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Obama During G7 on Bergdahl: “I Make No Apologies,” While Right Attacks

President Barack Obama attends an official Solidarity Dinner hosted by President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, June 3, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“I make no apologies” for the Bergdahl prisoner swap, President Obama said in answer to a question during his trip in Europe for the G7, prior to D-Day Commemoration.

President Barack Obama attends an official Solidarity Dinner hosted by President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, June 3, 2014.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The seeds of what blossomed grotesquely in the Rose Garden last weekend — a celebration of the release of five senior Taliban military leaders in exchange for a U.S. sergeant purported to be a deserter — were sown a long time ago: on the second and third days of President Obama’s first term, to be precise. – Michael B. Mukasey [Washington Post]

IT DIDN’T take long for the Bergdahl release and Gitmo prisoner swap to get where Republicans love to go. James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal wallowed in their favorite talking point against Democrats, dragging Secretary John Kerry’s remarks from 1971 into the conversation to make a right-wing point that overflows with demagoguery. It’s everywhere in this story.

How in the world did an administration known for political competence, if for no other kind, manage to pull off such a public-relations disaster? The answer is that the left has a very large blind spot when it comes to military culture. – James Taranto

Can “weak on national security” be far behind?

It ignores that President Obama firmly believes “leave no soldier behind” is where he has the legal right to extract any soldier in harm’s way, held in captivity, a P.O.W., leaving the adjudication until later. He is, after all, commander in chief.

Mr. Taranto’s stemwinder folds everything he can muster into a toxic mix that isn’t very convincing, even if you think the White House had no business announcing the event in a Rose Garden ceremony, as I do, that Susan Rice was the wrong messenger, even if the prisoner swap was the correct decision.

It’s hypocrisy in its highest form to suggest that one American for 5 Taliban detainees is the wrong calculus. The Israelis exchanged 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit. When you get into weighing whose life is worth more you’ve lost the thread of why prisoners swaps are done.

If you want to read a coherent case from the right for why President Obama made his decision, John Podhoretz at least makes a good faith effort, minus the fact that he cannot end the article without demagoguery. It’s from the New York Post, but it does make important points that shows more thinking than most on the right.

He might have thought the Bergdahl-Taliban swap was a perfect blend of his policy interests and an example of the new way forward.

  1. The fact that US forces are, at his direction, going to pull out from Afghanistan at the end of 2015 meant that sooner or later the five Taliban commanders were going to have to be removed from the Gitmo prison.
  2. Their removal from Gitmo would help to make the case for shuttering it, as they were among the worst of the worst still there.
  3. The ability to strike a deal with the Taliban would prefigure the kinds of negotiations he thinks we and the Afghan government are going to have to undertake over the next couple of years. If the resolution of this first negotiation were seen as successful, that might portend future successes.
  4. The final US departure from Afghanistan couldn’t take place without bringing Bergdahl home — in part to prevent a repeat of the gruesome late ’70s/early ’80s fantasy that America had left POWs to rot in Vietnam.
  5. Taken all together, this swap would be a potent demonstration that the centerpiece of the Obama foreign policy is the ending of wars — perhaps even, finally, the War on Terror, the detritus of which sits inside the fences at Gitmo. “This war, like all wars, must end,” the president said last year.

Wherever you stand, the political ramifications of the Bergdahl prisoner swap are wide.

It puts Democratic allies of the White House in a position of adversary, because even though bringing home Bergdahl as the Afghanistan war winds down was a priority, every move from that decision has been close to impossible to defend.

President Obama has hurt himself throughout his presidency over his inability to build strong enough relationships that would allow him to go to Senate Democrats and get them behind the prisoner swap, building up a wall of support before it was announced. Once again, it’s the Obama White House against the world, this time it includes many in his own party whose trust he may be unlikely to get back.

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31 Responses to Obama During G7 on Bergdahl: “I Make No Apologies,” While Right Attacks

  1. mjsmith June 5, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    “…If the military stalls on turning over files to Congress pertaining to the five years of Bergdahl’s absence, we will at least know that there is no national institution remaining to be corrupted.”

    This Washington Post op-ed article nails it. It looks like, President Obama has the same exact misconception as Nixon and Clinton had “When the President does it, it is not illegal.”

