President Barack Obama will “help select” a location for trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (known as KSM) and the other accused planners of the 9/11 attacks, according to an article in Friday’s Washington Post. The trials were supposed to be in New York, but that’s up in the air now after the administration was caught off-guard by a barrage of criticism from Republicans. Of course, Obama almost certainly knew that Attorney General Eric Holder was going to pick Manhattan as the site for the trials before Holder announced the decision in November. So this leak (from “three administration officials”) seems like an obvious hit on Holder for not better handling the politics of the initial announcement. Take this paragraph:
Officials acknowledged that Holder does not deserve all the blame for the political problems. “Their building represents what they do—justice. It’s rightly not staffed with people who have to worry about congressional relations or federal funding,” one White House official said.
It’s pretty clear from these sentences that the White House officials were trying to blame Holder for the political problems resulting from the decision to try KSM in civilian court in New York, and that the reporters didn’t buy that Holder deserved 100 percent of the blame.
Good for the Post reporters for pushing back. The Obama administration has been pretty explicit about its desire to have an “independent” Justice Department. That’s not easy, though, because if the DOJ is going to be independent, and the Obama administration doesn’t want to get clobbered politically, someone else is going to have to come up with a plan to deal with the politics of the DOJ’s decisions. According to the Post piece, no one did that—”the decision to try Mohammed in New York was Holder’s and…no single person in the administration was responsible for handling the politics of that choice.”
The anonymous officials’ attempt to pin the blame on Holder is classic pass-the-buck. And there’s actually a good case for trying KSM and his buddies in Manhattan. Jon Stewart makes it passionately and eloquently at about the 4:10 mark in this clip:
Now, how hard was that?