WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday, April 29, in an East Room news conference, President Barack Obama claimed, "We have rejected the false choice between our security and our ideals by closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay." That simply isn't true. What he did do was issue an executive order directing the facility be closed by January 2010 -- more than seven months from now. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama -- in his naive exuberance to fulfill a pledge that had earned standing ovations and rave reviews from the mainstream media during the presidential campaign -- really didn't have a plan. That's coming back to haunt him.
On Wednesday, while Mr. Obama was holding a photo op at the White House with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, quietly deleted funds for closing Gitmo from the fiscal year 2009 supplemental spending bill. The O-Team had requested $80 million for this fiscal year and an equal amount for next year to cover the expense of shuttering the detention facility and relocating the terrorists housed there. Obey, one of the most powerful Democrats on Capitol Hill, justified eliminating the FY '09 funds by noting, "I personally favor what the administration is talking about doing, but so far as we can tell, there is yet no concrete program for that." Just in case the nice folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. didn't get the message, Obey added, "While I don't mind defending a concrete program, I'm not much interested in wasting my energy defending a theoretical program."
The theory of which Obey speaks is that someone on the O-Team actually has a plan for where to put the 241 terrorists currently detained at the facility. Thus far, no other nation has volunteered to unburden Mr. Obama of the problem he created for himself during last year's presidential campaign and by issuing his increasingly dubious executive order. Until now, there was talk of moving some to high-security prisons in the United States, sending others to their "home countries" and simply releasing the detainees who no longer are considered to be "terrorists."
During debate this week in the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., suggested that we give the coldblooded terrorists housed at Gitmo "the same due process we give our own troops." No one in the so-called mainstream media bothered to call Schiff to account for equating Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Zubaydah, 9/11 conspirators all, with the men and women of our armed forces.
On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder revealed to a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that some of the detainees "are going to be released," others will "be tried," and "some will be detained on a fairly extended basis," without disclosing where or how any of that will happen. That got the attention of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., one of Guantanamo's harshest critics. She admonished Holder that she "would be very concerned" if she and other lawmakers were not consulted before detainees were brought to the U.S.
Mikulski may not have to worry about it. While Holder was testifying, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation that aims to stop the world's most dangerous terrorists from being imported into the United States from Gitmo -- or anywhere else. Dubbed the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act, the bill would prevent the transfer or release of terrorists into the United States unless governors and state legislatures were to preapprove such relocation into their respective jurisdictions.
In announcing the legislation, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said: "There are still terrorists around the world who are committed to killing Americans and destroying our way of life. A number of those terrorists are now being held at a prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. … If the administration proceeds … they won't be there. In fact, they may be here, in the United States." He then said, "We invite our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join us, because our constituents don't want these terrorists in their neighborhoods."
It remains to be seen how many Democrats will line up behind such a measure. To encourage the faint of heart, the House Republican Conference released a powerful online video reminding those on the left who the Gitmo detainees really are. After Sean Hannity aired it Thursday evening on Fox News Channel, the network's phone lines lit up, and inboxes were brimming. The video can be viewed at http://www.gop.gov/detainees/video/safer. Meanwhile, the O-Team needs to remember an acronym Mr. Obama first came to know in his previous employ as a community organizer: NIMBY.