    President Obama made a terrible decision, lied about it, and had other people lie about it. He did not have the parents of the people who died with him, he had the parents of the deserter with him. He should apologize to the Afghan People and the Afghan government. President Obama should apologize to the women and children along with everyone else who suffer under the tyranny of the taliban.

    • Ga6thDem June 5, 2014 at 11:43 am #

      You should read the new findings. The information you are quoting came from the squad leader who was stripped of rank because of his behavior and apparently he’s counting every person that died during that time as someone who died looking for him when the information that has been released does not back up that claim.

      Are you kidding? We’re bringing back the Nixon chestnut? You guys have such Watergate envy it’s pathetic. The irony is your own party turned impeachment into a freaking joke back in the 90′s. Now they’re screaming to impeach Obama and it just makes me laugh. Continue on with your jihad. You’re doing nothing but turning more and more people against you.

      • mjsmith June 6, 2014 at 9:23 am #

        Speaking of new findings… here is another brand new uncovering of an additional lie by Obama and his lie squad

        So much for all of the “taliban threatened to kill him if the press was notified” bull crap. Obama and everyone associated with Obama lies when it comes to just about anything they do.

    • secularhumanizinevoluter June 5, 2014 at 11:53 am #

      And you should apologize to every Marshian with a functioning brain for subjecting them to this relentless spewing of wingnut talking points and miss-statement of facts as well as outright conjecture and lies.

      • mjsmith June 5, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

        You should apologize to every person who speaks English or who is doing their best to communicate in English. You never have an opinion or original idea of your own. All you seem to be capable of doing is insulting others when they express their point of view or just repeat what other people say if you agree with them. In other words you are a load of hot air. I do not lie and if I was lying, since it is written out in plain language and you or anyone else could easily discredit. You just do not like what I have to say and refuse to accept the truth.

  2. Ga6thDem June 5, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    It’s sad the GOP really hates POWs I guess and thinks we should leave them behind. I guess they would have thought it was better for him to have his head chopped off. This poor guy and his family are under incessant attack by these same people. They really do not want to or cannot get beyond Bush/Cheney and their failures because they continually sound exactly like them.

    • Mike Light June 5, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

      “A point of Order, if I may!”. Let us dissect the argument:

      “It’s sad” – a personal emotion, valid in its own right. Pulls on the audience heart strings, which may be a plus.

      “the GOP really hates POWs I guess” – assertion without evidence, and apparent self-doubt. Even Waffle Woman was more ascertained.

      “and thinks we should leave them behind.” – Clairvoyance of mind and intent. Only I am allowed to do that.

      The only major mistake Obama made in this Bergdahl-for-Taliban5 trade was pissing off several of his own Democrat supporters in the Senate. So far. But if any of those five successfully brag of confirmed kills in the next 2.5 years, or the Taliban goes into the Kidnap-for-Gitmo-Release business, Obama’s approval rating might go down to a permanent 35%. Not that he cares. He doesn’t have to.

      • mjsmith June 5, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

        Making up stuff and then attacking the make believe points is quite common around here and unlikely to stop.

        I do my best to stay on topic and I even stray from time to time. Really I look at it like this, they do not know what to say against what I am really expressing or point I am making so some people here make up stuff that I say and then go ahead and attack the statements or points that they make up all on their own.

        • Mike Light June 5, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

          There’s an old adage about “iron sharpens iron”, and fortunately Taylor Marsh is One Sharp Blade!

          Yes, you occasionally have to absorb a puffball or two from the peanut gallery. Turn it into a drinking game:
          “repugnicans” = 1 can of cheap beer
          “denier” or “scientific consensus” = a glass of your favorite wine
          “you must hate” = 1 snifter of warm brandy
          “OMG now I understand why democrats can’t be trusted!” = 2 fingers of a 20-year single malt scotch
          “I have decided to become a Republican” = Crap. All that work for nothing. Join AA, and never drink again.

      • Ga6thDem June 5, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

        Well, this is the message they keep sending over and over. Perhaps they need to hone their message? Truly it seems the GOP has gone off a cliff over this one. Sometimes it is better to say nothing and this might just be one of those cases.

