(one in a series that takes a look at some unpopular news coming out of Washington D.C. right before the weekend)
So when the most powerful man on the face of the planet realizes that a civilian trial for KSM, particularly a civilian trial mere blocks from ground zero, was not very popular and re-opening military tribunal proceedings against KSM would disappoint his base, what does he do?
He votes "present", natch.
Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will probably remain in military detention without trial for the foreseeable future, according to Obama administration officials.
The administration has concluded that it cannot put Mohammed on trial in federal court because of the opposition of lawmakers in Congress and in New York. There is also little internal support for resurrecting a military prosecution at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The latter option would alienate liberal supporters.
The administration asserts that it can hold Mohammed and other al-Qaeda operatives under the laws of war, a principle that has been upheld by the courts when Guantanamo Bay detainees have challenged their detention.
The White House has made it clear that President Obama will ultimately make the decision, and a federal prosecution of Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators has not been ruled out, senior officials said. Still, they acknowledge that a trial is unlikely to happen before the next presidential election and, even then, would require a different political environment.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said this week that a decision on a trial for Mohammed was close. Other administration officials said that his remark was simply a stock response to a frequently asked question and that it didn't signal that any announcement was imminent.
That last paragraph is just too rich. Translation: don't pay any never mind to whatever Holder says. If he says the sky is blue, hold that contention very much in doubt.
A whole lot of campaign era rhetoric with respect to combating terrorism in keeping with the Constitution is taking a beating right now.
But here's what we find curious: Is his lefty base going to be any more pacified that Obama has KSM locked up and effectively thrown away the key than they would with a military tribunal? Sure. Voting present will merely evoke shoulder shrugs and sighs from his already dispirited true believers rather than provoking them to anger by taking actual leadership and ownership of this situation.
The 2012 Republican presidential candidate would be wise to remember all of this.