HEADLINE OF THE DAY…. One of the top stories on the front page of the Washington Post this morning has this headline:

Obama aide defends trial for suspect in Christmas Day attempt to bomb plane

The article explains that John Brennan, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, “defended the administration’s decision to try in federal court the man charged with attempting to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day.”

As Adam Serwer explained, “It’s really remarkable that we’ve gotten to a point in American history where the Republican Party has managed to make fair trials for people who commit crimes ‘controversial.’”

It does reflect a certain political madness. Eight years ago, facing a nearly identical terrorist attempt to blow up an airplane en route to the United States, Bush administration officials followed the exact same steps. In December 2001, after Richard “Shoe Bomber” Reid used PETN in his failed attack, and federal officials charged, convicted, sentenced, and incarcerated Reid very effectively. The case tested the federal justice system, which passed with flying colors. At the time, no one questioned or criticized the Bush administration’s handling of the case — it simply didn’t occur to anyone that the process might be controversial.

Military tribunals existed at the time, but they were used when officials didn’t have enough evidence to try terrorist suspects in a federal criminal court. As Josh Marshall put it last week, “The truth is, until President Obama got into office and Republicans needed a new political attack angle, the idea barely occurred to anyone that you wouldn’t do a regular trial with someone you had plenty of evidence against…. The argument for trying Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab in a military court is one that comes that comes from the campaign committees of the Republican Party. There’s just no two ways about it.”

That Brennan has to mount a “defense” for following the rule of law, the same exact way the Bush administration did, suggests just how far the discourse has strayed from reality.

On Fox News this morning, we saw this inanity played out on the air. Brian Kilmeade said Abulmutallab will face criminal charges because the Obama administration is too concerned with “what the rest of the world thinks.” Steve Doocy pretended the Bush administration simply didn’t exist and said putting Abdulmutallab on trial “takes us back to the days of the Clinton administration.”

Either they’re idiots or they think their viewers are.

Steve Benen

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.