Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Hoekstra: Which Is It?

My colleague Spencer Ackerman asks a very good question about Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who wasted no time in cranking up the demagoguery machine after the attempted airline bombing in Detroit. Given his repeated public claims that trying terrorists in criminal courts and housing them in civilian prisons is an intolerable threat to public safety, shouldn’t he be demanding that this new terrorist be taken immediately to Gitmo and kept there forever without charges?

So Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the alleged would-be bomber of Northwest Airlines Flight 253, is being detained and questioned in a federal prison in Michigan. He’s expected to appear in court today, after federal authorities indicted him yesterday. If convicted, he’ll be imprisoned in a federal prison. A federal civilian prison. Just like the one that Republican politicians said would leave American communities vulnerable if Guantanamo detainees were sent there.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), for instance, started telling residents of Standish, Mich., things that “really scared the heck” out of them after the Obama administration considered moving Guantanamo detainees to the federal prison there. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kans.) boasted about shutting down the Senate over an administration plan to move the detainees to the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kans. Both the Standish and the Leavenworth plans were dropped. But now here’s a real live aspiring terrorist — indeed, Hoekstra tweeted that the Northwest incident was “a terrorist attack” even though it failed — going to a real live federal prison on actual American soil and … nothing. It’s almost like these guys are hypocrites who don’t think through what they say before they find a bank of cameras.

It’s not almost like that, it’s exactly like that. They won’t say this publicly, of course, but the position that they’re taking by implication is that someone arrested based on hearsay and bribed testimony from anonymous tippers alleging that they had some involvement with terrorists (as many, perhaps most, of the Gitmo detainees were) should be locked away forever in Gitmo without being able to challenge their detention; those arrested while actually committing an act of terrorism, on the other hand, should be given a fair trial and sent to a civilian prison if convicted. That’s a rather bizarre position — which is why they can’t actually come out and say that, because it would reveal how absurd their position is in the first place.

And yes, Hoekstra is already using this to raise money for his gubernatorial bid in Michigan and Ackerman is nailing him on that too. Hoekstra’s fundraising letter says:

They just don’t get it. The system didn’t “work” here. Far from it! It is insulting that The Obama administration would make such a claim, but then again, these are the same weak-kneed liberals who have recently tried to bring Guantanamo Bay terrorists right here to Michigan! … I have pledged that I will do “everything possible” to prevent these terrorists from coming to Michigan.

And Spencer responds:

Hey congressman! The guy who tried to blow up Northwest Flight 253? He is in prison — right there in Michigan! He has been! For days! Has Michigan exploded yet? No? Well, what might that mean for your contention? You know, the one that you’re asking supporters to fund?

Ah, logic. If only it mattered more in politics.