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As Bloomberg and Giuliani Clash on Terror Trials, Brooklyn GOP Establishment Nervously Watches

November 16, 2009

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.”

She noted that New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, have both said that the city would be prepared to handle any trials related to Sept. 11.

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.

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9 Comments
  1. Devi Singh permalink
    November 16, 2009 1:02 pm

    http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/neighbors.php?type=name&lname=Torrenzano&fname=Jay

    Craig’s law firm partner may be an Obama supporter and a Democrat. As Jerry Seinfeld might paraphrase, “not that there’s anything wrong with it…..”

    Jay Torrenzano Esq. financially supported the Obama campain in 2008. This information is free, public and on the World Wide Web.

  2. Edward Greaney permalink
    November 16, 2009 1:06 pm

    which proves he adage – never mix your place of business (or occupation) with anything political or religious. It’s like oil and water – they don’t mix!

    Why don’t “water” and “oil” mix together? I think that the answer would be “because separating from each other is thermodynamically more stable than mixing with each other”. However, I cannot understand why this happens from the molecular interaction point of view?

    Sam Peel (Aug 2005)

  3. Gerry permalink
    November 16, 2009 1:37 pm

    Well, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Everyone knows Craig was a Democrat long before he became a Republican to further his own interests.

  4. Jennifer Ragi permalink
    November 16, 2009 3:40 pm

    Constitutional rights for enemy combatants? Absurd!

    On Friday’s Mark Levin Radio Show (from Nov 13, 2009) Mark discusses how Attorney General Eric Holder is going to allow terrorists to get rights that they do not have under the Constitution, by being tried in the United States. Mark goes through the historical context regarding constitutional rights and enemy combatants from Presidents Lincoln, FDR, Reagan and Bush. President Obama has thrown out 200 years of history and tradition set forth by the Constitution, while embracing some of the most leftist, radical elements in the country. Finally, can we really be surprised with Obama’s decisions when he surrounds himself with people like Bill Ayers?

    http://www.urbanelephants.com/index.php/myblog/Constitutional-rights-for-enemy-combatants-Absurd-.html

  5. Young Republican permalink
    November 16, 2009 6:48 pm

    I think this is an issue that the Brooklyn GOP will have to be very careful with as there are many republicans on both sides of this issue.

    Having a civilian trial we defiantly be more transparent; something we as republican should embrace. But at the other hand, we don’t want this to turn into a mockery of our justice system.

    The argument I hear From Giuliani, that it will be a burden on NYC police and security forces, I think is not such a strong argument because if it’s the right thing to do than that shouldn’t stand in the way, and if it’s the wrong thing to do that we shouldn’t do it whether it’s a burden or not.

    • Jeremy Bentham permalink
      November 16, 2009 7:44 pm

      I am to understand that while KSM will have a civilian trial in NY, the detainees captured on the field of battle or who planned on destroying “military targets” are to be tried in military tribunals. This makes absolutely no sense, both factually and pragmatically.

      Firstly, KSM was responsible for planning terror attacks on not merely the Twin Towers but on the Pentagon, which is “the” military complex above all else. So the “civilian target” argument is entirely specious.

      Secondly, Young Republican, what kind of message does it send to potential terrorists out there that if you attack civilian places instead of military zones you will be granted an American trial with full constitutional benefits, attorneys, First Amendment protections, and all the like?

      Third, you can point to no example in modern or early modern history where such tactics as the Obama Administration are employing now have ever been entertained or used for that matter.

      Fourth, the notion that this will be an open and honest trial is a farce, because even if a jury were to acquit the terrorist at trial, everyone agrees that the government will not allow them to simply walk out of the courtroom. They will be rearrested and tried in perpetuity until a jury convicts them on something or they will be deported and jailed elsewhere until the government is satisfied they are no longer a threat. Try comparing that to OJ or any other civilian trial.

      As such, there is no way that this will even remotely resembles a free and fair trial, and this ridiculous argument that this is the right thing to do is clearly talismanic and meaningless.

      It should be called out for what it is: a political tactic, one to strengthen Obama’s base behind him. What do we get for it? Increased costs and heightened safety threats for our city and nation.

      Nothing good can come from this, not without first enduring serious security risks for New York and America and granting unnecessary rights to individuals who will end up being tried in perpetuity anyway and not have the honest benefits of those rights.

      Let no one be duped. This is a very unfortunate political move on the part of our government, and the former Mayor is correct on this issue.

      • Young Republican permalink
        November 16, 2009 8:10 pm

        If the concerns you mention about our justice system are true, (and I would be the first to agree with you that there are many serious problems with our system,) than that should be a reason to reform the system, not to say we shouldn’t use it at all.

        The concern that people have that KSM might be acquitted in a civilian court, shows that people have no faith in the courts, and this problem will not go away by giving them a military trial.

        If we believe in our system, than we must believe it works in all circumstances. If it doesn’t, than the issue we should be discussing is our judicial system in general, not just this specific case.

        Again, I’m not saying that they should be tried in a civilian court; all I’m saying is that I can see both arguments.

      • Jeremy Benthan permalink
        November 16, 2009 8:21 pm

        I can see both arguments: one makes sense, the other is farcical.

        The notion that KSM would get a fair trial in a city where all of the judges in the Southern District were witnesses to the destruction of the Twin Towers, let alone the notion that any jury would give him a fair shake is absurd. But in any event, this is not the right system in which to try him. The primary reason why he would not get a fair trial in civilian court is for the most basic reason that civilian court is not the appropriate “system.”

        I believe in our system, but in the appropriate court: war criminals should be tried for war crimes in military tribunals. KSM is such. He deserves nothing less.

        Moreover, the safety issues of holding such a trial in New York overrule any fealty to symbolism or the inherent “justice” of trying him in the place in which his plots led to the deaths of thousands.

        Mayor Bloomberg is wrong, and our party should recognize that fact.

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  1. In Break With Bloomberg After Catastrophic Losses, Eaton Answers Atlas’ Call on Terror Trial Issue « Atlas Shrugs in Brooklyn

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