2011-05-14 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

Michigan Lawmakers’ Roles In Post-bin Laden Era
By George Weeks

Few lawmakers on Capitol Hill had a better insight than two from Michigan about the extraordinary swooped-in raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Few will have more impact on what’s next.

Five-term Representative Mike Rogers (R-Howell), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was among only 16 lawmakers briefed on what was coming down in Pakistan, and, based on TV reports from Washington, was its most knowledgeable and articulate spokesman in reacting to the operation.

The former FBI agent and state senator said, “This was an incredible operation that I would argue few counties in the world, if any, could do.” On Friday, he revealed to CNN that the United States is “hot on the trail” of Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden’s heir apparent.

Six-term Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Michigan’s longest-serving senator (first elected in 1978), is one of the most powerful voices on Capitol Hill about such matters and will be a key voice on how the United States sorts out Pakistan’s role on the matter and other issues.

On Friday, Levin said on CNN the United States needs to be firm against Pakistan “allowing terrorists in their presence.” He earlier said, “It’s hard to imagine that the Pakistani military and intelligence didn’t have any idea of what was going on” at the compound that was less than a mile from Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point.

With the nation now on alert for possible retaliatory attacks by al-Qaida terrorists, four-term Representative Candice Miller (R-Harrison Township) will be a key participant in discussions on counter measures. The former Michigan secretary of state is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and former member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Miller said, “Let the death of this terrorist mass murderer stand as a symbol of our collective resolve.”

Northern Michigan congressmen joined in applause of the U.S. operation. Ten-term Representative Dave Camp (R-Midland) said:

“Justice has been served to the man responsible for the loss of thousands of innocent American lives. I commend the resilience and perseverance of our armed forces and the intelligence community, as well as Presidents Bush and Obama. While this victory is important, it is not conclusive to our efforts in fighting the War on Terror.”

There was much criticism last week by Republicans, and on conservative talk radio, over President Barack Obama’s wise decision not to release the gruesome death photos of bin Laden.

But conservative freshmen 1st District Representative Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls) endorsed Obama’s decision to withhold the images. Spokesman Kyle Bonni said, “He shares the President’s view that we gain nothing by plastering graphic images of bin Laden’s dead body across the globe.”

As for killing bin Laden, Benishek said, “This day has reaffirmed the fact that America never runs from our enemies, instead we stare down the adversaries of freedom and defeat them.”

The Senate Watch

Senator Debbie Stabenow was elected by a narrow 49- 48 percentage of victory over Republican Senator Spencer Abraham in 2000. She won her second term 57-41 over Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.

Now, although Republicans are in a muddle about who will challenge her next year, she is described by assorted pundits as vulnerable—“plainly vulnera- ble,” says publisher Bill Ballener of Inside Michigan Politics. He commissioned a March poll by Marketing Resource Group that had her leading Kent County Probate Judge Randy Hekman, a virtual unknown outside his region, by only 11%.

There have been big name GOP dropouts as Senate challengers, most notably ex-Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Holland and ex-Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

There’s a handful of Republicans in the hunt—but nobody of the elected stature of Hoekstra or Land. National Republican Committeeman Saul Anuzis, former Republican state chairman and prominent figure on the national scene, is, of this writing, in the mix.

Friday, I asked Stabenow what she thinks of the GOP maneuvering. Her reply, standard for incumbents in such situations, was “I can’t control who runs” in opposition, but “I love what I do” and she’ll fight to keep doing it.

She’s already got $3 million in the bank to finance the fight.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing Bureau Chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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