Goodbye, yellow ribbon! Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had been a Taliban prisoner for five years when Obama bailed him out in a swap for five Guantanamo prisoners. Immediately rightbloggers professed mortal offense that the swap had been made, on a number of ostensible grounds, but probably for only one real reason: The fact that the hated Kenyan Pretender had done it.
Are you wondering why rightbloggers thought it was a good idea to raise a shitstorm over a returning POW? The simplest answer might be the best: Because they could.
The background to this peculiar state of affairs is the decades-long and largely successful effort by Republicans to paint Democrats as weak on national defense. Obama, comprehending this vulnerability (and having it brought home to him on occasion), endeavored to be more Republican than the Republicans, so to speak, backing out on the closing of Guantanamo and winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more slowly than many liberals would have liked.
The climax of this strategy was the killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Rightbloggers who used to enjoy comparing Obama to Osama had a hard time congratulating him for this operation, and some even looked for a downside to the event.
Thereafter, the brethren’s view of foreign policy underwent an interesting change; though they still sometimes accused Obama of weakness on national defense, as in the case of the 2011 Egyptian uprisings and in their frequent Benghazms, they would also accuse him of being recklessly aggressive about national defense — denouncing, for example, his free-wheeling use of the NSA and drones, which would represent a spectacular reversal on the customary conservative attitude toward civil liberties if anyone actually believed they meant what they were saying.
But this month we’re back to Obama the Threat to National Security as the Bergdahl swap has become a fiesta of fist-shaking from rightbloggers with all kinds of angles.
So far what we know is that some members of Bergdahl’s platoon said the Sergeant actually deserted, though why his alleged defection wasn’t then used as a publicity coup by the enemy has not been explained. The Army is considering an investigation.
While verifiable facts have been absent, speculation in the press has been intense and wide-ranging — for instance, that Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was captured because he’d gone AWOL (circumstances “could indicate” — Christian Science Monitor) with the specific intention of joining the Taliban (his team leader deduced this from “radio interceptions” — CNN), and is in fact now a committed jihadist (according to “secret documents prepared on the basis of a purported eyewitness account and obtained by Fox News“). Also, that several soldiers died trying to rescue this traitor (“some soldiers have gone so far as to say” — CNN). Thus he should have been left to rot, as is traditionally done with American POWs who receive bad press.
Some or all of this may not be, strictly speaking, true but, as Charles Foster Kane once said in a similar context, can you prove it isn’t? Bergdahl himself has said he didn’t want to be among the jihadis and was actually trying to escape, but since he is (allegedly, according to sources) a traitor, why should we believe him?
Thus what should have been a brief bit of good news became a political tsimmis, whopped up by rightbloggers and a promoted in the more credulous or click-hungry corners of the mainstream press, giving rise to journamalistic ledes like “President Obama’s decision to swap five high-level Taliban detainees for a U.S. soldier who wandered off five years ago has emerged as an issue in the race to unseat U.S. Rep. John Tierney, and is dividing members of the state’s congressional delegation,” etc.
If you suggested that piling on a POW to gain political advantage was bizarre and unseemly, rightbloggers would explain that they’re not the freaks, you’re the freak. “The reason you have allegedly smart liberals like Chris Hayes moronically implying that the U.S. should pay any price to bring a missing soldier home, even if he went missing deliberately,” frothed Allahpundit at Hot Air, “is because they can’t make the argument they really want to make.” The argument they really wanted to make, Allahpundit explained, was [imitates stupid liberal by flapping hands and going “duh I’m a stupid liberal”]. Then Allahpundit invited liberals to admit the trade was “a dumb deal,” since he’d been so nice to them. Also, “Are the military’s many, many Bergdahl skeptics now ‘Obama haters’ by definition?”
Actually, that was the theme of Diane Dimond‘s piece at Real Clear Politics: That the military all hated Obama, and whereas once they wouldn’t trash their CiC in public, “the era of silence changed after President Barack Obama’s super-secret prisoner swap.” One Major said Obama was “dumb” to appear with the former POW’s parents; “It’s another example of (Obama’s) reading the tea leaves wrong,” he added, which suggests the Major anticipates a job with Fox News after he leaves the service. (A Navy Seal told Dimond Obama had been trying to “show a success to the low-information voters,” which astute use of wingnut terminology suggests he has a similar dream.) In any case, Dimond did not find any of this an appalling breakdown of military discipline, but rather further proof that Obama is Bad.
The Administration complained Bergdahl had been “swift-boated,” a term for the organized smearing of a serviceman inspired by the Republicans’ hit campaign against Presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004. Despite what the communist Wikipedia thinks, National Review‘s Rich Lowry insisted that “rightly understood, swift-boating shouldn’t be a pejorative — it’s what happens when men in uniform feel betrayed by a comrade and tell the public what they believe to be the truth about his service.”
So what if it turned out Kerry actually earned those medals his swiftboating nemeses claimed were bogus — like Bergdahl’s former comrades-in-arms, their hearts were in the right place: “Let’s stipulate that — given the fog of war — these accounts might exaggerate the harm done by Bergdahl’s disappearance,” said Lowry. “But there is no doubt that they are sincere, and the anger is real.” And isn’t that what really matters? Plus, bonus swiftboating advantage: “Unlike the secretary of state, Bergdahl doesn’t have any prestigious medals to throw away (or pretend to throw away) at an anti-war protest.” It’ll be much easier to get Bergdahl than a decorated war hero!
Another complaint was that the five guys who were traded for Bergdahl were super-bad guys and that Obama had overpaid for Bergdahl in super-bad guys either out of incompetence or out of a desire that America be defeated by his fellow Islamists.
In defense of this claim, National Review‘s Charles C.W. Cooke, for perhaps the first time in history, affected modesty. “I have no illusions as to my shortcoming as a foreign-policy thinker,” Cooke manfully admitted, “nor do I pretend to know all of the details of this episode… I do not know how this accord relates to those that have been historically resolved. I don’t know, either, how practically dangerous the five prisoners we released are. All told, it is eminently possible that the Obama administration has got this one perfectly correct.”
What Cooke did know, however, was “that there are always costs on the other side of the ledger — substantial prices that the United States would not have paid — and that to pretend otherwise is folly. Would we have exchanged 100 prisoners? Would we have handed over a trillion dollars? How about giving our foes one of our aircraft carriers?” So, it’s possible that some amount would have been too much, therefore this trade must have given too much, because Obama. Also, while “it may well be that the administration has got the details right” — and by “details,” Cooke meant pretty much everything — nonetheless the Administration’s “reaction to scrutiny, however, has been little short of disastrous,” and in matters of war, life, and death, isn’t PR effectiveness the most important thing?
Then there was the Charles C.W. Cooke for Dummies argument, i.e., that of NR legacy pledge Jonah Goldberg. When Obama said, “we don’t condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get [captured soldiers] back,” Goldberg a-ha’d: “the Obama administration had been negotiating for years for Bergdahl’s release,” he said. “Why negotiate at all if we don’t have conditions? Without conditions, the Taliban could ask for anything — all of the prisoners in Gitmo, a billion dollars, the L.A. Clippers — and our hands would be tied.” Wait, that’s wasn’t Goldberg’s biggest riddle-me-this: Obama said “the American people understand that this is somebody’s child,” right, so, okay: “Scour the Internet until your fingers bleed, and you won’t find a single person who has denied that Bowe Bergdahl is someone’s child.” Let the triumphant shirt-retucking commence!
Besides, said Goldberg, “many analysts are convinced that Obama’s real motive in making this deal was to help him make good on his promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and thus pad his legacy.” Many Analysts has been in the game a long time and knows his stuff! Also, the stories that Obama traded for an Islamist sleeper agent are not the fever dreams of people who read too many comic books and can no longer distinguish fantasy from reality, but “credible allegations,” said Goldberg. Obama complains about them, so obviously he’s against credibility so why should we believe anything he says.
The pot of gold at the end of this rainbow? Impeachment! Some of the brethren have remembered that Obama was supposed to give Congress 30 days notice of the swap, and figured this ought to work better than the lying-about-a-blowjob thing they last embarrassed themselves and the nation with. “The charge that President Obama has committed ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’… is gaining traction. Lots of traction,” reported World Net Daily. You want proof? “Former member of Congress” Allen West is all for it!
Impeachment has already been the theme of several National Review columns by Andrew C. McCarthy. Till recently McCarthy was better known as one of the Bush Administration’s top torture enthusiasts, and he still keeps a hand in, but now he’s got a book out about how we can impeach Obama for spitting on the sidewalk because it’s a “political” rather than a “criminal” process, and talk about synchronicity! Now pretty much every day McCarthy has been tantalizing NR readers with the dizzying possibility of making Joe Biden president. For example:
“Pardon me if I couldn’t care less whether Jeffrey Toobin thinks President Obama ‘clearly broke the law'” by not giving Congress 30 days notice. “It is not at all clear that he did… But this is entirely beside the point.” None of this legalistic chickenshit for Andrew C. McCarthy! No, far worse, Obama “has replenished the enemy in wartime by giving the Taliban and Haqqanis back five senior, capable, rabidly anti-American commanders at a time when, as the president well knows, the Taliban and Haqqanis are still conducting violent jihadist operations to kill our troops.” It’s like Obama wants us to lose the war(s)! Say, didn’t we hear somewhere he’s a Muslim?
Assuming, with good reason, impeachment doesn’t come off, the brethren can use this latest scandalette as a proof point (using the word “proof” loosely) in their election-season hammering of the President.
Already dedicated anti-Obama operative John Podhoretz has added the Bergdahl story to the grapeshot with which he regularly loads his cannon: “The bottom line is that the president settled on a controversial, high- risk strategy here in a difficult and problematic manner — and then sought to use his mastery of pop culture to change the story to a more palatable one. But some stories just can’t be gussied up.” Trying Al Greening your way out of this one, motherfucker! Ditto Andrew Malcolm of Investor’s Business Daily, who bulked up his usual anti-Obama yak with a bit about how Obama was “caught flat-footed by the political wildfire ignited by the deal.” (It’s interesting how much they focus on the PR aspect of this thing, isn’t it?)
We found our favorite at Newsbusters, where Rich Noyes reported the opinion of Fox News “psychology expert Dr. Gina Loudon,” who said that after “the bewildering decision to trade five ‘high risk’ Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl… she has become ‘very, very concerned’ that President Obama has become ‘irrational, erratic and perhaps not exactly what we might want to deem sane.'”
Don’t be fooled. Obama’s the real target; Bergdahl’s just collateral damage.