Your moment of total facepalmitude today is courtesy of The New York Times piece on Attorney General Holder’s political missteps over the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial. Cue Rahm Emanuel:
Mr. Emanuel, who favored a military trial for the Sept. 11 detainees, said his disagreement with Mr. Holder is rooted in different perspectives, not personalities. “You can’t close Guantánamo without Senator Graham, and K.S.M. was a link in that deal,” he said, referring to Mr. Mohammed.
Be charitable to Emanuel and assume he’s counting Senate votes on funding the Thomson-purchase and believes that Graham is the sixtieth vote. Even so: juh? The money for buying Thomson and shutting Guantanamo down is in the Afghanistan “supplemental.”* Your strategy there has to be holding the chairmen of the relevant committees’ feet to the fire on not stripping it out, because the “supplemental” is the hardest funding bill for Congress to obstruct.
More directly: Lindsey Graham is one of 41 Republican senators. He has the capacity to be reasonable. And yet when he’s faced with people who know more than he does, he acts like a baby, as with his petulant treatment of longtime FBI counterterrorist Ali Soufan last year. He is not the chairman of anything. He is not the ranking member of anything. He controls no money. If you believe he has the power to rally along GOP votes, ask how that climate change bill is coming. There is absolutely no legal or procedural way that the road to shutting Guantanamo down runs inexorably through Graham’s office. That’s a political choice.
And while I suppose it’s kindhearted in the Broderian sense — not that Broder would ever credit Rahm for such a thing — it’s also a unilateral disarmament. If Emanuel really believes that it’s more appropriate to try KSM in a military commission, he’s not listening to John Brennan, who knows a hell of a lot more about this shit than Emanuel, nor to Eric Holder or to Joe Biden. There is absolutely no metric under which military commissions are more successful than federal prosecutions — not conviction rates; not legitimacy; not intelligence “leaks”; not crazypants defendant yelping. The attacks on federal trials for terrorism cases are groundless. And that’s why you’d be fooling yourself to believe that anyone allegedly trading “GTMO for KSM” is acting in good faith here. All you’ll get is two agenda items unraveled because of unforced political errors.
*I put “supplemental” in quotes because functionally it’s a supplemental funding request but there’s also another supplemental to fund the extra 30,000 troops for Afghanistan. This “supplemental” is called an Overseas Contingency Operations Fund, the New Normal for requesting war money and distinguishing it from the Pentagon’s so-called base budget (non-war expenses). It’s entirely possible I’ve created confusion where none previously existed.