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To Close or Not To Close: POTUS Candidates Respond to Obama's Final Push to Shut Down Gitmo

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Created: 29 February, 2016
Updated: 16 October, 2022
3 min read

During the 2008 election, then-candidate Barack Obama promised that one of his first actions as president would be to close Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. military prison in Cuba. He followed up that commitment by signing an order on his very first day in office to close the facility.

Perhaps it was a preview for what has characterized his presidency: frustration and rejection at the hands of Congress.

Since signing the order, Obama has run into the problem of where to send the remaining prisoners and Congress has continually blocked any attempts to try to relocate them to any penitentiary in the U.S. and thus, blocked his plans to close the prison.

With less than a year in office, Obama is making one final push to close Guantanamo. He argued for the moral imperative in closing the prison, explaining that it has failed to make the U.S. safer in the war on terror. Human rights groups like Amnesty International have even called the prison the Gulag of our time.

Throughout his administration, Obama made repeated attempts to try to get this initial measure passed, but with little success. The prospect seemed even slimmer in November when Congress passed a defense bill that blocked the president from bringing terrorist suspects currently in Guantanamo to the United States.

So far, some prisoners have been released back to home countries, but also places as far flung as Uruguay (although released prisoners have been very unhappy there). Currently, there are still 91 remaining prisoners and on February 23, Obama announced a new blueprint for transferring the prisoners.

More than half would be transferred to a prison on domestic soil while the rest would be sent to other countries willing to accept them. The most recent defense bill appears to contrast this attempted plan and many politicians came out to condemn it, including some presidential candidates. While Obama was flanked on his sides by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, below is a breakdown of the presidential candidates’ reactions to Obama’s announcement:

Hillary Clinton: Supports the president’s plan. Having worked in his administration during the initial attempts to close the prison, she cited her long-standing support for this policy as both an administration figure and also her plan as a senator in 2007.

Bernie Sanders: Supports the president’s plan. He believes that the prison has “damaged the United States’ moral standing and undermined our foreign policy.”

Donald Trump: Does not support the president’s plan. In December, Trump said he would not only keep the base open but plans to put even more “bad dudes” there. He promised to keep the facility open and do so for an even smaller budget than Obama is.

Ted Cruz: Does not support the president’s plan. Cruz is vehemently opposed to restoring relations with Cuba and he has used the plan to close Guantanamo to criticize Obama’s foreign policy on both a security basis and foreign policy basis. Cruz said it must be Obama’s parting gift to Castro, but is against America’s best interests.

John Kasich: Does not support the president’s plan. The Ohio governor has said that he does not understand why the president would consider sending some of the worst criminals to American soil and is thus against the plan.

Marco Rubio: Does not support the president’s plan. He said he would keep the facility open and send captured ISIS terrorists there as well. He criticized Obama’s policy as “a continuation of prioritizing his own legacy over the safety of the American people.”

Jill Stein: Supports the president’s plan. She lays out in her policy document that she would close the facility.

Gary Johnson: Previously supported closing the facility. He said he wanted an end to the practice of indefinite detention of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay and an end to interrogations that involve torture.

Photo Source: AP

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