2016 Presidential Candidates Debate Closing Guantanamo Bay

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Image of Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay.
Source: Kathleen T. Rhem, “Camp Delta,” wikipedia.org, Feb. 16, 2005

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, President Obama announced his plan to permanently close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba and transfer any remaining detainees to a secure location somewhere in the United States.

During his 2008 presidential campaign President Obama argued in favor of closing Guantanamo Bay. Since taking office, President Obama’s administration has transferred 147 detainees out of Guantanamo. There are currently 91 detainees still held at the prison.

The President stated that, “the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security – it undermines it. It’s counterproductive to our fight against terrorists, who use it as propaganda in their efforts to recruit. It drains military resources, with nearly $450 million spent last year alone to keep it running and more than $200 million in additional costs needed to keep it open going forward. Guantanamo harms our partnerships with allies and other countries whose cooperation we need against terrorism.”

After announcing his plan to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, the 2016 presidential candidates weighed in on President Obama’s decision.

BEN CARSON

During a Feb. 23, 2016 interview on MSNBC with Thomas Roberts, Ben Carson said:

“Well, if it was such a good idea [closing Guantanamo bay] I guess it would have been done seven years ago. Obviously it’s not a great idea and I don’t support it. And, you know, the assumption is that all Presidents coming after him [President Obama] will also think it’s a good idea. It’s, I think, ill-conceived if you think it is better to kill people, rather than to capture them and obtain information from them, then I guess you like this idea [to close Guantanamo].”

MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts, “Carson: I Don’t Support Closing Guantanamo Bay,” msnbc.com, Feb. 23, 2016

HILLARY CLINTON

When asked if she agrees with President Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo, Hillary Clinton stated the following during the Feb. 23, 2016 CNN Town Hall Democratic forum:

“I have been on record in favor of closing Guantanamo for a long time, since 2008. When I was Secretary of State, working closely with the President, I had a special envoy to find places that could take back some of the prisoners… I believe the President is right to try to close it. I think it is a continuing recruitment advertisement for terrorists…

There is no reason for us to continue to have Guantanamo.”

Stephen Collinson, “CNN Town Hall: Clinton, Sanders Make Pitch to Minority Voters,” cnn.com, Feb. 23, 2016

TED CRUZ

During a Feb. 23, 2016 campaign rally in South Fernley Nevada, Ted Cruz stated:

“You know, just today President Obama announced his plans to try to shut down Guantanamo terrorist detention facility.

Let me say this Mr. President, don’t shut down Gitmo, expand it, and let’s have some new terrorists there.

How on earth does any President look in the eyes of a mother or father, whose son or daughter lost their lives capturing these terrorists and justify – we’re going to release ’em again when we know a very high percentage of them are going to return to waging jihad.”

David Weigel, “Cruz Warns That Obama Will Hand Guantanamo Base Over to the Castro’s,” washingtonpost.com, Feb. 23, 2016

JOHN KASICH

In a Feb. 23, 2016 interview on the Fox News Channel, John Kasich said:

“I don’t favor closing Gitmo. I don’t understand it. Look, these are people, some of whom are the worst of the worst. And why would we send them into our country? I just don’t understand it. So, look, he promised it in the campaign, when my people said this morning he was going to do this, I said, ‘Why is he doing this?’ They said, ‘Campaign promise.’ So, all I can tell you is I profoundly disagree.”

America’s Newsroom, “Kasich: ‘I Profoundly Disagree’ with Closing Gitmo,” video.foxnews.com, Feb. 23, 2016

MARCO RUBIO

During a campaign event in Nevada on Feb. 23, 2016, Marco Rubio stated:

“You wake up this morning to the news that the president is planning to close Guantanamo — maybe even giving it back to the Cuban government…

[W]e’re not going to close Guantanamo. In fact, we shouldn’t be releasing the people that are there now. They are enemy combatants.”

Al Weaver, “Rubio: Obama’s Guantanamo Plan ‘Makes No Sense,'” washingtonexaminer.com, Feb. 23, 2016

BERNIE SANDERS

When asked at a Feb. 23, 2016 CNN Town Hall Democratic Forum if he agrees with President Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo, Bernie Sanders responded:

“We look like hypocrites and fools to the entire world. What we have done is locked up people in a way that is causing all kinds of repercussions around the world…

I think the President is right, I think we should shut down Guantanamo, in the long run it will help us significantly.”

Stephen Collinson, “CNN Town Hall: Clinton, Sanders Make Pitch to Minority Voters,” cnn.com, Feb. 23, 2016

DONALD TRUMP

During a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Feb. 23, 2016, Donald Trump stated:

“This morning I watched President Obama talking about Gitmo, right, Guantanamo Bay, which by the way, which by the way, we are keeping open, which we are keeping open. And we’re going to load it up with some bad dudes. Believe me; we’re going to load it up…

We’re going to keep it open… but we’re going to get the cost down.”

David Weigel, “Trump: Maybe Cuba Should Take over Guantanamo ‘and Reimburse Us,'” washingtonpost.com, Feb. 23, 2016

Sources:

Melanie Garunay, “President Obama Presents the Plan to Close Guantanamo: ‘This Is about Closing a Chapter in History,” whitehouse.gov, Feb. 23, 2016

W.J. Hennigan and Christi Parsons, “Obama Gives Congress Plan to Close Guantanamo Bay Prison,” latimes.com, Feb. 23, 2015