Jacob Heilbrunn

How A Republican Congress Will Investigate Obama

One of the things that the Obama administration dreads about a Republican Congress is the prospect of multiple investigations. As a short but significant article in today's Wall Street Journal indicates, the administration does indeed have something to worry about. It seems that Republican staffers on the Senate Intelligence Committee have visited Germany, France, and Spain, among other countries, to investigate the administration's transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison.

Remember when President Obama declared he would shutter Guantanamo? Well, that was then. What's happened, of course, is that the administration has been trying to slim down down the prison rather than close it entirely. It continues to house over 170 detainees.

Now a big fight is brewing over the prison once again. Except that this time it's Republicans who are stirring it up. Where Democrats once tarred Guantanamo as a kind of American Gulag, Republicans are now arguing that it would be a catastrophic mistake to close it. Too many of the detainees released by George W. Bush, they say, returned to the fight. There's no reason Obama should keep exporting detainees, only to see them once more attack American forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

It's unclear how many detainees really have escaped the monitoring that's supposed to take place when they return to their host countries. And as the Journal points out, there are some obstacles to trying to impede the extrusion of detainees:

One problem for those hoping to slow down Guantanamo releases is a Supreme Court ruling entitling detainees to challenge their confinement in court. Some detainees have won lower-court rulings ordering their release, although final decisions are awaiting appeal.

Nevertheless, this could prove to be a potent issue in the next Congress. If Obama continues to think that bipartisanship is in the offing, he may soon discover that it is an illusion. What is more likely to occur is an avalanche of investigations into the workings of his administration. As Ruth Marcus observes in the Washington Post, Congressman Darrell Issa, who will head the House oversight committee, in the event of a Republican midterm victory, told Rush Limbaugh on October 19,

You know, there will be a certain degree of gridlock as the president adjusts to the fact that he has been one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.

Obama should realize that he will be scrutinized not just on domestic but also foreign policy.