Doug Clifton: Bergdahl case: Another GOP-inflated controversy to discredit Obama


The jury is still out on the Bowe Bergdahl case but the verdict is in. Bergdahl is a traitor. The five Talibani prisoners we swapped for him are the most dangerous people on the planet and we’ll pay the price on the battle field. The Obama administration pulled a fast one by keeping Congress in the dark about the negotiations to free Bergdahl from five years of captivity.

That, at any rate, is the truth according to the Republican Party and its allies. No matter that we know next to nothing about Bergdahl’s disappearance or the negotiations that resulted in his release. We surely don’t know what the five exchanged prisoners will or can do, crystal balls being in such short supply. No matter. The machine was primed to pump.

In the first moments after the release the GOP hit squads stepped lightly as they passed judgment, always being sure to offer gratitude that an American soldier had been freed. But that interval of decency lasted less than a news cycle, cycles as measured in the Twitter world, which is to say as fast as fingers can type.

So, yes, they were happy but this was a bad deal, another example of Obama treachery, ineptitude, cowardice — pick your adjective. Republican operatives delivered to The New York Times two soldiers who described Bergdahl as a screw-up, possibly a traitor who caused the death of at least two of his potential rescuers.

Those two were quickly joined by others and Bergdahl fast became the punching bag of the moment. Fox News was orgasmic. John McCain, perceived to have standing owing to his own ordeal as a POW, came out swinging hard. Of course he offered the obligatory gratitude for Bergdahl’s release. And then launched into his bad deal rap. The five Guantanamo detainees were so dangerous our national security is threatened by their release, he said over and over. I wondered how, if these guys were such bad asses, they got caught in the first place.

The Bergdahl case is yet another in the parade of Republican-inflated controversies designed to discredit Obama. Who can forget Benghazi? Obamacare? Iran nuclear negotiations? The red line in Syria? The VA scandal? Fast and Furious? Ukraine? Obama hasn’t caught a break since he got Osama bin Laden and the Right attributed even that to the Bush torture policy.

The GOP loves the Bergdahl affair so much because it has so many grand narrative themes rolled into one:

The imperial presidency: failing to alert Congress of the deal.

The weak-kneed president: releasing five terrorists for one tarnished POW.

The president of dubious patriotism: freeing a traitor whose father wears a scary beard.

The politically inept president: announcing the release with fanfare in the Rose Garden when the deal had potential controversy dripping from it.

And so on.

Obama will continue to take his lumps on this one, justifiably or not. But it won’t go on forever. Bergdahl will come home. The U.S. Army will exonerate or prosecute him. The Guantanamo Five will re-enter the fray, get taken out by a drone or fade into obscurity. The GOP will move on in search of a fresher controversy after they’ve drained Bergdahl of all it offers.

And Obama will keep his upper lip stiff as he weathers what comes next and collects material for his memoir.

It promises to be a hell of a book.

Doug Clifton is the former editor of The Miami Herald and the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Fort Lauderdale. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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One comment

  • Frank Bentayou

    June 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Who could disagree with senior journalist Doug Clifton’s insights? Well, the hard-core Obama-haters, of course. But Clifton is right on the money that the Republican response to Saving Sgt. Bergdahl is just another of a seemingly endless stream of attacks on the President for doing what Presidents are supposed to do: try to look after Americans and their global interests. No verifications of allegations against this soldier have materialized

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