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GTMO: Chronicle of a Setback Foretold

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell assured reporters yesterday, “We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States, and I speak for a majority of the Senate.” Conservative framing: accepted.

Over the last couple of weeks, Democratic Hill staffers have expressed astonishment, on background, about how little the White House has coordinated with them on the Guantanamo issue, and feel it slipping out of their control. The National Security Network has put out messaging from former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke upbraiding Republicans for claiming President Obama is just going to throw the gates to the prison open and suddenly you’ll see Khalid Shaikh Mohammed shopping for fertilizer at the Dubuque Home Depot. But that message comes within the vacuum of White House-Congress communications. And looking at the available polling on Guantanamo, it seems fair to summarize that the public is not particularly convinced on the virtues of closing the facility.

But the Democrats are acting with undue fear of being demagogued. While the public isn’t sold on closing Guantanamo, it isn’t hostile to the idea either: most polls show the generic question of shutting the facility down coming about even. And a generic Democrat has, for the first time in Democracy Corps’ polling history, as much public trust on national security as a generic Republican. Cautiousness is one thing, and the lack of communication is a real problem for White House relations with Capitol Hill. But it’s not as if the Democrats come to this issue with a particular disadvantage.

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