It now is clear that the much-maligned and “highly unpopular” former Vice President Dick Cheney has defeated the eloquent, popular President Barack Obama in their recent high-profile debate (of sorts) on the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, which holds some 240 prisoners. A Gallup poll of 1015 adults was taken by landline and cell phone from Friday to Sunday and the results were summarized in USA Today yesterday. The key findings:
1. By more than 2-1, those surveyed say Guantanamo shouldn’t be closed. By more than 3-1, they oppose moving some of the accused terrorists housed there to prisons in their own states.
2. Americans were inclined to accept the argument by Cheney and former president George W. Bush that the detention center had made the United States safer. By a 40%-18% margin, those surveyed said the prison had strengthened national security rather than weakened it.
3. Those who want the prison to remain open feel more strongly on the subject that those who want to close it. A 54% majority of those polled say the prison shouldn’t be closed, and that they’ll be upset if the administration moves forward to close it.
You may recall that last month Senate Democrats stripped $80 million to close Gitmo from a spending bill and have thus far blocked any transfer of detainees to U.S. soil. Given the Gallup poll, that position is unlikely to change. Obama faces a dilemma in that he has promised to close Gitmo by early 2010.
In case you missed the rival speeches of Mr. Obama and Mr. Cheney, here they are in their entirety: