This weekend, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) called people who oppose criminal trials in federal court for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the 9/11 plotters “un-American.” It turns out that there is an epidemic of this lack of patriotism, according to CNN. Their latest poll asked the question of how to handle KSM, and 64% took the “un-American” position of backing military tribunals:
Two-thirds of Americans disagree with the Obama administration’s decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a civilian court rather than a military court, according to a new national poll. …
The poll indicates that 64 percent believe Mohammed should be tried in military court, with 34 percent suggesting that he face trial in civilian court. Six in 10 people questioned say Mohammed should be tried stateside, with 37 percent calling for the trial to take place at a U.S. facility in another country.
“The decision to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in front of a civilian court is universally unpopular – even a majority of Democrats and liberals say that he should be tried by military authorities,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Despite that, most Americans say that he will get a fair trial in the U.S.”
CNN conducted the poll in the wake of the announcement by Eric Holder and the Obama administration that KSM and his cohorts would get tried in federal court. The survey doesn’t include much sampling data, except to say that it polled mainly registered voters over a weekend, traditionally a difficult survey period. I’d prefer to know more about the composition of the sample, which will eventually get released after CNN stages the publication of its various elements over the next few days.
For instance, the pollster notes that the Obama administration decision was opposed by majorities of Democrats, as well as Republicans and independents. The published data doesn’t show those breakdowns. In the overall, though, the 34% who support Obama’s decision on this are a very small minority of opinion, and that will have the White House on the defensive throughout this process. Also, keep in mind that the process itself will take a long time, and any adverse events — even as mundane and predictable as a KSM rant at a pretrial hearing and widespread dissemination of his vitriol — will have the effect of driving down support even further as people wonder what Obama and Holder were thinking.
Contra Moran, the obvious mainstream-American trend of thought is to use the same military tribunals we have always used for war criminals captured abroad in our past. Jim Geraghty has a good quote from Holder’s predecessor Michael Mukasey on the subject of Moran and “un-American” views:
“I think he’s lost touch with reality. He ought to get professional help, perhaps from Major Nidal.”
Ouch. And maybe Moran would like to explain what was so un-American about the Nuremberg trials — which were military tribunals, conducted on foreign soil.
Update: Interestingly, Rasmussen has it at 51/29 against trying KSM in federal court. However, every age demographic, and almost every income demographic opposes it by majorities or pluralities (under $20K being the exception). Only 59% of self-described liberals support the Obama decision. Democrats back Obama 46/30, but independents oppose the decision 56/23, Republicans 72/16. And the age demographic most opposed to the decision? 18-29 year olds, 62/11.