CONSISTENCY ISN’T THEIR STRONG POINT, CONT’D…. We talked yesterday about how Republicans haven’t exactly been consistent when it comes to their deeply held beliefs on the perils of judicial filibusters. But their consistency on trials for terrorists is arguably more humiliating.
In 2002, the Bush Justice Department put Zacarias Moussaoui, an al Qaeda terrorist often referred to as the “20th 9/11 hijacker,” on trial in a federal court near D.C. No one, at the time, said then-President Bush was putting American lives at risk or undermining U.S. national security interests with the trial. Despite the conservative apoplexy of the last week, the Moussaoui trial was simply considered appropriate and routine.
Greg Sargent reported today on a quote from George W. Bush in 2006, in which the then-president proclaimed that terrorists should be “tried in courts here in the United States.”
At the time, Bush was waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the military commissions he had established to try alleged members of Al Qaeda. At the presser, he said the administration was waiting for the high court to determine the “proper venue” for trying suspected terrorists, and seemed to say U.S. courts were a valid venue if it came to it.
At a minimum, Bush clearly saw no problem with bringing suspected terrorists to the U.S. for trial — something that the Obama administration is now doing, drawing widespread criticism on the right.
I haven’t found any evidence of any conservatives criticizing Bush’s position or his decision to try Moussaoui in a criminal court on American soil.
Likewise, let’s not forget that Rudy Giuliani, one of the leading Republican attack dogs on President Obama, said he considered the Moussaoui trial a testament to the strength of our legal system and the American dedication to the “rule of law.” Giuliani called the verdict “a symbol of American justice,” and said the trial itself might improve America’s standing internationally. After Moussaoui was convicted by a civilian jury, the former mayor boasted, “America won tonight.”
Similarly, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called a Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial “indefensible,” arguing that it would help terrorists. But when Bush brought Moussaoui to a criminal courtroom for a trial near the Pentagon, Sessions was satisfied with the administration’s decision.
Is a little intellectual consistency too much to ask for? Don’t answer that; it’s a rhetorical question.