All the negative reaction to the release was of no surprise to me, but the administration was caught totally flat footed by the negative reaction of the military and the American public to Bergdahl’s release. As Obama scribe Chuck Todd reports:
As Obama high priest Chuck Todd stated, the administration did expect some sort of pushback by the release of these five Taliban Gitmo prisoners, but why was the Obama administration caught so flat footed by something that the entire rest of the country felt uneasy about, the effort that went into the release of an apparent deserter?
I have two possible theories on that:
Theory One: The Left regarded him as a hero, so Obama did too.
In 2009, when Bergdahl first disappeared, it was reported that he had left post without weapons and without permission, so from the very first reportage on this issue, we’ve known that he wasn’t just captured, but that he just walked away under suspicious circumstances. At the time I used to argue politics with a lefty who actually posted the story on his blog and was troubled by his apparent desertion as well. All very non-partisan right? Then came FOX.
A few days after Bergdahl’s capture/disappearance/desertion, Fox News ran an interview with its Military Analyst, LTC Ralph Peters, who had some choice words on Bergdahl:
Peters called Bergdahl a liar and possible deserter. If the blogosphere left needed to know what side to be on in this issue, Peters showed them; the opposite side from Peters and Fox. I saw the left reaction to that near immediately when the same lefty who first posted the blog post on Bergdahl noting that he had walked off post suspiciously and that there was a lot more to this story, suddenly switched gears and attacked Peters for dare besmirching a captured American POW.
I assume that 180 degree reversal came about due to some talking points that felt more hay could be made by attacking Peters and Fox for daring to attack an American soldier. And of course, a disillusioned solder is the perfect lefty military icon.
So it makes sense that to the typical member of the Obama administration, all they would know of Bergdahl is that he’s an American hero that was attacked by Fox News years ago.
Theory Two: An excuse to empty Guantanamo Bay
A few weeks ago I caught some video of President Obama being asked about his promise to close the US prison at Guantanamo Bay. Obama seemed really heartfelt about his regret at not closing it. Unlike so many issues, where it feels like he’s just reading off a teleprompter (OK he is), Obama sounded very sincere about still wanting to shut down Gitmo. This wasn’t just a campaign promise; he really wants to do it.
But Obama has been stymied by Congress, and not just “obstructionist” Republicans, but Democrats as well. He couldn’t get Gitmo closed when Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress, so the odds of accomplishing anything via legislation appear dim. But even if Obama can’t close Gitmo, he’s the Commander in Chief. He could empty Gitmo.
It’s possible that trading 5 Taliban bad guys wasn’t so much a trade as Obama giving away something he wants to get rid of anyway and pretending it’s a trade. By all indications, these are some of the “worst of the worst.” With those guys gone, it makes releasing guys not as bad easier. With the Afghan War winding down, it’s possible that Obama is going to pretend that’s the end of the war on terror, and just let everyone go from Gitmo.
Although such a move seems highly irresponsible, so was releasing those five Taliban commanders and he did that, in spite of the recommendations of the military, intelligence, and foreign services. If the Obama administration intends to do a back door shut down of Gitmo, he’s already gotten the worst out of the way.