  3. PaperbackRuyter June 5, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    I listened to Obama’s address and as is common for him he constructs strawman arguments and false choices. To my knowledge no prominent GOP politician has said we should have left Bergdahl in Afghanistan, although I’m sure those people are out there. The objections are mainly to the 5:1 swap and the failure to properly notify Congress.

    mjsmith is correct, there are Nixonian echoes to Obama’s reasoning. Every unilateral action Obama takes invites the same actions from all future presidents and should be scrutinized.. As dysfunctional as Congress is that doesn’t give presidents license to do ignore the law.

    And TM is right about the lack of connection to Democrats in the House and Senate. They didn’t even notify Diane Feinstein for Pete’s sake. Obama broke the law he had personally signed last December.

    I won’t even get into the use of Susan Rice, whose credibility Obama seems intent on destroying.

    • Ga6thDem June 5, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

      They might not have directly come out and specifically said that but it’s the message they are sending out daily. Apparently five Taliban are more important than one American.

      Get over the whole unilateral thing. The GOP let Bush run rampant. They never tried to reign him in on anything. So if you think that you have no one to blame but yourself as that YOUR GOP congress ceded their rights after 9/11. Instead of screaming you should be trying to change the laws. FYI a lot of the stuff Nixon did WOULD BE LEGAL and the reason why is because of YOUR OWN PARTY.

      So suck it up and grow up.

      • PaperbackRuyter June 5, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

        The GOP is hardly my party as I left them several years ago, largely because of the way they were overstepping the proper role of government and abusing people’s rights and privacies . When I see Obama doing the same things as Bush I’m damn well going to speak up. Sorry I don’t fit your stereotypes.

        • Ga6thDem June 5, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

          Well, you need to quit defending Republicans then because that is the impression that you are giving. The GOP senators you are defending above are a large part of the problem.

          • PaperbackRuyter June 5, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

            I’m not defending anybody. The GOP is definitely trying to play politics with this and they’re almost certainly being hypocrites. That doesn’t make Obama’s words or actions right though, and I’m not going to pretend what Obama does is OK just because someone might think I’m a Republican. This isn’t a football game where you cheer for your team no matter what.

        • Taylor Marsh June 6, 2014 at 12:01 am #

          This isn’t a football game where you cheer for your team no matter what.

          AMEN, PaperbackRuyter.

  4. PeggySue June 5, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    POTUS should make no apologies to a bunch of screeching wingers who are on the hunt for anything they can use to wound and smear the Office of the President, Barack Obama personally and anyone else they can think of. Leaving no man behind is basic to the military/warrior ethos and culture. Whatever the story is on Bergdahl will be investigated once the young man is on his feet. This incessant howling for heads by the Right is counter productive. They look and sound positively insane. The rage, the hate, the personal attacks on Bergdahl’s family and community is sickening. And sick.

    Anyone participating in this vitriol should be ashamed. But conservatives apparently have no shame, only the mighty howl of their endless rage. It’s pathological and destructive. Whipping small minds into a frenzy is not an admirable talent. And btw, it’s unAmerican.

    • Ga6thDem June 5, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

      A friend of mine who’s husband is an officer in the US Army told me the reason that they are howling so bad is because it destroyed their narrative of Obama left someone behind and completely destroyed the myth that only Republicans can be Commander in Chief of the US military. When you look at it that way what they are doing makes perfect sense. They have lost pretty much everything so there’s nothing to lose in attacking this person’s family, threatening his town or pretty much saying he should have been left in Afghanistan. They know it’s a sinking ship and desperately flailing around is all they have.

      • PeggySue June 5, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

        Attacking the family and the community is the step off the deep end. I think your friend has a point in what’s bringing this to a rapid boil; the demographics are turning against the GOP. And they know it. But the frenzy being generated is absolutely destructive, hateful and unforgivable. Strangely enough, Krauthammer has come out and said Obama did the right thing to get Bergdahl out, that he would have done the same thing under the circumstances.

        So, I guess we wait until the smoke and fury clears.

    • Ramsgate June 6, 2014 at 11:11 am #

      I completely agree with you PeggySue, he should make NO apologies for this. He did the right thing. Moreover, the “screeching wingers” on the right will disapprove of everything that he does anyway, or anything they thing could make him look good.

