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For Closing GTMO, Graham Says White House Needs … What It Already Has

More on Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) offer to trade the White House a Guantanamo Bay closure for a military commission for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. On ‘Face The Nation,’ Bob Schieffer asked what it’ll really take for Graham to deliver the Guantanamo votes from the GOP caucus. What did Graham say?

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think you can get the Republican votes to close Guantanamo and–and open another facility in this country because that’s going to require considerable amount of-

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (overlapping): I can’t– I can’t do it by myself. But I think if we could get Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the co-conspirators of 9/11 back in the military commission, it’d go down well with the public. But I’m going to need General Petraeus, Admiral Mullen, people known in public office. I’m going to need people from the Bush administration to try to close Gitmo, to put aside partisanship, rally around this President, stand by his side and say, let’s close Gitmo safely. With that kind of help, that will reassure Americans we’re making a good, logical decision, we can do the things we need to do to getting in back–

But this is support that the White House already has or isn’t going to get. You want Petraeus backing the Guantanamo closure? Here he is. You want Mullen backing the Guantanamo closure? Here he is. It’s not like their positions have changed. The only thing that’s changed is the hardening of Republican opposition to Obama’s plans. Everyone from the Bush administration who really would “put aside partisanship, rally around this President, stand by his side” on Guantanamo already has. Even George W. Bush has said he believes, in theory, that the U.S. ought to close the detention facility. There’s absolutely nothing Graham can unlock if the White House caves on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Graham is essentially asking the Obama administration to pay a higher price for a commodity it already possesses.

What’s more: The money to close Guantanamo is in the Afghanistan war funding request, the most politically untouchable package of money the government will ask Congress to approve. That signaled a willingness to play hardball on the closure, and force the GOP to defend blocking money for the troops. It’s no surprise Graham wants the White House to go further. He’s holding a losing hand, and a loss won’t let him position himself as a conservative hero in the guise of a bipartisan dealmaker.

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