Montana seems to be populated by frightened people. Maybe those wide-open plains are scary. Gail Collins has an excellent column on how we need to rethink our mental image of Westerners:
Out of all the problems we have run into in dealing with the giant hairball that is known as the Bush War on Terror, one of the weirdest is the reaction to President Obama’s plan to close down Guantánamo.
In the rank of threats to public safety, putting the Guantánamo inmates in maximum-security prisons in the United States has got to come in way behind, say, making it easy for customers to purchase firearms at gun shows.
But to hear the howls coming from Congress, you’d think the Obama administration was planning to house the prisoners in suburban preschools. “Terrorists. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you,” warned a Republican Web video, which mixed pictures of accused terrorists with road signs in states where the G.O.P. predicted they might be sent. In another production, the occasionally loyal opposition resurrected the infamous “Daisy” countdown ad to show a little girl picking petals off a flower while the president prepares to close Gitmo.
“To bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come,” snarled Dick Cheney in his “no middle ground” speech. Although really, for the sake of the national mental health, it might be better if we all just ignore the former vice president until he agrees to undergo therapy. Forget I ever mentioned it.
Instead, consider the case of Hardin, Mont., a community of 3,400 people just down the road from the place where Custer made his Last Stand.
Lately, things have not been going any better for Hardin than they did for the general. Unemployment is rife. “You go look at our downtown, there’s many closed businesses … you’ll see drunks laying in the street. It’s not a pretty sight,” the head of the town’s economic development authority told National Public Radio. The town built a $27 million, 464-bed prison under the theory that other parts of the state would pay to have Hardin look after their problem residents. But it’s been empty since it was declared open for business nearly two years ago, and the construction loans are in default.
So, with the town council’s enthusiastic support, Hardin volunteered to take the Guantánamo prisoners.
It’s unlikely that the White House would have accepted the offer, but it was certainly an example of pluck and you’d think everyone would give Hardin three cheers. Instead, Montana’s Democratic senators went ballistic.
“We’re not going to bring Al Qaeda to Big Sky Country — no way, not on my watch,” said Max Baucus.
“If these prisoners need a new place, it’s not going to be anywhere near The Last Best Place,” said Jon Tester.
This shows us two things: …