Chuck Todd: This Has All Been About Emptying Gitmo


WILLIE GEIST: Help us out here. We've laid out all the facts. We've talked to a lot of people over the last several days. It feels like there's something missing at the center of this story. I think everyone here -- Republican, Democrat, whoever you are -- wants to believe that there's something grand here, that there's some other plan. But it doesn't appear there is. What are we missing?

CHUCK TODD: I have to say, I think this is all about Gitmo. Everything about this has been about Gitmo, and finally we heard an Obama administration official yesterday, Marie Harf, one of the spokespeople at the State Department, for the first time said something on the record that I had been hearing on background and off the record is, "We had to get something for these guys because we were eventually going to have to release them anyway." And she said this on the record, and it goes back to -- and I wanted to sort of second something that I heard Bill say, which is, this is about Gitmo. The entire PR attempt on the weekend was about almost deflecting what they anticipated to be a sharp political fight about the decision to start releasing Gitmo detainees starting with these five -- and in this case they decided to quote, unquote get something for these five -- and I think they anticipated that fight so they thought well, let's do a rally-around-the-flag moment. We know that there was certainly a bipartisan group of members of Congress who wanted Bergdahl released.

But this is why I've been sort of awestruck over the last six days, which is many ways the shiny metal object here has been Bergdahl when really I think the entire motivation is starting the emptying out of Gitmo and starting this decision, which is going to be a very difficult process politically. We've seen how difficult it's been. The president, on his second day in office, signed that executive order with some flourish, and, of course, within a month, Mitch McConnell and a lot of other senators, not just Republicans, but a lot of other senators were essentially trying to stop this. So, I think this whole thing has been about starting the emptying of Gitmo and then doing that PR campaign, they thought, well, let's deflect the debate a little bit, and let's see if we can lower the temperature of the Gitmo debate.

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