During the last administration, CBS anchor Bob Schieffer was a red-hot advocate of closing the terrorist holding pen at Guantanamo. "This is just a boil. It's a cancer. This thing is not doing anybody any good,” he ranted on MSNBC’s Imus In The Morning show on June 9, 2005.
Schieffer’s ardor cooled considerably once Obama was elected. Will Schieffer bring up the “cancer” of Gitmo in tonight’s debate? Back in the Bush years, he repeatedly suggested it made us just like the terrorists we were fighting. Here’s how the Imus rant continued:
They had a showing up here in New York before Memorial Day, this film about John McCain when he was [tortured] in the North Vietnamese prison camp. And to see what those people did to him, it just, it made me rethink this whole thing about how we treat these prisoners in Guantanamo....We need to think about what separates us from the people who are trying to take our freedom away from us....I don't want my kids to think this is how Americans are."
Schieffer unloaded a larger commentary on the same we’re-just-like-terrorists theme at the end of his show Face the Nation on May 29, 2005:
McCain says that code of honor drilled into him by his father and the Naval Academy is why he was able to survive the torture and the inhumanity of his prison captors. He couldn't let his father down. That code of honor was the center of his life and it gave him strength--what separated him from his captors.
I thought about that as yet another tale of torture and abuse came out about the POW camp we are running at Guantanamo Bay. Columnist Tom Friedman said the prison ought to be shut down because the stories about it are so inflaming the Arab world they're making the war on terrorism more dangerous for our American soldiers to fight.
But as I watched the McCain movie, I wondered if the greater danger is the impact Guantanamo is having on us. Do we want our children to believe this is how we are? Is this the code of honor we are passing on to the next generation?
As we reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day, let us remember first what it is that separates us from those who would take away our freedom -- what John McCain's dad taught his kid, what we should be teaching ours.
On May 19, 2006, Schieffer was at it again, leading off the CBS Evening News in an editorializing frenzy:
"Good evening. Has the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo become more trouble than it's worth? Even those who created it have to be asking that question tonight. It has generated reams of bad publicity for the United States, today a UN committee said it ought to be shut down because it violates the Geneva Convention, and now the latest: Prisoners wielding improvised weapons lured 10 guards into an ambush and a riot broke out. Our national security correspondent, David Martin, has our report."
One sign of Schieffer’s fading interest in closing Gitmo under Obama came in a January 23, 2011 Face the Nation interview with one John McCain:
SCHIEFFER: The Obama administration says it's going to increase the use of military commissions now to try to prosecute some of those Gitmo detainees.
MCCAIN: In Gitmo.
SCHIEFFER: Yes, in Gitmo. You were one of the few who said we ought to close Gitmo. Is this a sign that you can't close Gitmo right now? It's not going to be closed?
MCCAIN: They've badly mishandled this entire issue from the beginning. But Lindsey Graham and I and Joe Lieberman will be coming forward with another package to try to solve this whole issue of what we do with detainees. To try them in New York City -- Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in New York City -- of course was the nuttiest.
And, you know, I mean, so it's good to have these trials convened in military commissions and in Guantanamo. And we'll be proposing a package that hopefully will work with the administration on that will give us a clear path as to how to address these people. Bob, don't forget that nearly 30 percent of the detainees who have been returned to the country they came from have reentered the fight. That's unacceptable.
Our veteran CBS watchers Matthew Balan and Kyle Drennen pulled some other Schieffer foreign-policy episodes of bias:
July 20, 2006: Schieffer: We ‘May Have to Reinstitute the Draft’