65% Oppose Closing Gitmo

A USA Today/Gallup poll released Tuesday states that “most oppose closing Gitmo,” reporting that “by more than 2-1, those surveyed say Guantanamo shouldn’t be closed. By more than 3-1, they oppose moving some of the accused terrorists housed there to prisons in their own states.” But nowhere in the USA Today story do they post the actual percentage points or the even more convincing internal results.

Real Clear Politics and Byron York of the Washington Examiner (who had an inside look at the internals of the poll) reported that a very large majority  — 65% — oppose closing the suspected terrorist detention center, Guantanamo Bay and only 32% believe it should be closed.

York writes “ large majorities of men oppose closing the prison, large majorities of women oppose it, large majorities of white people oppose it, large majorities of non-white people oppose it, people with graduate degrees oppose it, and people who didn’t finish high school oppose it.  Pretty much everybody.”

The poll was taken last Friday through Sunday about a week after Obama made a speech in which he reiterated his intent to close Guantanamo (Obama signed an executive order in January to close the prison with in a year) although no alternative facilities have been approved.

Obama and his administration have argued that Gitmo has “weakened” national security and become a “rallying cry” for America’s enemies. But the USA Today/Gallup poll numbers shoot down that theory. York writes that 40% say the prison has strengthened national security, while 37% say it has not had much effect at all. Only 18% say the existence of Guantanamo has weakened national security

Previous polls from Gallup taken in January 2009 after Obama signed the executive order to close the detention center show no clear mandate, although 45% to 35% sill favor leaving the prison open. Twenty percent were unsure. Gallup reported that these views were similar to those expressed in 2007 “at which time 33% favored closing the prison and 53% were opposed and 13% had no opinion.”

So what has changed since January 2009 to increase the margin among American voters by 20% more?

Can we credit former Vice President Dick Cheney who has recently taken a vocally strong and conservative stance on issues regarding national security for the shift in public opinion? Or has the reality of having suspected terrorists — “the worst of the worst” as Cheney calls them — in your hometown really sunk in.

The internal results of the new USA Today/Gallup poll find that an overwhelming 74% oppose having Gitmo detainees in their state, while only 23% are okay with it.

The GOP has taken a strong and effective stand on the “not in my back yard” approach posting internet videos and statements steadily.

Both Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Al) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va) have demanded answers from Attorney General Holder on the reports of plans to transfer Gitmo detainees to the US.  Neither Sessions nor Wolf has been able to get answers from Holder.  

Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R- Va.), House Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately issued statements after Obama’s Gitmo speech in which they took a strong stance against the idea of Obama transporting detainees to the United States.

“I think on this one he is dead wrong,” said Boehner.

“With all due respect to the president, what we need is not a speech but a plan,” said McConnell. “The plan is what was clearly missing from the speech today. What is driving this issue, in my view, is a quest for popularity in Europe more than continuing policies that have demonstrably made America safe since 9/11. Clearly these policies and practices worked.”

Republicans apparently see a winning issue here.  Their efforts — so far — have pushed the Democrats to delete funding for closing Gitmo from the military supplemental spending bill.  But the Dems will try again, probably after the August recess.

To further complicate Obama’s agenda Fox News reported this week that Chinese Uyghur detainees at Guantanamo — who reportedly were going to be released into the United States very soon because they posed no threat to America — held up hand written signs in poor English communicating to Fox News reporters visiting the detention center that America is twice as bad as the Nazis.

With public sentiment unlikely to change, Republicans — if they keep the pressure on — may not only win this argument again but use it as a building block to recover momentum and the national security agenda.