At an event in Cleveland, Ohio, on Wednesday, President Obama was asked what advice he’d give himself if he could go back to his first day in office. While we would’ve made a crack about never saying “you didn’t build that” or making sure some NSA contractor wasn’t absconding with millions of classified documents, Obama had a heavier answer (which is somewhat surprising, since the question was asked by a seventh grader). “I think I would’ve closed Guantanamo on the first day,” Obama said. “I didn’t because at that time we had a bipartisan agreement that it should be closed.”
Obama did sign an executive order to close the prison within a year during his second day in office, but later his effort to have the detainees transferred to a U.S. prion was blocked by Congress. “The politics of it got tough, and people got scared by the rhetoric around it,” Obama said. “Once that set in, then the path of least resistance was just to leave it open, even though it’s not who we are as a country and it’s used by terrorists around the world to help recruit jihadists.”
“Instead we’ve had to just chip away at it, year after year after year, but I think in that first couple of weeks we could’ve done it quicker,” Obama added. Rather than focusing on Guantanamo, he could’ve just told his past self to abandon any hope of bipartisan compromise.