Last week, for the first time in a long time, a journalist not named Jon Stewart asked President Obama about Gitmo, and he responded by reaffirming his desire to close the prison, saying he's asked "his team" to tackle this problem. But "his team" doesn't include anyone actually responsible for closing Gitmo. In fact, Daniel Fried, the State Department's Special Envoy for the Closure of Guantanamo -- the only man in government to have "closure" and "Guantanamo" in his title -- was recently reassigned.
President Obama should immediately establish a position within the White House responsible for cleaning up this morass. To put it another way: "his team" isn't going to score until someone is suited up and ready to play.
The new hire should have the kind of stature that signals the importance and urgency of this issue. No one is likely to apply for this position, so we're approaching this as a draft.
Colin Powell. Asked about the President Obama's first-term mistakes, he cited his failure to close Gitmo, saying he should've bypassed Congress in this effort. The President could hire his (still immensely popular) supporter to help him achieve this goal. Powell's experience as a diplomat would come in handy because part of the job is persuading other countries' leaders to take back their citizens.
David Petraeus. In 2009, he said closing Gitmo would boost the country's counterterrorism efforts. Here's his chance to serve his country again and do career rehab in the process. For him, the gig would be part honor, part punishment.
Sandra Day O'Connor. "[H]istory and common sense teach us that an unchecked system of detention carries the potential to become a means for oppression and abuse of others," she wrote for the court in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, recognizing the right of Gitmo detainees to challenge their detention. This famous pragmatist could be just the person for the job.
Alberto Mora. No one would bring more passion and credibility the job than Mora, who as the Navy's general counsel fought to end the abuse of prisoners at Gitmo.
Russ Feingold. The former senator and civil liberties champion voted against funding the transfer of Gitmo detainees to a prison on U.S. soil because the system of injustice would have traveled with them. He might relish the chance to close Gitmo the right-and rights-respecting-way.
Michele Flournoy. Although she's not a household name, the former policy chief at the Pentagon is well-respected within the military. An advocate of a leaner, more cost-effective military, she's surely aware that Gitmo, which spends $800,000 annually on each detainee, is the world's most expensive prison.
John Bellinger III. Another lesser known choice, the former legal adviser to Condi Rice says Gitmo has "come to symbolize abuse of Muslim prisoners and serves as a powerful recruiting tool for al-Qaeda." He'd have credibility with Republicans in Congress, whose cooperation, while not essential, is desirable.
Sheryl Sandberg. She says women tend to turn down valuable opportunities for fear of failure. Perhaps she'd like to lean in to this challenge and put her principles into action. Who says men are better at problem solving and crisis management? Sexists, that's who.
Steven Rattner. "What's good for the country is good for General Motors and vice versa." The man who led the auto industry bail-out might be just the person to oversee the mothballing of a prison that gives "made in America" a bad name.
George Clooney. When governments failed to do enough to prevent genocide in Sudan, Clooney launched his own satellites into orbit to monitor potential atrocities. If he took on the job of closing Gitmo, it wouldn't even be the toughest human rights assignment he's tackled.
Mike Bloomberg. Sure, after serving three terms as New York's mayor he could run for president, but Mayor Bloomberg needs a challenge. And while recent New York terrorism trials have gone smoothly, it was Bloomberg's opposition to hosting the prosecution of KSM and the 9/11 conspirators that helped lead to the lackluster spectacle we're now seeing in Guantanamo's military commissions.
Clint Eastwood. Talking to a chair at the GOP convention, he criticized the President for breaking his promise to close Gitmo. That performance didn't exactly inspire confidence in the famed director, but he still might be able to get the situation under control. I mean, he's Clint Eastwood.
The president's renewed commitment to closing Gitmo is welcome. But he won't get the job done unless he gives someone the job.