Oh, look who BLINKED! [UPDATE BELOW: Or did he?!] If we learned one lesson from Sarah Palin and George W. Bush, it's that a leader must never blink and must keep his or her eyes permanently unmoistened, using those Clockwork Orange eyelid clamps if necessary, while blundering forth on whatever path was haphazardly decided upon, no matter how catastrophic or costly things get. Today both tabloids run identical cover story headlines—BAM BLINKS—as news breaks that the White House has instructed the Justice Department to consider other places to try the 9/11 terror suspects.
The decision comes after Mayor Bloomberg blinked earlier this week, contradicting his earlier support for holding the trials of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his accomplices in Lower Manhattan. Bloomberg and other local politicians are now concerned about the high cost and severe disruption the trials will cause, while some conservatives believe the suspects should be tried in military court. (Republicans in the Senate and House are trying to block financing for civilian criminal trials.)
One source tells the Daily News that Bloomberg's sudden change of heart came after NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly gave an "extremely powerful" speech to a roomful of 150 prominent business leaders about how disruptive and costly the trial would be for lower Manhattan. "What turned this around was when Ray made a presentation to the Police Foundation," the source said. "Everyone went from thinking, 'Justice will be served' to thinking 'We are screwed.'" Bloomberg then received a "barrage" of complaints from the captains of industry. Senator Chuck Schumer says he also helped Obama blink:
Well, I think the main thing that happened was that the mayor and the police commissioner laid out legitimate concerns, about costs -- billions of dollars over several years; logistics -- large parts of downtown might have to be in lock down for periods of time; and of course about safety. Those concerns led me to call the White House and argue that they explore alternatives. It made sense.
One option now under consideration is to hold a civilian trial on a military base. Up in Newburgh, Mayor Nicholas Valentine thinks this
circus trial could be his big break. "I look at it almost as a tourist attraction," Valentine tells the Post. "The international attention would put Newburgh on the map." He says he'd be happy to host the trial at nearby Stewart Air National Guard Base, despite its lack of courtroom or jail facilities, or—better yet—Newburgh's brand new city courthouse. "Then I could collect the money to pay off the debt on the construction," says Mayor Valentine. And maybe there'll even be money left over for a monorail!
Other mayors are less eager to host the trial. The federal courthouse in White Plains, 30 miles north of Manhattan, is being eyed as an option, but Mayor Adam T. Bradley says he's afraid of Al Qaeda attacking his constituents. "I think we need to be realistic," Bradley tells the Times. "Once you’ve placed it in a place like White Plains, you’ve made the city an automatic target, and everything located in it."
UPDATE:An anonymous Obama administration official has emailed Huffington Post to dismiss today's news as "overwritten." The official is suggesting that reporters are merely exaggerating "contingency plans" to relocate the trial if necessary. And an unnamed Justice Department official says there not been "any order from the White House" to look into an alternate venue, but acknowledged they are "considering other sites" because NYC is looking too expensive.