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GOP’s Politics of Fear… AGAIN

GitmoAs you have probably heard, the Obama Administration has suggested the federal government buying an underutilized prison in Thomson, Illinois, about 150 miles west of Chicago, and sending Gitmo detainees to the prison after it is remade into a supermaximum security prison. The sale of the prison, currently owned and run by the state of Illinois (I’m not sure if you heard, but the state is in a severe budget deficit) could bring up to $1 billion to the state of Illinois in federal funds and provide thousands of jobs to an economically depressed area of the state.

I should not be surprised Republicans are attempting to derail the plan, as it was suggested by President Obama. One thing you have to give Republicans is they have been very consistent. If President Obama wants something, they do their best to stop it. Obama could want to go to the Vatican to get Ronald Reagan sainted and the GOP would howl about him taking Air Force One out at taxpayer expense.

The GOP saying no is not as disconcerting as the scare tactics they use to sway public support. More problematic is that our more moderate Republicans are guilty as well. Instead of looking at what is in the best interests of the state and the area surrounding Thomson, instead of making sensible arguments against such a sale, Republicans are attempting to scare the daylights out of everyone.

Republican Congressman Don Manzullo (who represents the district which includes Thomson) said on a Rockford radio station Tuesday that “these are really, really mean people whose job it is to kill people, driven by some savage religion.”

Republican Andy McKenna, who is running for governor, sent an email to supporters on Wednesday:

It appears that Governor Quinn’s only plan to cut spending and create jobs is free prisoners and bring terrorists to Illinois. I wholeheartedly oppose Governor Quinn and President Obama’s efforts to move Gitmo detainees to our neighborhoods. This shows how out of touch Governor Quinn really is.

The only thing that makes less sense than trying to solve our budget crisis by bringing terrorists to Illinois is promoting this plan as if it were a good thing for Illinois families.

Gov. Quinn appears to be taking an “Alice in Wonderland” approach to his role as governor; the state’s not really nearly bankrupt, and what we really need to do is bring some terrorists here.

As Governor I would not support this extreme plan and I call on the General Assembly to act swiftly and decisively to put a halt to Governor Quinn’s attempts to put terrorists in our neighborhoods.

My running mate, Senator Matt Murphy, requested a legal opinion from the attorney general on the Thomson prison issue.

Matt Murphy and I recognize that the Thomson Correctional Center is underutilized, but this is not the direction we should take to maximize the facilities operations.

I have a question: Why? Why is Governor Quinn out of touch on this one, Andy? You make many charges in your email, but fail to provide an answer. I suppose “NO!” is an answer, just not a very constructive one.

Moderate republican Mark Kirk, who is running for the United States Senate (who I was considering voting for next year, until the last three weeks or so) noted that “with the busiest airport in the world and the tallest building in North America, I do not think we should make Chicagoland the center of jihadi attention in the world.” At least Kirk made an argument, granted, served with an extra helping of fear.

This whole Thomson conversation reminds me of Allen Iverson famously talking about professional basketball practice years ago. I mean, what are we talking about, prison, right? Prison?

Prison is a place bad people go. These guys are so bad, we kill some of them for their crimes. Murderers. Rapists. People we don’t want around us because they’re dangerous. With very few exceptions, people in prison are not going anywhere. They are locked up and locked down. We can keep dangerous Americans behind bars– why not a detainee? These detainees are not going anywhere. Do they not know that there has never been an escape from a supermax facility?

They know it. Republicans are just playing politics. Republicans know that there are currently 35 inmates doing time in Illinois on federal terrorism charges, including, as the Chicago Tribune editorial board reported on November 17, 2009, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri.

Al-Marri was born in Qatar and was arrested after 9/11 and accused of being affiliated with Al-Qaida. Al-Marri had attended terrorist training camps and met with 9/11 engineer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Al-Marri spent more than six years in custody as an enemy combatant and after being indicted on federal terrorism charges, has been held in prisons in Pekin, Illinois and Marion, Illinois. During his tenure in these facilities, there were no terrorist attacks in Pekin or Marion. That you have not noticed the 35 Illinois prisoners in on federal terrorism charges proves that there are no extraordinary risks to holding members of Al-Qaida as prisoners in Illinois.

Besides, hypothetically, if a detainee were to escape, where would I rather him be? On a communist island generally regarded by republicans as hostile to America or would I want this detainee in the middle of north-central Illinois, in a blizzard, sticking out like a sore thumb? Do I want him on foreign soil with a government hostile to the United States potentially assisting him to freedom, or do I want him smack dab in the middle of the United States? I’d actually feel more comfortable that a terrorist escapee would be dealt with appropriately if he escaped in north central Illinois, than I would in Cuba.

I don’t think it’s too much for Republicans to stop trying to scare the public into supporting its policies. It didn’t work last November, lets hope it doesn’t work now. GOP: use sound arguments (as plenty of sound arguments can be made, especially against Governor Quinn) not fear, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll vote for you. Andy McKenna: good satirical commercials, with unfortunately little substance, hopefully he shows us more in the weeks to come. Mark Kirk: shame on you. I expected more.

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