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Carnahan, Blunt spar -- sort of -- on Guantanamo Bay and detainees

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 11, 2009 - Secretary of State Robin Carnahan appears to agree with her possible Republican rival for the U.S. Senate -- Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Strafford -- with her observation that "the most important thing we do is keep Americans safe.''

With that in mind, Carnahan said that the federal government needs "to be very cautious'' as it sorts out what to do with the detainees still held at the military facility at Guantanamo Bay, which President Barack Obama plans to close. The government needs to make sure public safety is pre-eminent, she said.

Carnahan offered her comments when asked to respond to Blunt's release, sent Monday, which called on her to "state her position on the controversial decision to shutter Guantanamo Bay without a plan for what to do with the base or the detainees being held there."

Blunt also asked Carnahan "to endorse legislation that would prevent these dangerous detainees from being transferred to Missouri without the approval of the state legislature and governor, and a bill that would block these detainees from being transferred to a facility along the Missouri border."

Carnahan said she had not seen Blunt's release, and therefore could not comment directly on it.

However, Carnahan said, "There's pretty wide consensus that we need to get past Guantanamo...We need to do things that reflect our values.''

She also said that she believed U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, recently said, "When you're the good guy, you need to act like the good guy."

Blunt asserted that she was "attempting to conceal from the public her positions on important issues."

Carnahan added that she wasn't ducking questions or issues, but that she thought it was early to be sparring with potential Republican opponents. "I'm happy for a vigorous debate once they sort out who their candidate is,'' Carnahan said.

She was referring to Blunt's possible challengers, who include former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and -- as the Beacon first reported Monday -- visiting Washington University law professor Thomas Schweich.

UPDATE --

The Missouri Republican Party and the pro-Democratic Firedup Missouri are having a field day with the Carnahan and Blunt comments about Guantanamo.

Firedup is asking how upset Blunt and incumbent Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., were "when terrorist cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman -- the "Blind Sheik" -- was imprisoned in Missourii. Abdel-Rahman has stayed at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield several times since 1995. He lives in North Carolina now, but was kept in Springfield from 2003-2007...."

Meanwhile, Missouri GOP executive director Lloyd Smith jabbed at Carnahan, saying in part, “It is the height of naivety to believe that we can simply ‘get past’ an issue without solving it. The questions posed to Carnahan remain: What is her position on the closure of the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility? What should be done with the terrorists?  And does she support legislation that would help prevent them from being sent to the U.S.? If we want to truly reflect our values, we must put the lives and safety of Americans first by ensuring that no terrorist is allowed into the United States. But Carnahan cannot or will not take a stand. ”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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