Pentagon Official on Guantanamo Quits: Was It Politically Motivated?

Parsing the resignation of Obama's point man on detainee policy

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Phillip Carter, a central figure appointed by President Obama to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, has resigned. Though Carter insists the decision was for "personal and family reasons," many suspect the decision was politically motivated.  They speculate that Carter, a longtime opponent of President Bush's aggressive detainee policies, may have butted heads with Obama for not sufficiently distancing his policies from Bush's. Here's what pundits are saying:

  • Smells Political, writes Glenn Greenwald at Salon: "I have no idea what actually motivated Carter’s abrupt resignation, but here’s what I do know: so many of the detention and other 'War on Terror' policies Obama has explicitly adopted were the very same ones which Carter (as well as Obama) repeatedly railed against during the Bush years, in Carter’s case primarily in blogs he maintained both at The Washington Post and at Slate.  Whatever else is true, the policies Obama has adopted in the last six months in the very areas of Carter’s responsibilities were ones Carter vehemently condemned when implemented by Bush."
  • Not a Political Decision, writes Wired's Noah Shachtman, who knows Carter personally: "I know he’s had some very real family matters to handle along the way. So I think he’s being straight-up, and not just giving the typical Washington exit excuse... Were detainees a bear of an issue? For sure; that’s a job you couldn’t pay me enough to tackle. Did the Obama administration handle it the same way that the Obama campaign suggested it might? No, not exactly. But Carter was pragmatic enough to keep going. So I don’t think he resigned over policy differences or over professional personality conflicts. For private reasons, he just needed a change."
  • Regardless, A Revealing Moment, writes James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. Joyner says : "This is perhaps the most substantive issue area in which President Obama most sharply differs from Candidate Obama.  From my perspective, this is a classic case of a naive candidate being hit with reality when confronted with the reality of being responsible for America’s national security and I applaud the president for alienating his base rather than doing the wrong thing.  But for a true believer, I could see how the dashing of Hope and lack of Change could be too much to bear.
  • It's a Shame He Left, writes Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: "It's a disappointment either way, as is Obama's unwillingness to fight harder for civil liberties.  The shoals of reality have just proven a little too rocky."
  • Many Spoke Highly of Him, writes Spencer Ackerman, recalling a discussion he had with one of Carter's acquantances: "Earlier this year, I had dinner with a smart defense wonk who had a few minor doubts about the ability of the Obama national-security team to successfully execute the new administration’s apparent agenda. One official the wonk didn’t doubt was Phil Carter, the Army reserve captain, lawyer and Obamanaut whom the administration made its Pentagon pointman for detainee issues. Now Phil, the wonk said, that guy is a real expert; he knows what he’s doing; I have no doubt Guantanamo will be successfully closed."
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