*During President Obama‘s counterterrorism policy speech at National Defense University this afternoon, Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin started shouting out demands to close Guantanamo Bay, causing the commander in chief to pause until she finished, and take a rare trip off the teleprompter.
“I’m about to address it, ma’am,” Obama said as Benjamin went off about the hunger strike currently taking hold amongst Gitmo detainees. “Why don’t you sit down? But you’ve got to let me speak.”
“You are commander-in-chief! You can close Gitmo today!” she continued, despite Obama’s repeated protests that he intended to address those issues himself.
“You should let me finish my sentence,” he said before explaining his desire for Congress to make it easier to transfer detainees out of the camp, allowing him to fulfill his promise to close Gitmo. “I am confident this legacy problem can be solved, consistent with the rule of law.”
Obama also added that he is willing to cut the heckler “some slack” because “it’s worth being passionate about” the indefinite detention of the prisoners without formal charges.
Several minutes later, Benjamin interrupted again, decrying the administration’s killing of 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki with a drone strike. Instead of protesting her interruption, Obama paused his speech and allowed her to rant while security attempted to remove her from the back of the room.
Once she was out of the room, Obama said he will “go off script” for a minute. He stated: “The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to. Obviously I do not agree with much of what she said and obviously she wasn’t listening to me in much of what I said. But these are tough issues and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong.”
On their official Twitter page, the group hailed Benjamin’s protest.
And in the conclusion of his remarks, Obama added another nod to Benjamin’s protest as he listed ways a victory in the war on terror would be assessed.
“Victory will be measured in parents taking their kids to school, immigrants coming to our shores, fans taking in a ballgame, a veteran starting a business, a bustling city street, a citizen shouting at your concerns at a president,” he said.
“The quiet determination, that strength of character and bond of fellowship, that refutation of fear, that is both our sword and our shield.”
Watch the highlights below from two angles.
and Medea Benjamin’s…