QUITE A FEW GITMO ENDORSEMENTS…. Colin Powell offered some subtle criticism yesterday of President Obama’s handling of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, arguing the White House should have articulated a more detailed plan for the detainees before starting the process. But Powell’s general take (pdf) was a rather forceful endorsement of the president’s general approach on the issue.

“I felt Guantanamo should be closed for the past six years, and I lobbied and presented reasons to President Bush. And Mr. Cheney is not only disagreeing with President Obama’s policy. He’s disagreeing with President Bush’s policy. President Bush stated repeatedly to international audiences and to the country that he wanted to close Guantanamo. […]

“Guantanamo has caused us a great deal of trouble throughout the world. And Mr. Cheney the other day said, ‘Well, we’re doing it to satisfy European intellectuals’ or something like that. No. We’re doing it to reassure Europeans, Muslims, Arabs, all the people around the world that we are a nation of law. […]

“This business about making the country less safe by bringing these people to our prison system, we have got two million people in jail in America. The highest incarceration rate in the world. And they all had lawyers. They had all had access to the writ of habeas corpus and they’re all in jail. And I don’t know, Bob, if you’ve ever seen some of these prison reality shows on television where they show you what a super lock-up is. I’m not terribly about worried one of these guys going to a super lock-up.”

Hearing this, it occurred to me that the list of leading Republican officials — or officials appointed by a Republican president — who support shutting down the Gitmo facility includes quite a few names. Bush’s Secretary of State (Powell), Bush’s Defense Secretary (Robert Gates), Bush’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs (Mullen), even Bush himself, all believe the nation’s security interests would be well served by shutting down the detention facility.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily translate into merit. It’s a lazy argument to say, “Group A believes this is a good policy, therefore the policy is worthwhile.” Obviously, Powell, Gates, Mullen, et al can be wrong about this.

I mention it, though, because the Republican Party has decided that this is the killer issue upon which the GOP can build a comeback. They decided quite some time ago — even before last year’s election — that public fear and confusion were ripe for exploitation, and the party that couldn’t make headway on anything of substance could turn Gitmo into demagogic gold.

It creates an odd dynamic. The one issue Republicans believe is the president’s Achilles’ heel is the same issue in which Obama enjoys the support of Colin Powell, Bush’s Defense Secretary, and the Bush-appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Collectively, they’re up against Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, and craven members of Congress.

In terms of public credibility, it’s a match-up that seems to favor the White House — or at least it would, if more congressional Dems stopped being so cowardly about this.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.