Democrats stab Obama in the back on Gitmo

By Bill Press
You know what they say: “Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.”
Sadly, on one issue at least, that’s all too true of Senate Democrats. After praying so long for a 60-vote, filibuster-proof Democratic Senate, we’re almost there — 59 with Arlen Specter! — but already Democrats have shown an appalling lack of backbone when it comes to Guantanamo Bay.
Even John McCain agrees that Gitmo is a black mark on America’s soul. Here’s where America abandoned the moral high ground. Here’s where America imprisoned hundreds of alleged terrorists, torturing many of them, for up to eight years without ever charging them with any crime or enabling them to see a lawyer and defend themselves in court. Here’s where America threw due process out the window.
During the 2008 campaign, shutting down Gitmo was one of the rare issues on which John McCain and Barack Obama actually agreed. And on only his second full day in the White House, Obama signed an executive order closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in January 2010, giving the Pentagon until July to come up with a plan for doing so.
That’s when the Republican propaganda machine jumped into high gear. Closing Gitmo would be a mistake, they argued, because there was nowhere else in the world where those suspects could be safely held. And allowing terrorists to be relocated to prisons on U.S. soil would endanger the lives of all Americans. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) demanded that Obama reverse his decision. Bowing to Republican pressure, Senate Democrats dropped President Obama’s $81 million request to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, buying the criticism that the administration lacks a plan to relocate terror suspects detained there.
Now, you would expect those kinds of scare tactics from Republicans. It’s all part of their opposing anything Obama stands for, and trying to keep the war on terror alive. What is unexplainable, unacceptable, and indefensible is that so many Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, went along with them. Forty-eight Democrats voted with Republicans to keep Gitmo open, prohibit detainees from being moved to any U.S. prison, and slap President Obama in the face with a 90-6 defeat. Reid even parroted Republican leader Mitch McConnell: “We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States.”
Bravo for the six Democrats — Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, Pat Leahy, Carl Levin, Jack Reed, and Sheldon Whitehouse — who stood strong. They know, for starters, that the remaining 240 detainees at Gitmo are not necessarily “terrorists.” After almost eight years, they haven’t even been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. In fact, under George W. Bush, more than 525 detainees were released from Guantanamo because there was zero evidence of their connection to any terrorist organization. And only three out of more than 700 detainees were ever brought to trial.
Those six Democratic senators also know, even if Harry Reid doesn’t, that America has an outstanding prison system — with several maximum security facilities already holding the most hardened of criminals, including known terrorists. Among the inmates at Florence, Colorado’s famous “Supermax” prison, for example, are shoe-bomber Richard Reid; Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called “20th hijacker; Ramzi Yousef, one of the planners of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; four men convicted of bombing U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya; Terry Nichols, partner of Timothy McVeigh; and “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski.
There have been no escapes from “Supermax” — which, by the way, is not the case with prisons in other countries. As David Corn reported in Mother Jones, 13 terrorists convicted for their role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole were, with the agreement of the United States, imprisoned in Yemen. All 13 escaped.
Most importantly, the six Democratic senators who voted with Obama recognize the paramount importance of shutting down Gitmo. It is nothing less than a museum of torture. It has become the symbol of where America lost its way. As a consequence, its very existence has been counter-productive. “Instead of serving as a tool to counter-terrorism,” Obama said in his speech at the National Archives, “Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.”
On Gitmo, Senate Democrats had a choice of following Mitch McConnell or President Obama. Sadly, most Democrats chose Mitch McConnell. Shame!
Bill Press is host of a nationally syndicated radio show and author of a new book, “Train Wreck: The End of the Conservative Revolution (and Not a Moment Too Soon).” You can hear “The Bill Press Show” at his Web site: His email address is:

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