IF THEY REALLY WANT TO POLITICIZE NATIONAL SECURITY…. A variety of congressional Republicans seem awfully anxious to play partisan games with the terrorist threat, and exploit the Abdulmutallab plot for electoral gain. The risk, of course, is that by starting the fight, the GOP attack dogs may be confronted with issues they’re unprepared to deal with.

There is, for example, the fact that the nominated head of the TSA can’t get confirmed because of Republican obstructionism. Then there’s the fact that congressional Republicans also opposed funding for the TSA, including money for screening operations and explosives detection systems.

And then there’s this unpleasant tidbit.

Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Northwest bombing in a Monday statement that vowed more attacks on Americans.

American officials agreed to send the two terrorists from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia, where they entered into an “art therapy rehabilitation program” and were set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials.

As Ron Chusid put it, “Just imagine the Republican response if Barack Obama or Bill Clinton had released prisoners to enter an ‘art therapy rehabilitation program.’ This sounds almost as silly as an American president sitting and reading a children’s book while the country is under attack.”

Now, just to be clear, I’m not suggesting Bush/Cheney are indirectly responsible for the attempted attack on Christmas. Sure, the Bush/Cheney administration released some of the alleged terrorists who plotted the attack into an “art therapy rehabilitation program” in Saudi Arabia, only to see them become terrorist leaders in Yemen. And sure, it was the Bush administration that gave Abdulmutallab a visa to enter the United States in the first place. But there was almost certainly no way for the former administration to know what would happen.

Let’s be honest — if Obama had released the attack’s plotters into an “art therapy rehabilitation program” in Saudi Arabia, we would never hear the end of it. This would be the lead story on Fox News every day until the end of time. “Art therapy rehabilitation program” would become President Obama’s middle name(s).

If Republicans really want to turn the attempted terrorist attack into a partisan fight, Democrats should welcome the opportunity.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.