As Bloomberg and Giuliani Clash on Terror Trials, Brooklyn GOP Establishment Nervously Watches
Sometimes you almost have to feel sorry for our poor failed Chairman Craig “The Duke” Eaton and his Bay Ridge Cabal.
First, Eaton divides the party and fails to heal the wounds from his contentious re-election. Then, he sees the 2009 elections kick the life out of the Brooklyn GOP like never before, having failed to see even one GOP candidate win in Brooklyn.
Now, Eaton, Sen. Marty Golden, and the rest of the Brooklyn GOP “leadership” are caught the in the middle of what is becoming an extremely controversial and high profile debate about 9/11 and the legality of trying terrorists in American courts–more specifically in our home city of New York.
Two men that Eaton and the establishment have supported very openly and publicly–former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and current Mayor Michael Bloomberg–are at odds over what could be the issue of the coming year. But one question remains: what is the Brooklyn GOP’s stand on these trials?
The Brooklyn GOP posse has been silent about more than just recent party events.
We know Eaton, for example, has been openly rooting for Rudy Giuliani for Governor, and in fact unilaterally endorsed him for that post in his official position, without a vote of the party’s executive committee or even an official declaration of Giuliani’s intent to run (in fact, there are serious doubts that Giuliani will in fact run if Cuomo does).
Most recently, Eaton was one of the New York City GOP Chairmen who bent over backwards for Mayor Bloomberg in his campaign by granting him a Wilson Pakula, despite failing to help Bloomberg carry a borough that preferred Bill Thompson. He seemed to be everywhere with the Mayor: at fundraisers, parades–the works.
But now, the Brooklyn GOP might want to distance itself from Bloomberg. He has taken a very controversial position on the terror trials of alleged 9/11 terrorists here on American soil.
The New York Times had the following article out this weekend about the political debacle that has ensued as a result of this clash, which was propelled by the Obama Administration’s decision to try the terrorists:
Rudolph W. Giuliani, mayor of New York at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said on Sunday that the Obama administration’s decision to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the attacks, in a civilian court in Manhattan would unnecessarily cost millions of dollars for security, create legal advantages for the defense and symbolically deny that the United States is at war with terrorism.
“It gives an unnecessary advantage to the terrorists and why would you want to give an advantage to the terrorists, and it poses risks for New York,” Mr. Giuliani said in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He also interviewed on ABC’s “This Week” and “Fox News Sunday.”
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced on Friday that the United States would try Mr. Mohammed in the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, just blocks from where the World Trade Center towers were brought down by the attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Mr. Holder said that a military commission would try five other detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, because they are accused of committing crimes overseas.
Mr. Giuliani, a former prosecutor whose national profile rose after Sept. 11, ran a short-lived campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination and is being talked about as a leading prospect in the 2010 New York gubernatorial race. On “This Week,” Mr. Giuliani said that he would soon decide whether he would run for governor.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, also interviewed on “This Week,” said she had no plans to run for governor and was committed to her duties as secretary of state.
Mr. Giuliani that said Mr. Mohammed and four other accused Sept. 11 co-conspirators should have also be tried by a military tribunal. But his criticism was shrugged off by Mrs. Clinton and David Axelrod, a top adviser to President Obama, in an appearance on the same program. He suggested that Mr. Giuliani was contradicting himself since he had on previous occasions voiced praise for trials for suspected terrorists in civilian courtrooms. “He may have changed his views but we haven’t changed ours,” Mr. Axelrod said.
Mr. Axelrod also pointed out that since 2001, 195 cases of terrorism have been prosecuted in civilian courts and 91 percent of them have resulted in convictions.
Mrs. Clinton, in an interview from Singapore on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said Mr. Holder’s decision, reached with the concurrence of the Department of Defense, was “comprehensively examined” and “I’m not going to second-guess.”
Mr. Giuliani argued that military trials were used for enemy combatants in previous wars and that “we wouldn’t have tried the people who attacked Pearl Harbor in a civilian court in Hawaii.” Allowing such trials in a civilian courtroom creates strategic opportunities, like protracted legal maneuvering and changes in venue and increases the possibility of an acquittal, he said.
“To treat this as a act like an ordinary murder that year was a mistake,” he said on “State of the Union.” “It should have been treated as an act of war.”
The decision, he said, was another example of “Barack Obama deciding we’re not at war with terrorists any more.”
“I’m concerned that we no longer believe we’re at war with Islamic terrorists when they’re at war with us,” he said. He added that the administration has been hesitant to label the Nov. 5 deadly shooting of 12 soldiers and a civilian at Fort Hood, Tex., as an act of terrorism, noting that the suspect, Nidal Malik Hasan, had printed a personal business card that used an abbreviation describing himself as a “Soldier of Allah.”
“The administration has been slow to come to the conclusion that Hasan is an Islamic terrorist,” he said on “This Week.” “These are acts of war.”
Told of Mayor Bloomberg’s blessing for the trial, Mr. Giuliani said: “We have a difference of opinion.”
The decision to try Mr. Mohammed in a civilian court was also batted around on CBS’s “Face the Nation” by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Democrat who heads the Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.
Mr. Leahy, a former criminal prosecutor, praised Mr. Holder’s decision and said he did not think Mr. Mohammed would obtain an acquittal because he had been subjected to waterboarding during his interrogation.
“With the review that I’ve had of the evidence available, I have no question that they have enough evidence untainted by the waterboarding that will be admissible in court,” Mr. Leahy said. “And he will be convicted.”
Mr. Hoekstra said he feared that Mr. Mohammed and his accused co-conspirators would try to make the trial “a circus” and “use it as a platform to push their ideology.” Why, he asked, should Mr. Mohammed and the other suspects be given “the extraordinary protections that you and I have as American citizens?”
“Yes, I think that’s a bad decision,” he said.
Mayor Bloomberg’s blessing puts him squarely in the Obama camp, a place Eaton definitely does not want to find himself in.
So here comes the question: how does the Brooklyn GOP stand on this issue?
No one knows that answer, but whatever patronage or benefits Eaton or the party were expected to receive as a result of supporting Bloomberg, the party might want to get smart and tackle this issue very carefully.
In the end, our party has to do what’s best for justice and for our city. We were all impacted by 9/11 in a very deep and painful way. While it might seem fitting to try terrorists in New York, the dangers of holding a trial here and the grant of numerous additional legal rights to these despicable fiends does not seem to be what Republicans and Independents want in this city.
With an important election in the 13th Congressional District coming up this year, this is an issue the party can’t afford to get wrong.
We’ll see if the establishment gets it right.
I won’t hold my breath.