Gitmo debate goes cold on Capitol Hill

posted at 12:15 pm on July 21, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

A month ago, the New York Times reported that the White House had run up the white flag on closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, claiming that Congress refused to cooperate.  This month, Congress takes its turn in pointing a finger back to the Obama administration.  Roll Call reports that Congress has lost interest in the subject in the middle of a worsening economy, but also because the White House hasn’t produced a workable plan:

Closing Guantánamo has not been a point of “real, current discussion” in Congress, Hoyer said. “That’s not an issue being discussed very broadly. I think that you’re not going to see it discussed very broadly in the near term.”

A House Democrat who previously helped lead the charge for closing the facility had this to say when asked why he is no longer demanding action on the issue: “I forgot.”

The lawmaker said he was surprised by his and other lawmakers’ lack of attention to the issue given how much weight liberals threw behind trying to close the prison facility last year. “We were all worked up and signing letters and all kinds of stuff,” he said. …

But a Democrat familiar with negotiations on the matter said all parties recognize “what a nightmare this is: The administration doesn’t have a good plan yet.”

The Democrat said the Thomson facility is “maybe OK in theory,” but the problem is that administration officials “jumped ahead of the gun. They put the word out there before they had a solid plan in place or secured the support they needed from Congress. That opened the door for the GOP to come in with attacks that we’re importing terrorists into people’s backyards, which is the last thing Democrats need in an already tough election year.”

Frankly, that sounds like a good prioritization of issues.  Closing Gitmo solves no problems, and it creates a number of others.  The chief issue is the actual adjudication method for the remaining detainees, not the geographical location of their housing.  Proponents of closing Gitmo wanted to use a transfer to the US as a way to argue that the cases should be heard in federal court instead of the military commissions repeatedly authorized by Congress.  There is no other acute issue requiring an evacuation of the facility, and the issue of jurisdiction can be handled without the costs and risks of transfers.

The dispute between Democrats on the Hill and the White House show just how badly Barack Obama bungled his plan.  When he refused to get involved in drafting the specifics of ObamaCare, Obama said he’d learned a lesson from HillaryCare in not dictating outcomes to Congress.  He didn’t apply that lesson to Gitmo, and instead has tried to position himself as a prime mover on the project, with clearly poor results.

So what now?  Democrats won’t have as many seats when they return from the midterms, and Obama will get less cooperation on this issue from the 112th Congress as a result.  Clearly the issue has fallen off the radar for most Americans; closing Gitmo was never a high priority anyway, but now majorities oppose the idea and want the Beltway focused on the economy and jobs.  I’d be surprised if Gitmo isn’t operating in its same capacity as now in 2013 — and beyond.


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No one care about Gitmo but those loons in pink. And I like it when they are annoyed.

Cindy Munford on July 21, 2010 at 12:19 PM

I’m Beginning to Believe This Obama Fellow Is Unequal to the Task

T. Coddington Van Voorhees VII

aquaviva on July 21, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Good, this is not a priority – that laser like focus on jobs is!

And who is the idiot who said “I forgot” ???

Brat on July 21, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Why is KSM still alive?

rob verdi on July 21, 2010 at 12:21 PM

Where is the manufactured outrage of the Lefty Wacko
Rights Groups!!

canopfor on July 21, 2010 at 12:21 PM

Libs- What’s this Gitmo you’re talking about?

LincolntheHun on July 21, 2010 at 12:21 PM

Another bitter disappointment to Obama’s voting base!!

canopfor on July 21, 2010 at 12:23 PM

Obama Signs Executive Order to Close Gitmo

Just another law the Dems passed that doesn’t apply to them.

Guardian on July 21, 2010 at 12:23 PM

The Zero Regime has decided to just blame Gitmo on Bush and leave it at that.

Cicero43 on July 21, 2010 at 12:23 PM

Proponents of closing Gitmo wanted to use a transfer to the US as a way to argue that the cases should be heard in federal court instead of the military commissions repeatedly authorized by Congress.

If they go through normal federal courts, then the Rules of Criminal Procedure and Rules of Evidence apply. Either that or it sets a dangerous precedent in throwing out due process rules. Imagine if, oh, say, a federal worker got fired because there was one line in her speech that was taken out of context. That could never happen if we had a Constitutional expert as president, right?

rbj on July 21, 2010 at 12:25 PM

Closure of Guantanamo Bay Facility Complicated by Discovery that “The Place Is Crawling with Terrorists”

Mervis Winter on July 21, 2010 at 12:18 PM

Funny, and sadly descriptive of the level of analysis that precedes most of Obama’s official acts.

Cicero43 on July 21, 2010 at 12:25 PM

What will happen first?

1. Close Gitmo
2. Impeach Obama

fogw on July 21, 2010 at 12:31 PM

fogw on July 21, 2010 at 12:31 PM

hmmmmm

good question…

cmsinaz on July 21, 2010 at 12:42 PM

No one care about Gitmo but those loons in pink. And I like it when they are annoyed.

Cindy Munford on July 21, 2010 at 12:19 PM

Agreeed, but Barack Obama certainly made it a HUGE issue in his campaign to distinguish himself from the evil Bushitler & his demonic sidekick John McCain. The issue (‘depriving foreign citizens of their fundamental right to due process etc’) was simplistically drawn & hyped up massively both by the campaign propaganda apparatus & many high-profile JournoLister-types working in the press & academia explicitly as their means of motivating gullible, simplistic-thinking college students to turn out en masse & pull the lever for Barack.

