On Monday, Karl Rove sent a tweet to his 92,000 followers: “Don’t sit out: 9:30am 11/18 Dirksen Senate Bldg Rm G-50 to oppose Atty Gen’s testimony on trying terrorists on U.S. soil.” On Tuesday, Newt Gingrich dispatched a similar message to his 1.2 million Twitter devotees: “Join @keepamericasafe at 9:30am Wed at Dirksen Senate Bldg to protest Holder’s testimony on bringing terrorists to US.” Keep America Safe is Elizabeth Cheney’s new hawkish group—neocon godfather Bill Kristol is one of its three board members—and on Tuesday it tweeted followers: “Reminder 9:30 am show Holder and Obama what you think about the terror trial decision.” The Keep American Safe website also posted a “call to action,” urging protesters to storm the Senate on Wednesday morning, when Attorney General Eric Holder was scheduled to testify about the Obama administration’s plan to bring 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorism detainees to New York City to stand trial. Cheney’s outfit asked its supporters to send Obama and his allies in Congress a clear message: “WE WILL FIGHT YOU ALL THE WAY.”
No such message was delivered on Wednesday morning. When Holder arrived at the committee room in the Dirksen Building, there were no demonstrators, no angry mob. Some 9/11 relatives who oppose trying KSM in New York were in the house. (There are 9/11 families on both sides of this debate.) But the scene was the same as that accompanying most hearings. There was not even a standing-room-only crowd. Plenty of empty chairs could be found in the seating section for the general public. No throng of irate citizens was gathered in the hallway or outside the building. The Capitol Hill police reported no signs of any protest. This was no tea party. Essentially, no one had responded to the urgent pleas from Rove, Gingrich, Kristol, and Cheney.
The hearing did heat up—because of the Republican senators present. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) slammed the KSM decision, charging that it demonstrates that for Obama “fighting terrorism is not the priority it once was.” He excoriated the Obama administration for believing “we can return to a pre-9/11 mindset.”
This was no surprise. Republicans pounced on this issue immediately. Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) went on the House floor earlier this week and assailed the move, suggesting that because of the KSM trial, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s daughter could be “kidnapped at school” by a terrorist. (Bloomberg supports bringing KSM to Manhattan to face justice just blocks away from where the World Trade Towers once stood.) No doubt, conservatives will continue to bang this drum, claiming that the pending KSM trial somehow indicates that Obama is not serious about national security. But when it came to rousing right-wing foot-soldiers for this effort, Rove, Gingrich, Kristol, and Cheney had no luck. Next time they might want to consider outsourcing the job to Michele Bachmann.