Lingle slams Obama on terror
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By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday that the Obama administration has shown a "tin ear" on national security by bringing accused terrorists to trial in civilian courts.
The U.S. Department of Justice wants to hold the death penalty trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and several co-conspirators in a federal courtroom in New York.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the trial can safely be held in a civilian court and is part of the Obama administration's effort to close Guantanamo Bay, the Cuba detention facility where many terrorist suspects have been held.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young Nigerian who allegedly tried to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas, was also charged in civilian court.
Many Republicans have said that terrorist suspects should be tried by military commissions.
"You treat these people in the same way as if they just robbed a convenience store? And you use our tax money to hire them lawyers to go into civilian courts? You're proving to the American people you're out of touch," Lingle said at a luncheon at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting at Hilton Hawaiian Village.
"You're telegraphing that you have no idea how an average American feels about this issue."
She said people in Hawai'i have a heightened awareness of the issue because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II.
"We have a clear understanding what it means to be attacked on our own soil," Lingle said.
Chuck Freedman, a Democratic strategist, said several terrorism suspects were tried in civilian courts under President Bush.
"She's just singing to an inconsistent chorus," he said of Lingle.
Freedman also said Lingle has shown her own "tin ear" on issues such as teacher furloughs, which she signed off on and later acknowledged were a mistake.
"The governor has proven over time to be a real expert on the subject," he said.
Lingle also urged Republicans gathering for the RNC meeting not to move forward with a so-called "litmus test" on potential candidates. Delegates may consider a resolution today that would require candidates to follow at least eight of 10 conservative principles to get RNC support for their campaigns.
Lingle said many local Republicans doubted whether she was "Republican enough" when she first became a state GOP leader.
"I couldn't have passed a litmus test when I ran for office," she said. "It would have been tough for me, and I needed your money, and a lot of you gave it to me, so please help our candidates, even if they don't line up exactly right."