Yes, Obama is claiming, in order to kill Gitmo as a campaign issue, that he has no present intention of transferring the prisoners into the United States. But make no mistake that his formal position is that he has the power to do it and that he thinks it should be done.
Congressional Republicans ought to be rallying around Wolf. And the Romney campaign should not be letting Obama lie low in the tall grass on this one. The public strongly supports keeping Gitmo open and keeping terrorists out of the country. The issue presents Romney with an opportunity both to show how extreme Obama is and to remind Americans of all the time bombs that could go off after November 6, once Obama no longer has to worry about being punished at the ballot box for acting on his worst instincts.
Which gets us back to lawlessness. Even if Obama does not have the lawful authority to transfer the prisoners into our country, he certainly has the sheer power to do it — just as he had the sheer power to initiate a war in Libya without congressional authorization, the sheer power to announce recess appointments even though there was no recess, the sheer power not to enforce the immigration laws, and the sheer power to make up his own welfare standards regardless of what congressional statutes say.
This is a renegade presidency. If Obama decides that he is going to put these terrorists on a plane and fly them into the United States, what is going to stop him? A law? Are you kidding? There is only one thing that might stop him: Congress’s refusal to purchase Thomson or some similar space that would give him a place to stash them.
To be blunt, I am not sure that will stop him, either. There are only 168 prisoners left. He has cleared about 60 of them for release now — meaning he just has to find countries willing to take them. And with the “Arab Spring” in bloom, there may soon be a number of countries that would happily accept the terrorists as heroes. Indeed, Egypt’s new, American-endorsed Islamist president is already agitating for the Blind Sheikh to be released and repatriated.
There is every chance that, if Republicans do not accede to Democratic demands that Thomson be bought from Illinois, Obama will attempt to close Gitmo anyway, by releasing the detainees to willing Islamic countries. That could happen regardless of who wins the election. Even if he loses, Obama will have ten weeks as president to make a great deal of mischief. Congress has virtually no ability to stop him from releasing enemy combatants to foreign countries.
But that hardly means Congress should make it easy on Obama and the Left. Republicans should stand up and say “No way” to Thomson. And Governor Romney must smoke Obama out now on his post–November 6 intentions. Of course, no commitment Obama makes now in order to get himself elected will be enforceable once the election is over. Forcing the president to discuss these time bombs and make commitments, however, would hammer home to voters just how much is at stake on Election Day. It would also make it more difficult politically for Obama to act on his worst instincts in the ten weeks between Election Day and January 20, 2013.