Now it’s “Never mind, it’s not such a big deal after all.” and campuses coast-to-coast are mysteriously just as quiet as Congress is about the issue now.

leilani on July 21, 2010 at 12:43 PM

The Fail is strong within this one.

Wasn’t closing GITMO and ending the “War of Choice” two of the main platforms of Obama’s rise to power? What makes me laugh is, Obama as CIC could order the prisoners to be transferred to any military facility operated by the USA in the entire world, yet he prefers to blame his own party for the lack of action on this issue.

By the time 2012 rolls around Obama will be taking credit from the GOP-controlled congress and blaming the Democratic party for his own past failures. The man is absolutely shameless.

Mord on July 21, 2010 at 12:45 PM

Democrats without a plan…..Obama bungles plans.

I am completely shocked./

tommer74 on July 21, 2010 at 12:48 PM

Sure but PBHO is black and black liberals have a Get Out Of Promises Free card issued to them by the DNC.

Bishop on July 21, 2010 at 12:49 PM

Bishop on July 21, 2010 at 12:49 PM

dear leader must have a stack of them

cmsinaz on July 21, 2010 at 12:52 PM

Uh, you know if the previous administration had not left behind so many messes, Obama would have been right on this from day one. He would have focused like a laser on closing GITMO right after he took the oath, just like he promised during the campaign. Unfortunately Bush left way too many messes for him to clean up in one term. s/

Johnnyreb on July 21, 2010 at 12:55 PM

What do they mean by no plan? PBHO hit the ground running, ready from day 1, the most competent man ever to sit in the Oval Office, a god figure above it all, intelligence and resolve personified.

PBHO couldn’t plan how to arrange his own dinner table, why is anyone surprised at this?

Bishop on July 21, 2010 at 12:56 PM

Sure but PBHO is black and black liberals have a Get Out Of Promises Free card issued to them by the DNC.

Bishop on July 21, 2010 at 12:49 PM

The best card is the, “Don’t Blame Me Bush Left a Big Mess I Just Wanted to Be President So Shut Up” card.

It’s overplayed like the Race Card, but that won’t stop them.

Cody1991 on July 21, 2010 at 1:00 PM

But, but, but, Obama signed an Executive Order! Gitmo was closed six months ago, right?

What do you mean, where do we put those terrorists human disaster causers victimized prayerful servants of Mohammed?
Why do you ask such silly questions?

/obama off

Steve Z on July 21, 2010 at 1:19 PM

… and hey, where is Usama bin Laden ?

J_Crater on July 21, 2010 at 1:24 PM

Somebody should do a “Where are they now” story.

As in, where are all the liberal whiners about Guantanamo Bay when Bush/Cheney were in office? And why is it okay with them (they no longer whine and protest about Guantanamo Bay) now that Obama is head warden of Guantanamo Bay?

(Of course we all know the libs could care less about Guantanamo Bay, they just use any and everything to attack Republicans.
Watch in 2011 how the libs rev up the close Guantanamo Bay whine again; blaming the new Republican Congress for keeping it open.)

albill on July 21, 2010 at 1:33 PM

And why was Gitmo chosen in the first place? [Rhetorical question...]

Something about extraterritoriality and a series of treaties that pretty much left us a nice place, close to home, wherein the inmates/guests/detainees would not be subject to US Federal law. Of course, we could have 100% adhered to the Geneva Conventions with these detainees…would have been a lot less bureaucratic that way.

The entire idea of offering these detainees full access to US civil courts, with the full panoply of federal legal guarantees is exactly why the idea of closing Gitmo is not resounding amongst the Obama faithful.

coldwarrior on July 21, 2010 at 1:33 PM

Addendum to the above:

Once we “recognize” the government of Castro’s Cuba…you know, full foreign aid and all that sort of stuff…you can bet the farm that Obama will close Gitmo entirely…no more detainees, and no more US Navy base, and give a truly unique harbor and anchorage back to the Cubans so they can lease it to, mmmm, let’s see, Venezuela, Russia, China…anyone with the money to pay Havana for the privilege.

coldwarrior on July 21, 2010 at 1:37 PM

leilani on July 21, 2010 at 12:43 PM

I’m all for giving them due process. Due process is a military tribunal and, if found guilty, lining them up against a wall and executing them more mercifully than they would ever do for anyone else.

DrMagnolias on July 21, 2010 at 1:43 PM

The dispute between Democrats on the Hill and the White House show just how badly Barack Obama bungled his plan.

What do you mean ‘bungled’? The left’s and the media’s sudden silence on the “abuses” of Gitmo after Obama’s election show clearly that this was never an issue about “human rights” (whatever the stylish definition of that is this week) but about fabricating an issue with which to club Bush and the Republicans. Obama got elected on the false issue, and now it’s not an issue anymore, so I’d say his plan succeeded brilliantly.

Socratease on July 21, 2010 at 2:35 PM

All you have to do is look at the executive order signing video and you can see for yourself what a clusterfark this was from the get-go.

Here’s an absolutely clueless Obama a full thirty-eight seconds into his first major act as president (speaking to ousted Whitehouse legal council, Greg Craig):

Obama: Is there a separate executive order, Greg, with respect to how we are going to dispose of the detainees?

Craig: We will be setting up a process.

Forget for a moment that Obama had no plan, he didn’t even know what steps were necessary to formulate a plan. Obama sits there like a sock puppet as off-screen officials spoon feed him his lines. This was our first real indication just how in over his head Obama was (and still is).

Ed, you should seriously consider updating this story with this video. It speaks volumes.

pain train on July 21, 2010 at 4:03 PM