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« Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Twenty-One. | WILLisms.com | The Washington Times Picks Up Iran's Sham Election Story. »

Polling On Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GITMO).

Killing terrorists, capturing them, locking them up. Beating the bad guys and keeping Americans safe. Supporting the troops. Good politics, right?

Well, how did the "shut down Guantanamo" meme, which began as a goofy editorial by The New York Times' Thomas Friedman, become the latest craze on the left, and among elected Democrats (and some Republicans), for the month of June?

Well, there was the Amnesty International assertion that Guantanamo is the "gulag of our times." About the same time, Joe Biden, trying to gain traction for a presidential run in 2008, ran with the idea full-bore on the Sunday morning talk show circuit. His compatriots followed suit, not wanting to miss out on a piece of such sweet action. Meanwhile, the establishment media helped keep what should have been a complete non-issue alive just long enough for Dick Durbin to make his now-infamous assertion, in which he hit for a trifecta of anti-American drivel.

In a Fox News poll, conducted June 14-15, the American people wanting to close Guantanamo were outnumbered by the rest of us by large margins (.pdf).

There was, however, room to shape, influence, and win over a surprisingly large number of undecideds and other folks who had simply not thought about the issue for quite some time:


For reference, in a similar question commissioned by Fox News in July of 2002, 67% said conditions were acceptable, 8% said they were unacceptable, and 25% were not sure. In 2002, less than a year after 9/11, no Democrat would have been foolish enough to turn Guantanamo into a partisan issue.

Three years later, support for closing Guantanamo remained relatively low, with a sizeable chunk of undecideds:


Pollsters also asked:

In purely physical terms, such as food and clothing, do you think most detainees in the Guantanamo Bay military prison are living better or worse than they were in Iraq and Afghanistan?

... to which respondents answered:

Better 59%

Worse 12

(Same) 6

(Not sure) 24

Additionally, Americans were asked about reciprocal treatment:

At the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Muslim prisoners are given copies of the holy Muslim book the Koran. If Muslims were holding Americans as prisoners, do you think the Americans would be given copies of the Bible?

... which elicited an overwhelming response:

Yes 10%

No 75

(Not sure/Refused) 15

Yet, without much else to work with in their hand, the Democrats went all in. With Daily Kos and MoveOn.org now running the show, the elected leadership of the Democratic Party just went for it.

What a political blunder.

The latest Rasmussen numbers on American attitudes toward Guantanamo indicate that the U.S. citizenry is in no mood for play time and moral equivocation when it comes to detaining terrorists. Likely due in large part to the vicious hyperbole of Senator Durbin and others, the undecideds that existed just about a week ago have rallied rapidly against shutting down Guantanamo:


20% of Americans believe prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have been treated unfairly. Seven-out-of-ten adults believe the prisoners are being treated "better than they deserve" (36%) or "about right" (34%).

Although there are clear partisan differences on the issue...


... even rank-and-file Democrats are not willing to express that there's been abuse at Guantanamo. Want to wager on what proportion of that 30% is made up of the Kos and MoveOn types?

If an issue is wonkish and arcane, like Social Security reform is, the American people often fall prey to even the most lame efforts to distort the debate.

When, on the other hand, an issue is simple, straight-forward, and requires a moral judgement, the American people only need a moment or two to reflect before reaching the appropriate conclusion. Bank on that one.

There's an important lesson here for people in Washington: just because everyone around you, in the media, at dinner parties, and elsewhere, suddenly congeals behind the flavor of the month "let's go softer on terrorism" fad, it does not mean people in real America are on board with such lunacy. Americans demand a higher level of seriousness from our leaders.

What is so fascinating to watch is how in these frenzies of political activity, in these short burst of intense debate on an issue (such as we've seen recently on Guantanamo), if Republicans are willing to stand and fight, the Democrats just can't win.

This pattern has become a truism, underlining the notion that when Americans actually pay attention, they are increasingly inclined toward the GOP.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 June 2005 04:18 PM


GITMO prisoners being treated unfairly?... Let's see... We have prisoners who would decapitate, bomb and torture American citizens if they had the chance? Hmmmm. I would say those prisoners are being treated just fine!...I don't feel like they should be abused but I don't believe they have it so bad! Are we suppose to make it cozy for them? Is GITMO suppose to be like a night at the Marriot or Hilton? If they are being fed and watered and allowed religious freedom isn't that enough? These are not exactly our guests! These are prisoners who would love to see us all Dead!...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at June 23, 2005 07:36 PM

Does anyone really care what Joe Biden or Jimmy Carter think?

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at June 23, 2005 09:28 PM

Why would we listen to what Jimmy Carter says about anything to do with Mideast foreign policy? Does the Hostage Crisis ring a bell? Joe Biden may want to be President but he doesn't have what it takes! Hello...a has been and a want to be, with little to offer Americans other than being critics...What are we supposed to congratulate them on their new jobs as critics?...

Posted by: Cindy T. at June 25, 2005 12:35 PM