WASHINGTON -- President Obama's plan to close down the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay and move some of the most deadly terrorists in the world into the United States isn't going so well. Nervous House Democrats last week deleted his funding request for $81 million to close the prisoner-of-war camp, fearing a public backlash in their states and districts. Moreover, Republican leaders have turned the administration's idea into a lethal political weapon they have begun using against vulnerable House and Senate Democrats in preparations for the 2010 midterm elections.
The decision by Democratic leaders to drop Obama's money request was based on sound reasoning: Obama was closing the prison without a plan on where he would put what everyone agrees are very dangerous terrorists bent on killing as many Americans as they can. The White House is desperately looking for any states that are willing to house the so-called "detainees" in available prison sites, but it's getting few, if any, acceptable takers.
Democrats in droves are turning thumbs down to the idea of putting any of the Gitmo prisoners in their states, or even in the country.
Montana Sen. Max Baucus said "no way, not on my watch," while his Democratic colleague, Sen. Jon Tester, said he is "against any proposal to bring Guantanamo detainees to Montana."
Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska said flatly, "I wouldn't want them, and I wouldn't take them ... I don't see a solution." A member of the Appropriations Committee that must approve the money Obama wants, Nelson said the battle over funding could continue through the summer or longer.
In Virginia, one of the states under consideration to receive some of the prisoners, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner threw cold water on the proposal, saying he was "deeply concerned" about the prospects of moving them to a Marine base in his state near "a very populated area in the greater capital region." Even one of Obama's own Cabinet members fought the idea. Former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, now his secretary of Health and Human Services, wrote to the Pentagon earlier this year to say she opposed any prisoners being brought into her state.
With a recent Rasmussen poll showing an overwhelming 75 percent of Americans opposed to moving any terrorists into the United States, Republicans are turning the controversy into an incendiary campaign issue against House and Senate Democrats. A typical GOP broadside put out by House Republican leader John Boehner: