A new Washington Post/ABC News poll with a striking finding has New York Times Editorial Page editor Andrew Rosenthal in dismay: 53 percent of self-described liberal Democrats support keeping Guantanamo Bay open. Does this mean their previous virulent opposition was not based on concern for civil liberties, but was just partisan Bush-hatred? Of course not.
Rosenthal’s Thursday morning post “Hurray for Guantanamo Bay” ignored that clear Democratic hypocrisy while making excuses for President Obama. Apparently it’s all the fault of Republicans in Congress. (Left-wing civil liberties advocate Glenn Greenwald strongly disagreed in a March 2011 op-ed for Salon.) Rosenthal wrote:
There’s a new poll out from the Washington Post and ABC News that contains some bad news for two sorts of people – those, like me, who are concerned about the Obama administration’s position on civil liberties; and Republicans, not like me, who think they can make President Obama look weak on national security.
According to the poll, 70 percent of Americans say they approve of President Obama’s decision to keep open the Guantanamo Bay prison. The Post said 53 percent of self-described liberal Democrats and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats support keeping it in operation.
Before expressing shock and dismay, let me clear something up. Mr. Obama never really made a “decision” to keep the prison open. He failed to follow through on the announcement that he would close it, and then let himself get rolled by Congressional Republicans when members of his administration tried to keep the promise.
I’ve been told that the administration decided against taking a stand on this issue because their internal research indicated that Americans didn’t care all that much. The Post poll, sadly, confirms that political diagnosis. It shows how soon we, as a nation, forget. Or rather, it shows that we have a distressingly short attention span, and that we allow ourselves to accept outrages so long as they’re familiar.
Or at least as long as those outrages occurred under the watch of a despised Republican. After that, it's no longer that big a deal.