As GOP puts Guantánamo in Americans' backyards, media say it's a "winning issue"

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

Even as the GOP reportedly launches "a campaign to sow anxiety about Obama's stewardship of national security," some in the media have declared that the GOP has found a "winning issue" with its campaign to highlight possible Guantánamo Bay detainee transfers to the U.S. if the prison there is closed.

Several media figures have declared that the GOP has found a "winning issue" with its campaign to, as a May 7 Los Angeles Times article described it, "rais[e] the prospect of relocated [Guantánamo] detainees putting Americans in danger." According to the Times article, "[t]he GOP effort to spotlight the issue is part of a campaign to sow anxiety about Obama's stewardship of national security" and "to portray Obama's presidency as one that has made the nation less secure."

Examples of media figures stating that this is or may be a "winning issue" for the GOP include:

  • In a May 6 Politico article that was updated on May 7, reporter Alex Isenstadt stated in the first paragraph that "Republicans may have finally found a winning issue: Guantanamo." He went on to write that "Congressional Republicans have stoked parochial fears of releasing Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. mainland, and GOP aides privately acknowledge that this issue is one of the few on which they believe they have a real edge on the Obama administration."
  • During the May 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Megyn Kelly asked, "[W]here do we move [the Guantánamo Bay detainees]?" Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon responded, "I think the Republicans have finally stumbled on a winning issue." He continued: "I think Republicans realized that the NIMBY [not in my backyard] aspect of the story is where you make some hay. When you tell people that, hey, these people might be transferred to your district, you can make some political points." He later added that "Republicans are sensing that they have an opening here, because this plays into the fears that some voters have about Democrats and national security." He later likened the issue to the proposed nuclear waste disposal site at Nevada's Yucca Mountain: "We haven't been able to find a place for the nuclear waste. How are we gonna find a place for terrorism detainees."
  • During a discussion about closing Guantánamo on the May 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier asked his guests, "Is it a winning issue for Republicans?" Fox News contributor and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer responded: "A slam-dunk," and Fox News contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said "Yes, and more is coming out. Today we just learned that [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] was briefed in September 2002 on the enhanced interrogation techniques used on Abu Zubaydah. [...] So I think the Democrats have lots of embarrassments still to come on this issue."

From the May 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

KELLY: So, could it happen? Terrorists living on Main Street, USA? Wait till you hear who is now saying, "Not in my backyard." Bill Sammon is our managing editor for our D.C. bureau. He joins me now. Hi, Bill.

SAMMON: Hi, Megyn.

KELLY: So now I -- so these top House Republicans are pushing a bill which -- you gotta love the naming in Congress -- it's called the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act. How do you vote against that? But I was interested to see it's not just Republicans; even some Democrats now, when faced with the actual proposition of moving a Gitmo detainee to a prison in their state, are saying, "Oh, no, no, no" -- including [Sen.] Dianne Feinstein [D-CA]. She's got good old Alcatraz sitting out there in San Francisco; she says it's a national treasure, you can't move them there. So, where do we move them?

SAMMON: I think -- well, I think the Republicans have finally stumbled on a winning issue. And I think they were frustrated because Obama got a lot of credit when he, second day in office, said he was going to close Gitmo, he gets all the hosannas from the left wing and so on and so forth. I think Republicans realized that the NIMBY aspect of the story is where you make some hay. When you tell people that, hey, these people might be transferred to your district, you can make some political points.

KELLY: NIMBY -- not in my backyard.

[...]

SAMMON: The Republicans are sensing that they have an opening here, because this plays into the fears that some voters have about Democrats and national security. You know, again, you know, people may be OK with -- might be OK with the sort of abstract concept of closing Gitmo, because it's become a symbol of, you know, bad things and so on and so forth.

KELLY: But then what?

SAMMON: But when you make it very real and say it may go to Kansas because you've got Fort Leavenworth there, it may go to San Francisco where you've got, you know --

KELLY: Alcatraz.

SAMMON: -- Alcatraz, you start getting very specific people say -- it's like, you know, look at Yucca Mountain. We haven't been able to find a place for the nuclear waste. How are we gonna find a place for terrorism detainees.

From the May 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

KRAUTHAMMER: As soon as Gitmo is closed, the world will turn and attack us on the Bagram prison, and all of a sudden of it's gonna be all over --

BAIER: In Afghanistan.

KRAUTHAMMER: -- in Afghanistan, where we are also holding detainees, some of whom have now been declared in our courts as having rights of appeal, habeas corpus in federal courts. So, if you want to appease international opinion, it is endless, and we're gonna have to end up opening and emptying all of our prisons, holding bad guys all over the world. At some point we're going to have to say no, and we're gonna have to stand up for our own principles and our own system of justice.

BAIER: Is it a winning issue for Republicans?

KRAUTHAMMER: A slam-dunk.

KIRSTEN POWERS (Fox News political analyst): No, I don't think it is.

KRISTOL: Yes, and more is coming out. Today we just learned that Nancy Pelosi was briefed in September 2002 on the enhanced interrogation techniques used on Abu Zubaydah. Just now it broke that the DNI, director of national intelligence, sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee a document, which has now been released, which shows the name of the briefers, and it shows the two people briefed: [former CIA director] Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi, then ranking minority member on the House Intelligence Committee. So I think the Democrats have lots of embarrassments still to come on this issue.

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