The Corner

Buying Thomson Is about Closing Gitmo, No Matter What They Say

If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period.” “The allegation . . . that ATF ‘sanctioned’ or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico — is false.” The Benghazi terrorist attack, in which jihadists killed four Americans, was a spontaneous “response to a video that is offensive.” 

I could go on, but you get the point. This administration lies whenever lying is expedient in a scheme it is trying to accomplish or an accusation it is trying to dodge. Its current suspect claims, rationalizing its just-announced purchase of Thomson state prison in Illinois — namely, that it understands and respects the will of Congress that enemy-combatant detainees at Gitmo not be brought into the United States; that it has no present intention to transfer those detainees into the U.S.; that its sneaky, unprecedented method of buying Thomson has nothing to do with its previously floated proposal to house the Gitmo detainees there; and that it is just trying to deal with a purported crisis in federal prison overcrowding (which crisis apparently could not be dealt with while the body expected to pay for new prisons, Congress, was in session) — are incredible. This president’s record, moreover, does not warrant our giving him the benefit of the doubt.

As the 9/11 Families point out, the Justice Department’s court filing on the purchase of the state prison took pains to keep open its option to transfer Gitmo prisoners there. DOJ declares that the purpose of the acquisition includes “provid[ing] humane and secure confinement of individuals held under authority of any Act of Congress, and such other persons as in the opinion of the Attorney General of the United States are proper subjects for confinement in such institutions.” The Gitmo detainees are being held under the authority of acts of Congress — in particular, the 2001 authorization for the use of military force. And Attorney General Holder has been insistent that, in his opinion, civilian federal prisons are fitting holding facilities for enemy-combatant terrorists captured in wartime. 

It does not matter what Obama officials say they “understand” about Congress’s will or about what the president’s current “intentions” are. The president is laying the groundwork to close Gitmo — something he has long promised to do, that he believes should be done, that he argues he has the power to do regardless of Congress’s wishes, and that he has signaled he would do once he gets the upcoming election behind him.#more#

This summer when the Left, having been stalled on Thomson in 2009, started to agitate over it again, I wrote a column about it:

Once again, the administration and congressional Democrats, particularly Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, are stepping up pressure to have the federal government buy Thomson. They claim that this is no longer about moving the terrorists — no one, they assure us, is trying to do that anymore. Now, we’re to believe this is just another Keynesian stimulus — as if, after hundreds of billions of failed stimulus, that somehow makes it all okay. Thomson is being hyped as a way to “create jobs” in Illinois. Proponents also contend that a federal purchase will address what is suddenly framed as a “crisis” in federal-prison overcrowding. Funny — the reason Thomson was built in the first place is that these same Illinois pols claimed there was a crisis in state-prison overcrowding. Yet, Thomson lies empty.

Durbin and other Democrats are squeezing Frank Wolf of Virginia, the Republican who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Representative Wolf has also always been strong when it comes to American security against the terrorist threat. He is blocking the federal purchase of Thomson. It makes no economic sense for Illinois’s fiscal recklessness to be socialized onto the rest of the country, particularly when we’ve already paid for Gitmo and when Leviathan is even more of a fiscal basketcase than the Land of Lincoln. Moreover, it makes no national-security sense to give Obama a golden invitation to close Gitmo and transfer terrorists into the country once the election is over.

On that latter point, it is contended that the administration understands that Congress opposes the transfer of trained-terrorist enemy combatants into the country, and that the Justice Department has thus abandoned this plan. Don’t believe it.

The Obama administration is not pushing this hugely unpopular initiative now — for the same reason that it arranged for many of its other agenda items, including the phase-in of Obamacare and the phase-out of the Bush tax cuts, to be postponed until after the election. If Obama had to run on the things he wants to do, he could not win. Shrewdly, he has tried to take them off the table, figuring that Republicans are too inept and timid to make them into campaign issues.

But remember this: When Obama signed the legislation banning him from transferring the detainees into the country, he did so under protest. As a senator and as a presidential candidate, he objected strenuously to President Bush’s use of “signing statements.” These were proclamations, made when Bush signed laws, that certain aspects of the legislation were deemed by the executive branch to be unconstitutional and unenforceable. As president, Obama has not only muted his criticism of signing statements, he has resorted to them. In that vein, he and his Justice Department have argued that congressional attempts to prohibit him from transferring alien enemy combatants into our country are invalid.

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.

There is nothing new under the sun. 


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