Nelson gets barrage of bin Laden questions, but won't describe graphic corpse photos
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05/13/11 Kate Bradshaw
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Sen. Bill Nelson in Lakeland Friday.


photo by Kate Bradshaw, WMNF

It’s been a busy week in national politics. Lawmakers grilled fossil fuel executives on Capitol Hill, Republicans Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich announced their presidential runs, and questions continue to follow in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death. A US Senator facing a tougher-than-normal reelection bid stopped by in the Tampa Bay area today, and commented on a range of topics – though there was one thing on which he wouldn’t comment.

At a Lakeland press conference, upon the request of several TV reporters, US Senator from Florida Bill Nelson reiterated a statement he gave yesterday regarding his exclusive glimpse of the world’s most sought-after corpse.

"I examined the pictures and compared them to pictures that we had of bin Laden when he was living, and the facial features are exactly the same."

At least three times, members of the press asked Nelson if he could go into the gory details on what Osama bin Laden looked like after being shot in the head by US Special Forces.

"I'm not gonna describe what a face looks like when it's had a bullet hole in the head."

The bin Laden questions persisted. Asked weather conspiracy theorists would be satisfied that the Obama administration invited certain officials to CIA headquarters to view the photos, but will ultimately keep the images under wraps, the Senator said photos aren’t the only evidence that the Al Qaeda leader is dead.

"Any kind of conspiracy theorist was shot down when all of his wives have acknowledged that that was their husband, as well as the organization, Al Qaida itself, has acknowledged that bin Laden is dead."

He said he thinks the photos should eventually become part of the public record, but only when there’s no longer a threat of retaliation against members of the CIA or US military. As for the threat of attacks following bin Laden’s death, he said US intelligence is not so worried about anything large scale as they are about those more on the level of the underwear bomber.

Another sticky point following the raid is the US’s relations with Pakistan. Nelson said whether in the highest levels of government or not, somebody knew Osama bin Laden was hiding out within the country’s borders. But he said the US’s relationship with the country, which is often on the receiving end of US drone missile strikes, are too complex to afford any rash decisions.

"Pakistan has about 100 nuclear bombs. We have to be concerned about Pakistan."

This week a Texas Republican who opposed nearly all US involvement overseas announced he is running for president. Representative Ron Paul is extremely popular among tea partiers, who want to see government shrink to bare bones. Paul recently denounced FEMA, saying homeowners on the banks of the Mississippi River should fend for themselves. Nelson said he completely disagrees.

"Flood insurance is one thing, and homeowners who are in a flood zone ought to have insurance, but there is a role in any kind of natural disaster for the U.S. government to play, and we do that through FEMA."

Nelson also commented on BP’s recent request for tax relief, citing the billions of dollars in fines and damages it expects to pay in the wake of the disaster.

"Their report says that they're gonna take, out of that $40 billion of expenses, they're gonna take $12 billion as a tax credit."

He said he told them the tax breaks may be legal, but they’re morally wrong, and that he hopes to change the law so that companies like BP can’t deduct such fine money from their taxable income.

"That CEO and the other oil companies that have just reported $35 billion of profit in three months, the first three months of this year, of course they don't agree. They want it all."

Nelson spoke to reporters in Lakeland today ahead of an appearance at that town’s Chamber of Commerce. He faces a potentially tough re-election battle in 2012. The pool of potential GOP opponents includes State Senate President Mike Haridopolis, whom former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee endorsed yesterday, former Senator George LeMieux, and Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner.

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