Lindsey Graham has become the latest Republican to whine that White House Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan should be fired, repeating a number of conservative canards about how the Christmas bombing was handled:
Brennan, Graham said, "disconnected from the world in which we live in and the threats we face. He is also the same guy that assured us that within 50 minutes we got all the information we needed from the Christmas day bomber. He is also the guy who says, 'hey he is now talking.' But can you really have a system where the parents of the terrorist will encourage the terrorist to cooperate with the FBI? Is it any way to fight a war to read Miranda rights? And do you want someone in charge of counterterrorism who finds a 20 percent return to fight rate is acceptable. He is lost my confidence and is the best evidence yet how disconnected this administration has come from the fact we are at war. We are at war and these statements are just mind boggling and unnerving."
Maybe you're startled to hear a politician disparage an Arabic-speaking 25-year veteran of the CIA who has spent years working in the Middle East as someone who is "disconnected from the world in which we live in and the threats we face." You shouldn't be.
Within the last month, Sen. Kit Bond and Rep. Pete Hoekstra have called for Brennan to be fired because of his role in pushing back against Republican criticisms of how the Christmas bombing was handled. Sen. John McCain attacked Brennan for using the term "recidivism" to compare the low rates at which former Guantanamo detainees have subsequently been suspected of terrorist activity to higher criminal recidivism rates. In this context, "recidivism" is actually a flawed term not because detainees are super criminals -- as McCain suggests -- but because most of them weren't dangerous in the first place. Further, the former Bush administration used the same term as well. McCain's not concerned with these things. Frankly, his real objection seems to be Brennan's claim that most of the former Gitmo detainees the government suspects are involved with terrorism were released under Bush.
The GOP's assault on counterterrorism professionals hasn't been limited to White House officials like Brennan -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently attacked FBI interrogators, comparing them to CNN host Larry King.
This isn't an issue of Brennan's competence -- or, during his early clashes with the left, support of illegal behavior by the prior administration. Republicans want a competent, experienced counterterrorism expert fired because he's been too mean to them. It's childish.
Let's be clear here: The Obama administration resembles the late second-term Bush administration in terms of counterterrorism policy, right down to its treatment of terrorism suspects as criminals in most contexts. It's that Brennan appears to have moved left. Now, the last administration's policies are too moderate for the current Republican Party. Either Republicans stayed silent out of partisan loyalty while the Bush administration pursued policies they believed were a threat to national security, as Graham does above, or they're cynically attacking the administration for political reasons.
Either way, it's political party first.
-- A. Serwer