Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Big obstacle to Obama's closing Gitmo: Two to one, Americans oppose shutting the detention facility

Camp Justice at Gitmo where Khalid Sheik Mohammed and others may yet be tried

According to a new USAToday/Gallup poll, Americans are overwhelmingly opposed -- by a more than two-to-one margin -- to Obama's planned closing of Guantanamo. And by more than to one, they oppose moving any of the Gitmo detainees to prisons withing the United States.

Delving into the polling numbers shows that this judgment is widely shared across the political spectrum. Overall, 65% oppose the closing, while 32% support it. A whopping 91% of Republicans are opposed. While that may not be a surprise, the fact that 68% of independents want to keep the prison open will give some pause to Obama and other Democrats who have campaigned against Gitmo for years. And the real stunner is that Democrats favor the closing only by 53% to 42%, not much of a margin, considering that the President enjoys near-total support among Democrats. For that matter, Obama's continues to enjoy immense popularity across the board(currently 64% approval, according to Gallup), but that has not translated into support for him on Gitmo.

The tough realities of dealing with some of the most dangerous al Qaeda terrorists has already led Obama to back away from his earlier "suspension" of military tribunals. And staunch opposition among Congressional Democrats to relocating any Gitmo detainees to the U.S. has put Obama on the defensive, since it will not be possible to close Gitmo without moving at least some detainees to American territory. Now, Obama will have to contend with the very real possibility that closing Gitmo will cost him dearly in political support, particularly among independents and moderate Democrats.

Perhaps the most astonishing result of the new poll is this: only 18% of Americans believe that the existence of Gitmo has weakened U.S. national security, while 40% think it has strengthened security. So after years of hearing that very point from politicians and pundits, Obama included, on virtually a daily basis -- that Gitmo doesn't help but harms our security -- less than one in five Americans are buying it. Even among Democrats, only 33% embrace that argument.

Going back to November, I've thought that if Obama closed Gitmo, he'd need to create another Gitmo. Now, for the first time, I'm not at all sure he'll be able to close Gitmo at all.

What are your thoughts? Post a comment.


  1. Funny thing, we don't seem to be hearing a whole lot about all the experts - like, for example, General Petraeus, who agree with Obama about 'Gitmo' and torture decreasing national security.

    It's almost as if the news media has been portraying it as if both sides opinions deserve equal weight, even when one side is completely fact-free.

  2. "Fact free?" What "facts" are there to back up the mere assertion that Gitmo has weakened security?

  3. It seems to me that we need to consider this a "learn-as-you-go" policy, just like most of Obama's other policies.