she owned with her husband earlier this year after unpaid taxes on the jet came to light, complained in a Senate hearing Wednesday about TSA’s controversial pat-down hand searches.
McCaskill is being heavily targeted by the Republican Party next year. She said Wednesday that the TSA’s procedures made her not look forward to flying.
But one of McCaskill’s potential GOP opponents, former Missouri state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, said Thursday that the senator was just now learning how other airline passengers feel.
“Welcome to the real world, Claire,” Steelman said in a statement that was provided to The Hill.
A spokesman for Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who is also running for the GOP nomination to challenge McCaskill next year, agreed.
“It’s a further demonstration of how out of touch she is with regular Missourians who have to endure that every time they fly,” Akin spokesman Karl Hansen said in an interview.
A Real Clear Politics average of polls show both Akin and Steelman within the margin against McCaskill, though the senator remains slightly ahead in most surveys.
Around the time she was selling her plane, McCaskill referred negatively to TSA pat-downs as “love pats” as she explained that she would prefer the agency’s X-ray scanners.
“I’m wildly excited that I can walk through a machine instead of getting my dose of love pats,” McCaskill said in November, according to CBS News.
But McCaskill was not critical of TSA’s overall security efforts, adding at the time that the agency was “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
McCaskill was less understanding Wednesday during a hearing in which TSA Administrator John Pistole was testifying.
“I try to avoid a pat-down at all costs,” McCaskill told Pistole. “There are many times women put their hands on me in a way that if it was your daughter or your sister or your wife, you would be upset.”
After being accused of failing to pay $287,000 in property taxes from 2007 to 2010 on the plane she owned, McCaskill reimbursed St. Louis County and later sold the plane for $1.9 million.
Republicans pounced on the controversy, dubbing the issue “Air Claire.”
A spokesman for McCaskill defended the senator’s statements on TSA’s airport security procedures, saying that she was very familiar with both them and flying commercial airlines.
“Claire came from rural Missouri, worked her way through school as a waitress, sewed her own clothes, was a single mom for years and definitely is in touch with Missourians,” McCaskill’s spokesman said in a statement. “And as they well know, she has always flown commercial aircraft from Missouri to DC and back home.”