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Obama Administration Forces Resignation of State Dept. Spokesman

March 13, 2011

This is a sad day for the Obama administration and for all of us who believe in American values. That Assistant Secretary PJ Crowley was fired forced to resign after making statements condemning the inhumane and possibly illegal treatment of Pvt. Manning, who is currently in military custody, shows just how similar to George W. Bush Barack Obama really is:


It is with regret that I have accepted the resignation of Philip J. Crowley as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. PJ has served our nation with distinction for more than three decades, in uniform and as a civilian. His service to country is motivated by a deep devotion to public policy and public diplomacy, and I wish him the very best. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) Michael Hammer will serve as Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.


The unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a serious crime under U.S. law. My recent comments regarding the conditions of the pre-trial detention of Private First Class Bradley Manning were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discreet actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership. The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values.

Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility, I have submitted my resignation as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Spokesman for the Department of State.

I am enormously grateful to President Obama and Secretary Clinton for the high honor of once again serving the American people. I leave with great admiration and affection for my State colleagues, who promote our national interest both on the front lines and in the quiet corners of the world. It was a privilege to help communicate their many and vital contributions to our national security. And I leave with deep respect for the journalists who report on foreign policy and global developments every day, in many cases under dangerous conditions and subject to serious threats. Their efforts help make governments more responsible, accountable and transparent.

[emphasis added]

I certainly hope Secretary Clinton fought the White House (and yes, her friend Secretary Gates) about this. If anyone should be fired it’s whoever it is at the Pentagon who is ordering Private Manning be treated this way.

For those who don’t know the back story to this, I’ll let Glenn Greenwald explain:

On Friday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denounced the conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention as “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid,” forcing President Obama to address those comments in a Press Conference and defend the treatment of Manning. Today, CNN reports, Crowley has “abruptly resigned” under “pressure from White House officials because of controversial comments he made last week about the Bradley Manning case.” In other words, he was forced to “resign” — i.e., fired.

So, in Barack Obama’s administration, it’s perfectly acceptable to abuse an American citizen in detention who has been convicted of nothing by consigning him to 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement, barring him from exercising in his cell, punitively imposing “suicide watch” restrictions on him against the recommendations of brig psychiatrists, and subjecting him to prolonged, forced nudity designed to humiliate and degrade. But speaking out against that abuse is a firing offense. Good to know. As Matt Yglesias just put it: “Sad statement about America that P.J. Crowley is the one being forced to resign over Bradley Manning.” And as David Frum added: “Crowley firing: one more demonstration of my rule: Republican pols fear their base, Dem pols despise it.”

Of course, it’s also the case in Barack Obama’s world that those who instituted a worldwide torture and illegal eavesdropping regime are entitled to full-scale presidential immunity, while powerless individuals who blow the whistle on high-level wrongdoing and illegality are subjected to the most aggressive campaign of prosecution and persecution the country has ever seen. So protecting those who are abusing Manning, while firing Crowley for condemning the abuse, is perfectly consistent with the President’s sense of justice.

Also, remember how one frequent Democratic critique made of the Right generally and the Bush administration specifically was that they can’t and won’t tolerate dissent: everyone is required to march in lockstep? I wonder how that will be reconciled with this.

I’ll be honest folks, I’ve really had it up to here with Barack Obama. I don’t know where Secretary Clinton stands on all of this but I hope this is an instance where she doesn’t align herself with Secretary Gates, who likely wanted Crowley gone. I like to believe that Secretary Clinton stood up for Crowley, who also worked in the Clinton admin. and has a long and distinguished career of public service. I believe Crowley’s firing was totally the result of the White House having a hissy fit.

I don’t agree with the wholesale leak of classified documents, but neither do I agree with the inhumane treatment of prisoners, whether they be American citizens or not. Put Manning on trial, present the evidence and if he’s found guilty, he’ll go to jail. This alleged psychological/physical mistreatment of him before he’s been found guilty of anything (or even AFTER he’s found guilty, if in fact that happens) is inconsistent with American values.

I’ve got news for Barack Obama, if there is a patriot lurking anywhere in this situation it’s PJ Crowley, not the dunderheads at the Defense Department and certainly not him. If Obama had anything other than lofty, unfulfilled rhetoric he’d tell Secretary Gates to ensure that any potentially illegal treatment of Private Manning cease immediately. But clearly, Barack Obama is not that sort of leader- he just pretended to be during the 2008 election.

Honestly, what kind of nation have we become, anyway? Wasn’t there a time when the U.S. used to set an example for the rest of the world to follow? Maybe we could be that country again. But that takes leadership.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. Tovah permalink
    March 13, 2011 4:24 pm

    She’s baaaaaack! 😉 Missed you Stacy!

