The dictatorship has not yet fallen in Tripoli, but by all appearances, it’s only a matter of time before its collapse. This would, of course, raise a variety of new questions about a post-Gaddafi Libya.
For Mitt Romney, the first has to do with the fate of Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, the mastermind behind the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The terrorist attack on a civilian plane, en route to New York, killed 270 people, but Megrahi is alive and well in Tripoli. Romney believes he should be extradited. Asked on Fox News where Megrahi should go, the former governor said:
“Well, to the United States of America would be my first choice. We would try him here and see that justice is done.”
Now, whether this is a good idea or not is a legitimate question. Max Fisher makes the case that the Lockerbie case “is more complicated than it might initially appear, and dredging up Megrahi’s case at this moment carries some risks.”
And while that debate is worthwhile, there’s also a relevant political question: Romney wants a foreign terrorist brought to U.S. soil for a trial? Isn’t that the exact opposite, not only of the Republican Party line, but also of what Romney’s been saying for quite a while?
At a Republican debate in South Carolina in May 2007, in response to a question about a ticking-time bomb-scenario involving terrorists being questioned at Guantanamo, Romney was gung-ho.
“Now we’re going to — you said the person’s going to be in Guantanamo. I’m glad they’re at Guantanamo. I don’t want them on our soil. I want them on Guantanamo, where they don’t get the access to lawyers they get when they’re on our soil. I don’t want them in our prisons. I want them there.”
When the Justice Department announced in April that it was backing off its push to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in civilian courts on U.S. soil, Romney issued a statement praising the decision but blasting President Obama. “An inexperienced and naive president has finally reversed himself on Guantanamo and terrorist trials,” Romney said.
I’m sure there are some diligent folks keeping track of all of the many times Romney took both sides of an issue. This one clearly belongs on the list.