Obama's First Great Mistake

Just two weeks after the Guantanamo Bay issue blew up on President Obama and his own party refused to fund its closing, things have only grown more bleak for his plans to shutter the prison by Jan. 22, 2010. As I have written here, it was his first great mistake — an ambitious deadline to solve an enormous problem set in the exuberance of the first week in his historic presidency without consulting the U.S. Congress.

Before voting on funding, Democrats in Congress pleaded with the administration for some plan or specifics — some political cover — but they got nothing. After Democrats decided to side with the GOP, and Congress rejected the idea of spending $80 million to close Gitmo without a plan, our allies overseas have lost interest as well. Why, they are asking, would the United States expect allied nations to take on terror suspects if those detainees aren't even welcome in our own high-security prisons? Sure, Great Britain has one and France has one, but there are another 240 who need a place to go if Guantanamo is going to shut down.

USA Today published the results of a poll today that shows by more than a two-to-one margin Americans oppose closing Guantanamo Bay. By more than three-to-one they oppose moving detainees to prisons in their own states.

Dick Cheney and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can be pretty proud of themselves for taking control of this debate, because they have beat the drum of fear for months on this issue. It will be stunning if they can ultimately take credit for Obama having to break that deadline.


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