Former Representative and New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio responds to nineteen House Democrats from New York in a letter to be released this morning. Lazio criticizes the Democratrs’ stance on the Obama administration’s decision to hold a civilian criminal trial for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and four of his co-conspirators in lower Manhattan, blocks from Ground Zero. Earlier this month, the nineteen Democrats signed on to a letter written Rep. Michael McMahon (D-Staten Island), calling on the Obama administration to reimburse the city and state of New York for the cost of security necessitated by hosting the trial.
HUMAN EVENTS was given an exclusive first look at the letter (reprinted below). In it, Lazio castigates the administration for placing the trial in federal civilian court in New York City, and says the House Democrats’ call for reimbursement is, “sorely misguided.” Lazio says that the representatives are shirking their responsibility to their constituencies in refusing to oppose holding the trial in New York.
“I was a Congressman. I know that we have a duty as representatives of the people to stand up not just for our own personal ideology, but for the basic views and values we swore to protect,” Lazio writes. “This decision runs anathema to those basic views and values.”
“With security costs surpassing $200 million, the emphasis should not just be on the cost, but on the obvious risk to New Yorkers a price tag that large indicates.”
In an exclusive interview with HUMAN EVENTS, Lazio talked about the administration’s decision, and New York Democrats’ wrongheaded focus on securing an appropriation for the trial, instead of securing the safety of their constituents.
“I believe that creating the risk to human life that this trial entails is unnecessary and extreme, and for that reason, this is a fundamentally immoral decision,” Lazio said. “It is wrong in terms of the direct risk to the people of the downtown area and the City of New York. Police will be pulled away from other areas of the city, creating risk to other ares of New York. It is wrong in terms of treating enemy combatants as common criminals. To allow an enemy that wants to destroy our culture, economy, and our way of life the same rights and privileges as citizens is a fundamental misreading of who these terrorists are and why they are a threat.”
Asked to speculate on the motivations of his former House colleagues, each of whom support the Obama administration’s decision to hold the trial in New York City, Lazio demurred. But he said that their attempt to address the issue likely has to do with the general sense of anger within the country with a federal government that has grown, “unaccountable and often arrogant.” “My former colleagues realize that New Yorkers are frustrated and upset. The people expect action and leadership. The trouble is that the Democrats’ focus is misplaced. The problem is far from cost. It is a fundamental understanding of the nature of the enemy.”
On the leadership question, Lazio was critical of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, his expected rival in the general election this fall, for thus far refusing to take a position on the trial. “I want to except Gov. Paterson because I think he has voiced his opposition to the trial,” Lazio said. “But it certainly is the case that the Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer in the State of New York, should have an opinion. It has been disappointing that the Attorney General has not shown leadership on this issue.”
Lazio, who points out that his campaign has not run a single commercial thus far, has been enjoying a surge in the polls of late; with the most recent Rasmussen Reports survey showing him leading Paterson and shaving nearly ten points off Cuomo’s lead from the last survey. Lazio’s campaign trumpeted a result from that latest poll showing him besting Cuomo among independents, a factor which Lazio attributed to a mood within the electorate similar to that displayed in Massachusetts last week, culminating in the run-away victory of Republican State Sen. Scott Brown over Democrat Attorney General Martha Coakley.
“As I travel all over the state of New York, I feel the same sense of outrage that the people of Massachusetts expressed. People feel that government overspends, overtaxes, and overreaches, and they want their government back,” Lazio said. “This includes Republicans, disaffected Democrats, and independent voters. It’s a strong sign that my campaign’s message of the need to lower taxes, lower spending, create jobs, and create fundamental change in New York so that we can compete again for businesses, jobs, and taxpayers is resonating. It is remarkable in a state like this which has not always been the most hospitable place for conservative politicians. People are recognizing the consequences of failed policies.”
And just like Brown made a central campaign issue out of the Obama administration’s treatment of terrorists, Lazio said that terrorism will play a major role in his campaign for governor. “The primary job of a governor is to protect the people of the state, to guarantee their security, to make them feel safer. [Terrorism] is an issue I have heard about on Long Island, and in rural areas upstate. People are incredulous about the administration’s decision to hold this trial in New York. People feel the same sense of outrage, and it will absolutely be an important issue in the campaign,” he said.
Lazio was one of the first prominent Republicans in New York to sign on to a HUMAN EVENTS petition calling on the Obama administration to reverse the decision to hold a federal civilian trial in New York for Mohammad and his co-conspirators. He has since been joined by more than 100,000 Americans from across the country, including New York’s Rep. Peter King (R-Nassau County), former governor George Pataki, and former Staten Island representative Vito Fossella.
Just last week, Community Board 1 in lower Manhattan voted to approve a resolution calling for the trial to be moved out of the neighborhood to a safer location, suggesting Governor’s Island off Manhattan’s southern tip. Lazio calls that suggestion “incrementally better,” but said that the proper venue for such a trial is before a military tribunal. “This is what military tribunals were made for,” he said.
As terrorists like Umar Abdulmutallab continue to try and strike against America, Lazio will likely not be the last Republican to raise the issue of the Obama Administration’s and Congressional Democrats’ coddling of terrorists as the 2010 elections draw closer. Lazio and national Republicans hope to ride the issue to control of Congress and a majority of governor’s mansions come November.
Dear Member of Congress,
The decision to hold the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City is an issue of great importance to millions of New Yorkers, myself included. This decision is misguided, immoral, and wrong. I, and the vast majority of New Yorkers and Americans, oppose treating terrorists as if they have the rights and privileges of an American citizen. Our government is treating them as though they were engaged in nothing more than a simple burglary. Protecting these terrorists with the very freedoms they sought to destroy on September 11th is reprehensible.
I was a Congressman. I know that we have a duty as representatives of the people to stand up not just for our own personal ideology, but for the basic views and values we swore to protect. This decision runs anathema to those basic views and values.
Your focus on the economic cost of holding a trial here in New York is laudable but sorely misguided. With security costs surpassing $200 million, the emphasis should not just be on the cost, but on the obvious risk to New Yorkers a price tag that large indicates.
A civilian trial opens the possibility that these enemies of America could be acquitted on a technicality and endangers the intelligence capabilities of our nation by revealing classified information and methodologies. Further, bringing the trial to New York City adds an unusual amount of risk to many thousands of people. All of this only emboldens our enemies.
You and I know that the people must be listened to and not ignored because of ideological purity. Forcing the anguish of civilian trial on the people of this country, and particularly the families of those we lost on September 11th, can and should be avoided. If any issue called out for bi-partisanship and unity, it is this one.
Terrorism must never be tolerated or excused. We are at war. These are not American citizens committing crimes. These are terrorists in acts of war. No civilian trial for terrorists. It’s just that simple.