    I agree totally. This is a disgrace. I honestly don’t know if I can pull the lever for the Democrats in 2012 unless Hillary is on the ticket or in the admin. in some capacity. I won’t vote Republican but I just can’t give Obama my support at this point. I’ll vote Green.

    • March 13, 2011 4:52 pm

      There are epic tragedies in the world today, but this firing is important, I believe, because it’s symbolic of Obama. Many people shrug at the thought of torture/abuse of Muslim and/or foreign detainees. Manning is a Caucasian, non-Muslim US citizen who has NOT been convicted of anything. He’s been in solitary for over 6 months at Quantico in VA, has a very hard time receiving visitors, and is kept naked for about 7 hours a day. And now the only government official to state that treatment is unacceptable has been fired.

  2. Thain permalink
    March 13, 2011 4:35 pm

    I read PJ Crowley has been a public servant his whole life- wore the uniform, served in the Clinton administration.

    I also read his father was in the military and was a POW.

    Barack Obama is an a**hole.

    Welcome back Stacy- I missed you!

  3. March 13, 2011 5:16 pm

    Most of the commentary about this firing has been very negative (towards Obama). Obama talks a good game about democratic principles, opposing torture but at the end of the day he’s all hat and no cattle. He should be totally embarrassed by this. In fact, he’s a disgrace. I just hope Hillary had nothing to do with this firing.

  4. tiffy permalink
    March 13, 2011 5:27 pm

    I read that PJ forced to resign by white house official. If it’s, the WH made a “stupid” move, they turn this into a front page story.

    • March 13, 2011 5:33 pm

      Well, yes, my post clearly says that in the article I highlighted by Glenn Greenwald- the WH forced the resignation. And yes, they turned this into a front page story where as before, only a few of us were following what was going on when Crowley made his original comments at MIT on Friday. I just hope Secy Clinton fought this move by the WH. At this point it sounds like this was totally the White House’s doing.

  5. Pilgrim permalink
    March 13, 2011 5:29 pm

    Stacyx, I agree with everything you say, and feel as you do.

  6. jillforhill permalink
    March 13, 2011 5:32 pm

    Politco is trying to blame Hillary for Crowley’s firing.

    This garbage is getting really old very quickly. It is Hillary’s fault for Egypt,Mexico,Libya,woman’s rights,Africa,,Crowley’s firing and everything else that Obama will not take blame for.

    Let’s go back to when Hillary testified in front of the senate about Libya. Hillary was asked about the no-fly zone and to my surprise actullay seemed to be for it but did not want the US to do it alone and wants everyone to help. Gates then went and testified and said those who keep talking about the no-fly zone do not know what it is and should bascially shut up. I knew he was not talking about Kerry or Mccain because they were in the military,he was talking about Hillary. Hillary and Gates are friends but they do not agree 100% on everything. Obama defends the DOD budget,but says nothing about the state budget. Since Egypt, Hillary and the state have been getting cheap shots from the whitehouse and the media non-stop. Hillary has been stepping away from the whitehouse since Egypt. Hillary does not mind getting the blame,because how would that be different from the last 20 years of her life. While Hillary is SOS she will not go after Obama in the media because if you think 2008 was bad just wait until that happens. Ben Smith is a jackass and knows nothing. He wrote about the book “Game Change” that the Clintons are old news,no one likes them, they have no friends, no one wants to hear of them and she is in the shadows.

    A lot of things can be said about Hillary and one of those things is loyalty to her people. Crowley is one of her people. He told everyone what she does and how she does it when no gave a damn. He protects her and defends her to those who attack her like Bill O’Reilly and she sent Crowley on his show because she trusted him. This was the whitehouse and DOD’s doing. As much as I love to believe Hillary has power in this whitehouse,she does not and will never have the power she or we want for her. She will do the best she can with what she has which is not much. It is one thing to fight the republicans who want to demolish her budget,but she should not have to fight and be called an enemy to the whitehouse becasue she has her own mind and knows how to use it.

    When is Obama and the media take the blame for their bullshit instead of blaming Hillary for everything? I have never wanted Hillary to quit being SOS,but now I want her to quit and tell Obama and her replacement Kerry screw you and lets see how good of job you said you would do.

    • March 13, 2011 5:37 pm

      Ben Smith is an asshole. In fact, Politico is becoming the McDonald’s of news organizations.

      The WH made no secret of the fact that it was “outraged” by Crowley’s comments on Friday, so they can’t exactly start back-peddling now.

      Here’s what I think is happening: The WH thought, incorrectly, that it was a good move to get rid of Crowley but now it’s becoming more clear it’s backfired so they are sending the word out to the media to blame the SOS. But no one will buy that because Obama looks like a f*cking hypocrite- he says he opposes torture but when allegations of abuse against Manning came up, Obama responded by saying PUBLICLY at a press conference “I asked the Pentagon if he was being mistreated and they assured me he wasn’t.” Great due diligence Barry, really. Obama is punishing Crowley because the media is reporting on the Manning story and Crowley is a more principled, ethical leader than he (Obama) is. Obama is probably pissed the media asked him about it at that news conference and this is payback.

      If Obama had any spine or any principles he would have stated publicly that he ordered Gates to investigate whether the allegations of abuse against Manning were true and if so, to cease the abuse immediately.

      Here’s what I would do if I were an adviser to Hillary- I would leak to a trusted media source that Hillary opposed the firing of Crowley but that the WH overruled her. I would let it be known that Hillary had instead just spoke personally with Crowley and reiterated the importance of not making public statements like that where his personal opinion could be misinterpreted as official policy- make it CLEAR to the media that Obama was behind this firing. It would also help to let it be known that the Secretary opposes all mistreatment or prisoners in accordance with long-held US policy and values as a general principle- I would find a way to say that without getting her in hot water like Crowley.

      • jillforhill permalink
        March 13, 2011 5:48 pm

        Hillary has known Crowley since Bill was president. If she had a problem with him she would have spoke to him and if she wanted him gone she would have let him go. Hillary got rid of Rahm and Steponholous(sp) when she felt they were not helping Bill and that was not her administration.

        Politico is saying that she and Crowley were on the outs and that he was not going with her on trips.

        • March 13, 2011 5:50 pm

          Yes, but the question is, where is Politico getting this information? Leaks from the WH?

          • jillforhill permalink
            March 13, 2011 6:03 pm

            More than likely. Hillary wanted to hire Sidney Blumenthal at the state department who was with her for a long time. Hillary wanted to hire him to help promote what the state department was doing and get out her message. As soon as the whitehouse knew she wanted to hire him,the whitehouse said “Hell NO”. They knew he would counter the whitehouse trying to blame Hillary or state for anything they wanted to blame them for.

  7. March 13, 2011 6:03 pm

    @Jill- Ok, I just went over and read the Ben Smith article:

    If that’s what counts as journalism these days we’re in trouble. Not a single named source, lots of stupid gossip, unnecessary and negative references to 2008 and then Smith negates his entire thesis in the second to last paragraph when he acknowledges:

    One recent clue was a Feb. 12 New York Times article, in which anonymous officials followed the time-honored path of shifting blame for a muddled Egypt response away from the President and on to Clinton and the State Department, casting them as sympathizers with a dictator as Obama pulled toward democracy.

    So, the WH shifted blame to Hillary then, but Ben Smith swallows whole the notion that Crowley left because he wasn’t part of Clinton’s inner circle? Please.

    I noticed that nowhere in that article does Smith point out that Barack Obama was forced to deal with ACTUAL QUESTIONS about the treatment of Manning during one of his very, very, very infrequent press conferences and thus his own hypocrisy was exposed- making lofty speeches about democracy and the rule of law while an American citizen is allegedly being treated in a manner which likely violates the Geneva Convention. I bet THAT is what pissed Team Obama off and thus Crowley’s head had to roll.

    If, as Smith alleges, Hillary really didn’t want Crowley around, then she could have likely had him removed. But she didn’t do that. In fact, reports say that it’s the Obama admin. that has had a problem with Crowley due to some other things he has said and they even sent over someone from the White House to work with Crowley, which was taken as a clear sign that Barry wasn’t pleased.

    I really can’t stand Ben Smith. He’s one of the ones who followed Dick Morris’ theme of “Hillary in the shadows, Hillary has no power as Secretary of State” despite the fact that that is clearly not the case.

    Notice also that Smith throws in a little barb about that too- saying her role in the admin. is something of a “mystery.” Ummmm, no, actually it isn’t.

    • jillforhill permalink
      March 13, 2011 6:16 pm

      This is why Hillary wanted Sidney Blumenthal and the whitehouse did not. He would hav e destroyed Ben Smith and Dick Morris for their BS. He would have went after Gibbs,Carney, Axelrod and Jarrett and their toxic memes about Hillary. The people Hillary has now are good,but unnfortunely not as good as Blumenthal.

  8. jillforhill permalink
    March 13, 2011 6:45 pm

    Huffington Post has gotten in on the act as is following Politico.

    “As Mike Allen reported in last Friday’s Politico Playbook, however, the relationship between Crowley and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been strained:

    Crowley, a respected NSC spokesman under President Clinton, has never clicked with Secretary Clinton: He doesn’t travel with the Secretary, which is crippling and unusual for someone in his post. His doom was sealed early this year when Mike Hammer, who had been the NSC spokesman, was reassigned to State. Technically, Hammer is Crowley’s deputy. But everyone knows he is his likely replacement.
    Clinton confirmed Sunday that Hammer will take over as acting spokesman for the time being.”

    • March 13, 2011 8:24 pm

      The root of this is the treatment of Manning. That is the commander-in-chief’s call. If he wanted, he could have the abuse ended tonight.

      Even if Hillary really wanted to fire Crowley, she could not have done it without Obama’s approval because everyone had to know it would be a big story. I keep hearing that this WH is still very much run by a small, tight inner circle that has all the key decision-making power. It would be a lot easier to make a list of similarities btw Obama’s WH & Bush’s than of the differences btw them.

  9. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    March 13, 2011 9:40 pm

    Yeah, well, I can’t wait until some pollster asks about Hillary’s latest approval ratings compared to Obama (now 46%). I doubt anyone besides the White House and Ben Smith blame her for this administration’s fiascos. I was happy to come across this positive review of Hillary’s term as SOS — from the UK — which rightly credits her with advancing feminism worldwide and placing women’s rights at the heart of US foreign policy even if this gets zero press at home:

    • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
      March 14, 2011 12:13 am

      I just visited the NY Times site and read through all 207 comments by readers in response to the story about Crowley’s resignation. Ben Smith and HuffPo may want to shift the blame for this politically disasterous move onto Hillary, but the public isn’t buying in. By my count, only 7 or 8 of the 207 comments even mentioned Hillary and in those eight, her name was without exception linked to Obama’s (as in, “For shame, Mr Obama and Ms Clinton”). The other 200 offered praise for Crowley and scathing denunciations of the President — many written by people who voted for him in
      2008 and vowed never to do it again.

  10. Thain permalink
    March 14, 2011 7:54 am

    Most of the coverage of this is negative towards Obama-

    Crowley is being seen as the true patriot while this administration is being seen as morally bankrupt and hypocritical.

    One thing bothers me- why wouldn’t PJ Crowley have been allowed to travel with Secretary Clinton? I’ve read that everywhere. It makes it sound like there *was* a problem between them.

    • rachel permalink
      March 14, 2011 7:58 am

      I heard that he had traveled with her before.

      • Thain permalink
        March 14, 2011 8:21 am

        But apparently he doesn’t travel with her most of the time. I’m just wondering why given he’s the State Dept. spokesperson. Or was.

        • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
          March 14, 2011 8:55 am

          If Hillary and PC were truly “on the outs,” and his days were numbered, then his statement of principle came with nothing to lose — and maybe a wish to embarass the admimistration.

  11. stacyx permalink*
    March 14, 2011 9:10 am

    It’s just interesting what gets someone fired these days. People in the CIA tortured the wrong prisoner and dumped his body on some mountain in some far-away country and the people involved got promotions. A life-long public servant speaks out about the inhumane treatment of a prisoner and gets canned.

    Sometimes I think our govt is beyond help. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Too many secrets, too many self-interested parties, too much fear of exposure and too little accountability.

  12. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    March 14, 2011 12:25 pm

    Curious what you make of this, stacy, if anything:

    A blogger over at Fire Dog Lake wrote, ” Obama’s firing of Crowley happened faster than I predicted. It’s usually less directly tied to public statements about inconvenient truths. I guess we have the refined investment bankster from Chicago to thank for that, ‘Hillary, honey, he’s out. Or you’re next and we set the dogs on Bill.'” Does s/he mean Emanuel? What’s the implication?

    • March 14, 2011 12:36 pm

      They probably mean his new Chief of Staff, Bill Daley.

      I’m not really sure how/why they link it specifically to Daley but who knows. As I said above, I don’t think Obama liked actually having to be asked about the treatment of Manning- he sounded like an idiot at his press conference and the fall guy is Crowley. Looks like Obama is as allergic to accountability as GW Bush was.

      Someone noted on Twitter (can’t remember who) that Obama’s response to the question about Manning’s alleged mistreatment at the press conf. was the same as Bush’s answer when he was asked about the torture of prisoners- essentially they both said something along the lines of “I asked the defense dept/pentagon and they assured me no one is being mistreated.” We know how false that turned out to be with Bush and my guess is that it probably is false with Obama too.

      I’m not seeing too many people defend Obama on this. Crowley looks like the patriot and Obama and his people look petty and corrupt- like they are hiding something.

  13. James Garnett permalink
    March 17, 2011 6:59 am

    Great opinion piece in the Economist today about how we ALL owe PJ Crowley:


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