CBS’s Rodriguez Cites NYT to Criticize Obama Gitmo Decision

Maggie Rodriguez, CBS In a rare instance of critical coverage of the Obama administration on Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez asked Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman about Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo Bay: "I'm not sure if you've seen the New York Times this morning. On the front page there is an article that reveals that a terror suspect released from Guantanamo a few months ago...is now heading up Al Qaeda in Yemen. I'm wondering if this makes you less inclined Representative Harman, to support closing down the prison?"

Harman actually doubted the credibility of the usually left-wing newspaper: "Not at all. Obviously, if that allegation is true and if this fellow has now become a key Al Qaeda operative, that's shocking and disappointing." Harman went on to argue: "But there is really no justification, and there was no justification, for disappearing people in a place that was located offshore America so it was outside the reach of U.S. law. As President Obama said two days ago, there's a false choice between our safety and our values." Rodriguez then turned to Republican Congressman Peter Hoekstra: "It all sounds great, but Representative Hoekstra you said yesterday that's placing 'hope ahead of reality,' right?"

One point Hoekstra made in opposition to closing Guantanamo was: "...where are these prisoners going to go in the United States? There was a good reason to move them to Guantanamo, we recognized that-" At that point, Rodriguez interrupted him to bolster his argument: "A lot of people say ‘not in my backyard.’"

At the top of the show, co-host Harry Smith actually wondered: "Honeymoon over? Republicans spar over President Obama's order to shut down Guantanamo Bay...While they battle over his economic recovery plan...Can the president deliver on his bipartisan promise?"

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: Honeymoon over? Republicans spar over President Obama's order to shut down Guantanamo Bay.

BARACK OBAMA: America's moral example must be the bedrock and the beacon of our global leadership.

SMITH: While they battle over his economic recovery plan.

JOHN BOEHNER: It looks like a bill that spends too much and spends it too late.

SMITH: Can the president deliver on his bipartisan promise?

7:02AM SEGMENT:

JULIE CHEN: But first, it promises to be another very busy day for President Obama. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante joins us with that. Bill, good morning.

BILL PLANTE: Hey Julie. This morning the president gets up close and personal with members of the House and Senate from both parties. An important meeting, because he wants to push them on his plan to aid the ailing economy. Mr. Obama wants it known that he'll be paying very close attention to the financial crisis, getting a daily economic briefing, just as he does a national security briefing.

ROBERT GIBBS: The presidents asked that this be added each day to his schedule as the country's in the midst of an economic crisis and an economic emergency.

PLANTE: In a public gesture designed to highlight a campaign promise, Mr. Obama signed an order closing the prison at Guantanamo within a year and forbidding the so-called 'enhanced interrogation techniques.'

OBAMA: Once again, America's moral example must be the bedrock and the beacon of our global leadership.

PLANTE: Still finding his way around the White House, the president ventured into the press briefing room for a tour and suggested that we need more healthful snacks in the vending machine. If he looked cheerful, there was a good reason, Mr. Obama got word that he'll be able to keep his Blackberry, which will have special security.

OBAMA: I won the fight, but I don't think that, you know, it's actually up and running yet.

PLANTE: Now, the president's visit to reporters came as a surprise, it seldom happens. And there's a reason the president seldom comes down into the press briefing room, and that is because when they do, we start asking them questions. Julie.

CHEN: You're going to push him away by doing that, doing your job. No, I'm just kidding there. Alright, Bill Plante outside the White House. Thanks a lot, Bill. And now let's head back to New York and Maggie.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Julie. President Obama's decision to close Guantanamo Bay has ignited a debate, especially over the issue of where to put those prisoners. We're joined this morning by Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra and Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman. Good morning to you both.

JANE HARMAN: Good morning.

PETER HOEKSTRA: Hey, good morning.

RODRIGUEZ: I'm not sure if you've seen the New York Times this morning. On the front page there is an article that reveals that a terror suspect released from Guantanamo a few months ago, someone who said that if he was ever released he would reunite with his family and work for their furniture business, is now heading up Al Qaeda in Yemen. I'm wondering if this makes you less inclined Representative Harman, to support closing down the prison?

HARMAN: Not at all. Obviously, if that allegation is true and if this fellow has now become a key Al Qaeda operative, that's shocking and disappointing. The Saudis are ones who should worry about Al Qaeda attacks and so are the Yemenis. This fellow, I think, is a Yemeni national. But nonetheless, what it tells me is that President Obama has to proceed extremely carefully. But there is really no justification, and there was no justification, for disappearing people in a place that was located offshore America so it was outside the reach of U.S. law. As President Obama said two days ago, there's a false choice between our safety and our values. And I believe that the system that he has set up will bring some people to the U.S. for prosecution, we've already successfully prosecuted and imprisoned 145 terrorists, both U.S. nationals and foreign nationals, since 9/11 in U.S. federal prison. It will release some people, obviously, more carefully, those who committed absolutely no crimes and who were no danger. And it will send others back to their country of origin or to appropriate tribunals elsewhere in the world, where they can be tried, and if convicted, imprisoned.

RODRIGUEZ: It all sounds great, but Representative Hoekstra you said yesterday that's placing 'hope ahead of reality,' right?

HOEKSTRA: That's exactly right, I mean the executive order that was signed yesterday really is very short on specifics. Yes, we have processed about 500 people through Guantanamo, but as your -- or as the New York Times points out, that about 10% of the people that we've released out of Guantanamo, there's indications that they are back on the battlefield, they are attacking American troops. The real question that we now face is what is President Obama's strategy to confront this threat from radical jihadists? Are we going to go back to what we did in the 1990's where when we were attacked in 1993 at the World Trade Center we said, 'you know, if you attack the United States, we are going to throw the book at you and we are going to prosecute you.' And after 9/11 we found out and we recognized that that was not an effective strategy. So that's one of the questions, what is the real strategy, is it prosecution or prevention? The second thing is, where are these prisoners going to go in the United States? There was a good reason to move them to Guantanamo, we recognized that-

RODRIGUEZ: A lot of people say 'not in my backyard.'

HOEKSTRA: That's right, because we knew -- we knew that we didn't want them -- we wanted them in Guantanamo because we knew that if we put these people in the United States they would become a magnet for attacks on the homeland. So put them someplace that is safe and secure. And I think that as people start getting an indication that there going to Kansas, that they're going to California, that they're going to Illinois, or to Michigan, people are going to say 'no, why would we want them here-

HARMAN: Wait a minute-

HOEKSTRA: -and put them in a general prison population and make our hometowns a target for terrorists.

RODRIGUEZ: Okay.

HARMAN: Okay, but wait a minute-

RODRIGUEZ: We're out of time so I want to give the last word in ten seconds to Representative Harman.

HARMAN: Thank you. Most of these folks who've been successfully prosecuted are in Supermax Prison in Florence, Colorado, and that is exactly where they should be. Let's retire the fear card, let's understand that we can do both.

RODRIGUEZ: Okay.

HARMAN: We can be safe and we can protect our values.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you so much for your time, Representatives Harman and Hoekstra, appreciate it.

HARMAN: Thank you.

HOEKSTRA: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC