Rep. Mark Kirk Taking Local Heat For Gitmo Stance

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) has been one of the most prominent critics of a possible plan to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainees to a prison in Thomson, Illinois.

As we wrote yesterday, some conservatives favor it, and the local community sees it as an economic boon. (The Senate defeated a Republican measure to block funding for the detainee transfer today.)

But Kirk, seeking the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, said today on Fox News he thinks it should be up to the voters. He said it’s a “decision bigger than any one senator” and said the “risk is unnecessary.”

The Chicago Sun-Times called it a political move, editorializing today: “Kirk’s scare talk might do him wonders with the GOP base, but it won’t convince a single terrorist that this nation has a backbone.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee accused Kirk of being a flip-flopper, since he supported a bill last month on the House floor authorizing Obama to transfer detainees. They also said he’s using “Karl Rove style fear mongering.”Kirk, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, has been considered one of the more moderate members of the Republican caucus.

“What troubles us is the fear-mongering among those who oppose the plan — beginning with U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, whom we once viewed (and repeatedly endorsed) as a moderate and thoughtful fellow,” the Sun-Times editorialized. “Kirk and other excitable Illinois Republicans are warning that Illinois ‘will become ground zero for jihadist terrorists plots.’ Can we get real here?”

The Chicago Tribune was not any kinder, writing a scathing editorial today quoting Kirk’s comments.

“Give us a break. A super-maximum security prison, such as Thomson would become, is not what most of us associate with the word ‘neighborhood.’ The critics seem to forget that no one has ever escaped from a supermax,” the Tribune wrote.

“We don’t think the residents of Illinois will buy into the panic the opponents are trying to stoke. And while the change would surely bring economic benefits and jobs to a depressed corner of the state, the best reason for using Thomson for these inmates is that Guantanamo needs to be closed and they have to be locked up securely somewhere,” it concluded.

Huffington Post interviewed Republican State Rep. Jim Sacia, who said he was “very upset” by Kirk’s comments.

“I understand people wanting to take a stand. But before you take a stand get the facts,” he said.

Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), who is holding a hearing on the issue tomorow, mocked Republicans for their opposition since the U.S. criminal justice system has handled such cases for several years.

“Since January of this year alone over 30 terrorism cases have been either successfully tried or sentenced using our Federal courts,” Leahy said. “No one has ever escaped from a Supermax facility. “In fact terrorists are routinely and securely held at our prisons, including Zacharias Moussaoi, one of the plotters behind the September 11 attacks and Ramzi Yousef, the World Trade Center bomber.”

Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) was the only member of Congress at the briefing in Thomson yesterday. His district is just across the river from the site.

Today he spoke to Iowa Public Radio and asked everyone to “take a deep breath.”

“Listen to what the plan is, and make sure there’s an opportunity for public input so people have the chance to have their concerns addressed,” he said.

Here’s Kirk and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) who supports the idea, going back-to-back on Fox today:

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