Gates: Gitmo Deadline Was Smart Politics, But Won't Be Met (VIDEO)

11/27/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged on Sunday that the Obama administration's efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay would likely not be completed by a self-imposed January 22 deadline.

But in several interviews on the Sunday talk show circuit, the Pentagon header defended the issuance of the deadline, saying the move was needed to stir political action on the contentious issue.

During an appearance on ABC's "This Week," Gates recalled that during a national security team meeting with the Obama transition team on December 7, the topic of closing Guantanamo by executive order was discussed

"And the question was, should we set a deadline?" Gates told George Stephanopoulos. "Should we pin ourselves down? I actually was one of those who said we should because I know enough from being around this town that if you don't put a deadline on something, you'll never move the bureaucracy. But I also said and then if we find we can't get it done by that time but we have a good plan, then you're in a position to say it's going to take us a little longer but we are moving in the direction of implementing the policy that the president set.

"So the deadline of January 22nd will not be met?" Stephanopoulos asked.

To which Gates replied: "It's going to be tough."

Gates offered similar remarks during an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union."

With Republicans (along with many Democrats) in Congress forming a major roadblock to plans to transfer detainees from Guantanamo to domestic facilities, the Obama White House surely benefits from having its Republican Defense Secretary playing a public role on the issue. But at this juncture, the political damage has largely been inflicted. White House counsel Greg Craig - who internally lobbied hard for setting a strict time-frame for closing Gitmo - is reportedly out of the job and it's all but acknowledged that the deadline was both non-practical and a mistake.