      Having said that, I fear a truer statement may have been: I make no apologies YET.
      Let us hope he does not go back on his word and cave. Again.

  5. mjsmith June 5, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    ” “It’s better to kidnap one person like Bergdahl than kidnapping hundreds of useless people,” the commander said, speaking by telephone on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “It has encouraged our people. Now everybody will work hard to capture such an important bird.”

    The commander has been known to TIME for several years and has consistently supplied reliable information about Bergdahl’s captivity.”

    We get more information and honesty from the taliban than we do from our own President.

    I guess the democratic party leadership that is vocal in their disappointment are just as bad as everyone else who is disgusted with this blunder as well.

    • PeggySue June 5, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

      Oh yes, we should all quote and take the word of a Taliban commander [or at least someone claiming to be] and continue the smear as best we can.

      What is wrong with you people? We manage to get back one of our own and you turn it into a smear campaign. And then you want to quote the Taliban as some incontrovertible source.

      Utterly insane.

      • Ga6thDem June 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

        It is insane. Conservatives want the Taliban and Al Qaeda to determine our foreign policy, whether we should get soliders back, whatever. Apparently we shouldn’t have gotten a prisoner back because of what the Taliban says. Again, I’m guessing we should have left him there. It is sickening.

      • mjsmith June 5, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

        All the criticism of the lousy and dishonest actions of the President are just fabricated GOP smears. Even when democrats call him out, it is a GOP smear. Get over it, Obama is an incompetent failure and a liar. The entire Obama team is composed of failures and liars.

        The Chuck Todd kool-aid crowd is shrinking by the hour.

        • PeggySue June 5, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

          The “Chuck Todd kool-aid crowd”? Why because Todd told Scarborough to stuff it in his hissy rant over Bergdahl’s father? As far as I’m concerned? I never voted for Obama. Not in 2008 or 2012. But the continuous, hateful spew needs to be called out for what it is: an irresponsible and spiteful flailing because the GOP lost the WH. Twice. And is terrified of racking up Number Three.

          You are all looking and sounding like a bunch of maniacs.

          • Ga6thDem June 5, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

            I’m the same as you. I don’t even like Obama. But sheesh, these people are such filled with conspiracy theories and nonsense you have to try to at least let a few facts get in their head.

            They should reverse it in their minds and imagine what it would be like if Bush had brought this guy home and Democrats were calling the guy a traitor. They would be incensed I’m sure.

            Even George W. Bush released a ton of Taliban so you would think they would not be making that particular argument.

          • mjsmith June 6, 2014 at 11:34 am #

            The reason why is simple – people are tired of being repeatedly lied to. Chuck Todd uses those lies to enforce his views supporting Obama and his policies. The reality is that even Chuck Todd is lied to and he never once called out President Obama or anyone else on his team for lying to him and even worse, making a liar out of him.

  6. Ga6thDem June 5, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    Everybody should read this. It has a lot of interesting information.

  7. fangio June 5, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

    Just another example of how vulgar and disgusting this country has become . The U.S. congress and the media fighting over whether it was right to bargain for the release of a U.S. soldier . It really just makes you want to puke .

    • Taylor Marsh June 6, 2014 at 12:03 am #

      The spectacle is appalling.

  8. Taylor Marsh June 6, 2014 at 12:09 am #

    Let me say one word about Pres. Richard Nixon. With due respect, Pres. Obama isn’t in his league.

    As commander in chief, Obama had authority to do exactly as he did; he also has always believed in a strong executive. Every man who’s been elected to the presidency believes this, too.

    Not to get sidetracked, though maybe it will CALM PEOPLE DOWN, but Hillary Clinton’s Iraq vote for the AUMF was about giving Bush all the power he needed as president. It cost her dearly, but that doesn’t mean she still doesn’t feel the executive branch needs to maintain power, especially commander in chief prerogatives.

    Everyone take a deep breath, please. Some, certainly not all, of the comments are too heated and discourage debate, which doesn’t have to be done by throwing partisan jabs continually. Thanks. When you all keep the debate civil it’s great reading; when you don’t it doesn’t serve the seriousness of what we’re all discussing.

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong