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Public Skeptical Of Bergdahl Deal

President Obama Rose Garden Bergdahl

Viewed from a distance, the release of Bowe Bergdahl from five years of Taliban captivity should have been nothing but a win for the Obama Administration. Coming just a week after President Obama’s announcement that most American troops would be out of Afghanistan by the end of the year, and that all of them would be out by the end of 2016, the release of a P.OW. would seem to be a good thing in a typical situation. The Bergdahl matter, though, has been anything but typical. From the President’s failure to notify Congress of the release of five Guantanamo Bay prisoners, to the questions about Bergdahl’s disappearance, to the terms of the deal itself, the entire saga has raised nothing but controversy on both sides of the political aisle. And, not surprisingly, the questions about the deal are having an impact on public opinion.

A new USA Today/Pew Research poll, for example, a plurality of Americans surveyed said the deal was a bad one:

WASHINGTON — Public opposition to the exchange of five Taliban prisoners for captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has less to do with Bergdahl himself and more with how President Obama handled the transfer, according to a new USA TODAY/Pew Research Center poll.

The poll shows 43% of Americans say it was wrong for Obama to make the deal, compared with 34% who say it was the right thing to do.

Thirty percent of those surveyed have a strong opinion of Bergdahl, whose decision to leave his post in 2009 and subsequent capture by the Taliban is under investigation by the Army. Of those, half say they were sympathetic, and half say they are angry with Bergdahl.

The 128 veterans included in the poll are much more harsh in their assessment of the 28-year-old sergeant. Only 6% of veterans who responded say they sympathized with him, while 33% say they were angry. By 68%-16%, veterans say Obama made the wrong decision.

(…)

Indeed, most Americans say they believe the United States has a responsibility to bring a captive American soldier home, regardless of the circumstances: 56% say Bergdahl was entitled to those efforts even though he left his post in 2009; 29% say he wasn’t.

On one key point in the political controversy, the public backs Congress. By 2-1, Americans say the president should be required to inform Congress before such transfers.

A law passed by Congress last year requires the secretary of Defense to do exactly that, at least 30 days before transferring detainees out of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Obama signed that bill into law despite arguing that the notification provision was unconstitutional because it hindered his ability “to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers.”

The poll showed that 30% agree the president should have that flexibility, and 64% say the president should be required to inform Congress first. There’s a significant partisan split: A slight majority of Democrats give deference to the president, while Republicans overwhelmingly side with Congress.

The results are similar in a new CBS/New York Times poll:

Just over a week after U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed by the Taliban, a CBS News Poll shows 45 percent of Americans disapprove of the deal that saw him released in exchange for five Taliban militants, while 37 percent approve of it. About one in five do not have an opinion.

Views differ by political party: most Republicans disapprove of the deal, while just over half of Democrats approve. Among those who have served in the military, 55 percent disapprove of the prisoner swap.

Most Americans — 56 percent — say the U.S. paid too high a price to secure Bergdahl’s release. Among veterans, that figure rises to 65 percent.

Republicans and independents say the deal cost the U.S. too much, while Democrats are more divided: 42 percent think the terms of the agreement were reasonable, but almost as many — 39 percent — say the U.S. paid too high a price.

(…)

The poll finds a clear majority — 72 percent — think President Obama should have notified Congress in advance, and that includes 55 percent of people identifying themselves as Democrats.

Historically, CBS News Polls have often shown that Americans prefer a president seek the approval of Congress on military matters.

Some Americans express concern about terrorism amid the release of the Taliban prisoners. The poll shows 49 percent think the prisoner exchange will increase the threat of terrorism against the U.S., while 40 percent say it will have no effect. Only 3 percent say the exchange will result in a reduced threat of terrorism against the U.S.

This is hardly what the Obama Administration was hoping for when this deal went down, obviously. Ordinarily, one would expect the public to rally around a President who successfully brought how an American soldier who had been held prisoner for half a decade. That might have happened too, if the Administration had handled this matter better from a public relations standpoint. In retrospect, making this such a high profile matter by having the President himself make the announcement in a Rose Garden press conference with Bergdahl’s parents by his side and then sending the President’s National Security Adviser out to the Sunday morning shows the next day to praise Bergdahl as someone who served with ‘honor and distinction’ even when the White House was, or should have been, well aware of the charges that Bergdahl had deserted his unit prior to being captured. Additionally, it seems rather obvious that the White House could have saved itself some major political headaches by at least making some effort to comply with the law requiring Congressional notification, even if that notification was just limited to the Chairpersons of the relevant committees and the House and Senate leadership. Instead, we’ve heard shifting excuses for the failure to comply with the law, none of which stands up to scrutiny.

The Obama Administration, then, has nobody to blame for these bad poll numbers but itself at this point. It’s possible that they’ll turn around as we learn more about this case, of course, and it’s unclear what impact this will have on the President’s overall job approval numbers, which remain bad in general and worse when it comes to foreign policy. For the time being, though, numbers like this are likely to keep the Administration on the defensive over a deal that they could’ve made seem a lot better if they’d handled it smarter from the start.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Rafer Janders says:

    Thanks largely to Administration mistakes, the Bergdahl deal is not going over well.

    Thanks largely entirely to Administration mistakes Republican mendacity and opportunism, the Bergdahl deal is not going over well.

    Fixed that for you, Doug.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 39 Thumb down 13

  2. @Rafer Janders:

    Yep it’s all the fault of that far-right Republican Dianne Feinstein

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 29

  3. Rafer Janders says:

    That might have happened too, if the Administration had handled this matter better from a public relations standpoint.

    Total, total BS.

    An entirely stupid and hackish thing to write, as we know very well that the same Republicans who weeks ago were calling on Obama to do something, anything! to bring Sgt. Bergdahl home suddenly turned on a dime when he did so and began denouncing him in a carefully crafted PR campaign.

    The one mistake Obama made was having enough faith in Republicans as fellow Americans — as simply minimally decent human beings — to believe that even though would not stoop so low as to politicize the safe return home of an American soldier. Alas, they would.

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  4. C. Clavin says:

    Guess we shoulda just left him there….because…you know…polls.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 5

  5. @Rafer Janders:

    Your entire premise falls apart on the fact that it isn’t just Republicans criticizing the Administration for this.

    And, there’s nothing political about pointing out the fact that the Administration broke the law and that it most certainly matters that they did.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 25

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Yep it’s all the fault of that far-right Republican Dianne Feinstein

    (a) The fact that Dianne Feinstein is a cowardly opportunist who bows to the wind does not mean that the right wing is not engaged in a vicious anti-troops propaganda campaign. There’s always collaborators.

    (b) Do you think trying to get sarcastic with me is a winning strategy for you? Has it ever, ever worked for you in the past, or does it just compel me to pile on and reduce you to shreds by the end of the thread, leaving you nothing but the most hackish arguments to cover yourself?

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  7. C. Clavin says:

    After the Battle of Trenton on X-Mas Day 1776 Washington was left with hundreds of Hessian troops. Some of them were paroled to American farmers to make up for men fighting for the Continental Army.
    Imagine how people today would be whining about General Washington.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  8. @Rafer Janders:

    I wasn’t being sarcastic. I was pointing out that your premise is faulty.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 17

  9. @C. Clavin:

    I’ve already made my opinion about the Bergdahl deal clear. This isn’t about the merits of the deal, it’s about the political consequences, which are largely due primarily to the manner in which the Administration mishandled this entire incident.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 20

  10. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    If it matters then impeach the President.
    But you and I both know that is not going to happen…because, a). the law is most likely unconstitutional, and b). it really doesn’t matter.
    Bottom line…Obama brought home a POW.
    You and the rest of the right-wing sycophants are going to cry like little babies until the next bright shiny object comes by and grabs your attention.
    End of story.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 22 Thumb down 9

  11. Matt Bernius says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    An entirely stupid and hackish thing to write, as we know very well that the same Republicans who weeks ago were calling on Obama to do something, anything! to bring Sgt. Bergdahl home suddenly turned on a dime when he did so and began denouncing him in a carefully crafted PR campaign.

    Just like they have done *repeatedly* to the president over the last 6 years. If this had happened in the first two years of the presidency, then it’s an understandable mistake. But there are only so many times the scorpion can sting the turtle before you have to acknowledge that the turtle is partially at fault too.

    I’m sorry, but Doug is right. The Administration botched the rollout of this — in particular trying the spike the football with the Rose Garden speech. Especially when you remember that the Administration *knew* it had followed it’s signing statement and circumvented the law. Who in their right mind would not expect that the Republicans to go after him on that front?

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  12. @C. Clavin:

    And you obviously only care about the law and Presidential overreach when a Republican is President.

    For the record, I was criticizing GWB long before it was cool.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 18

  13. Ken says:

    @Doug Mataconis: @Rafer Janders: Yep it’s all the fault of that far-right Republican Dianne Feinstein

    @Doug Mataconis: I wasn’t being sarcastic

    ** eyeroll **

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 2

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    What did I type, Doug?
    I didn’t type “fvck the law”.
    I typed that the law in question is most likely unconstitutional.
    There is a process in the US called a court system.
    Take Obama to court. Impeach him. But Republicans won’t because they know it will go nowhere and in the end they are only in it for the politics.
    You either know that…or you are a dupe.
    Only you can answer that.

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  15. C. Clavin says:

    The same poll illustrates clearly how pathetic Republicans have become.
    39% of Republicans said the U.S. was obligated to do all it could to secure a captive’s freedom. POW’s? 61% of Republicans say, meh.
    48% of Republicans also say that the U.S. was not obligated to do all it could to secure Bergdahl’s freedom because he left his post. In other words…52% of Republicans are not at all interested in due process.
    Stay classy, Republicans.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 2

  16. al-Ameda says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Thanks entirely to Republican mendacity and opportunism, the Bergdahl deal is not going over well.

    And, THAT my friend, is the unvarnished truth.

    The fact is, a few months ago John McCain and other Republicans thought that the proposed exchange for Bergdahl was a good idea. Then they remembered it was election season and they changed their minds. Craven (and completely expected) opportunism on the part of Republicans.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 34 Thumb down 1

  17. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    And, there’s nothing political about pointing out the fact that the Administration broke the law and that it most certainly matters that they did.

    Whether they are actually breaking the law or not is for a court to decide, of course.”– Doug Mataconis, June 9, 2014 at 12:27 PM, arguing that you can’t say that Uber and Lyft have broken any state laws until a court so rules after a hearing, and that even if they did, it only proves that the law is wrong and should be ignored.

    http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/virginia-goes-to-war-against-uber-lyft-and-free-enterprise//#comments

    Which principle he seems to apply when it suits him, and abandons when it doesn’t.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 37 Thumb down 1

  18. stonetools says:

    I wonder, was Obama responsible for the scurriluous attacks on Berdahl’s father because he has a “Taliban like” beard? Doug is completely giving conservatives a pass for conducting some of the most low down character assasination that I’ve seen in a while.Why don’t you condemn the conservatives for THAT?
    If the Obama Administration is to be faulted, it’s to be faulted for underestimating the willingness of the Republicans to stoop to any means necessary to deny the Obama Administratiion any credit for anything. I fault them for that, too. After six years, they should have been ready for this and that they should have had a Plan B ready to go when the Republicans did their 180 and started condemning Obama for doing what they had previously attacked Obama for not doing . But let’s be clear: its Republican mendacity, not Administration naivete, that should be the focus.

    Additionally, it seems rather obvious that the White House could have saved itself some major political headaches by at least making some effort to comply with the law requiring Congressional notification, even if that notification was just limited to the Chairpersons of the relevant committees and the House and Senate leadership.

    I’m beginning to think, Doug, that you have preferred that the Administration comply with the law and the deal fail, with Berdahl left to rot in Taliban captivity. Tell me I’m wrong on this.In any case, I see no evidence whatsover that the Republicans would not have condemned the deal regardless.

    In retrospect, making this such a high profile matter by having the President himself make the announcement in a Rose Garden press conference with Bergdahl’s parents by his side

    Bringing home the last American POW alive shoould have been a time for celebration, even if his father did have a beard and even if the captive was questionable. That it was not was purely because conservatives hated the idea of giving Obama credit for anything. Would you have preferred this being done in the dead of night? Guess what, the Republicans would have condemned Obama for that too.

    then sending the President’s National Security Adviser out to the Sunday morning shows the next day to praise Bergdahl as someone who served with ‘honor and distinction’

    You do understand that this is a truncated quote, right? And that she later clarified by saying she was referring to his decision to serve?

    In the end, Doug, I see you giving a free pass to conservatives that tried Berdahl in public, smeared Berdahl’s father, and lied about not wanting the Administration to do more to bring Berdahl home in favor of making cheap points about the Administration’s clumsiness and lack of style in handling this matter. That’s how I see it.

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  19. ralphb says:

    Considering the total media freakout about the prisoner swap, the results of those polls look more like a “meh” than anything. The right wing better hope he turns out to be some kind of converted muslim, deserter, traitor or they are going to have hell to pay.

    This whole freakout has been so freaking un-American it’s hard to understand from a rational viewpoint. It does put all the “support the troops” bullshit in a different light though.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 1

  20. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Your entire premise falls apart on the fact that it isn’t just Republicans criticizing the Administration for this.

    Let’s imagine for a moment that after the Bergdahl deal was announced that John McCain, Paul Ryan, John Boehner, “Morning Joe” and all of Fox News came out in loud support of his return and thanked Obama for getting a POW back.

    Would Dianne Feinstein, or anyone else in the left, right or center, have then had the balls or desire to criticize the Administration? An honest man (ahem) would have to answer “No.” Everyone in the country would have rallied around the until now entirely uncontroversial act of a prisoner exchange.

    The fact is, criticism of this deal IS driven entirely by Republicans. Those non-Republicans who are critical are either (i) cowardly opportunists who don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of any issue or (ii) relatively uninformed or apathetic news consumers who tend to believe the latest thing they’ve heard.

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  21. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I wasn’t being sarcastic.

    Yeah. Sure. Sure you weren’t.*

    *actual sarcasm.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  22. CB says:

    I’ve gotta agree that they botched the announcement, and I like the scorpion and frog metaphor. At this point, the administration looks a little insulated. And naive. And exhausted.

    But could anyone really have anticipated this burning opposition to repatriating a POW? I mean, FFS, what kind of precedent does this political about-face have? What could they have done both differently and better? Can we admit that they operated outside the law by necessity?

    This is the most insane political sideshow I’ve ever seen, and I’m old enough to remember Benghazi.

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  23. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    @stonetools: “in favor of making cheap points about the Administration’s clumsiness and lack of style in handling this matter. That’s how I see it.”

    100% agreed. And not just on this topic. It is never a serious argument being made when it comes to the President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  24. ralphb says:

    @CB:

    This is the most insane political sideshow I’ve ever seen

    That’s certain and I don’t ever want to see another like it. It’s truly pathetic.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  25. stonetools says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Which principle he seems to apply when it suits him, and abandons when it doesn’t.

    Bingo. Not only this, I remember Doug praising the Administration for using it’s “administrative discretion” in not prosecuting Colorado marijuana growers. Doug at time praised the Administration for its wise and farsighted policy in not enforcing the federal laws. Maybe he can explain the difference in view here. Why wasn’t that an example of the “imperial Presidency gone amok?”

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  26. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    This isn’t about the merits of the deal, it’s about the political consequences, which are largely due primarily to the manner in which the Administration mishandled this entire incident.

    Ah, the Bluto Blutarsky Defense: “You f*cked up. You trusted us.”

    So it’s not the fault of the un-American Republicans for cravenly politicizing the safe return home of a POW — it’s the fault of Obama for not anticipating that the un-American Republicans would cravenly politicize the safe return home of a POW.

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  27. Matt Bernius says:

    @stonetools:

    Bringing home the last American POW alive shoould have been a time for celebration, even if his father did have a beard and even if the captive was questionable. That it was not was purely because conservatives hated the idea of giving Obama credit for anything. Would you have preferred this being done in the dead of night? Guess what, the Republicans would have condemned Obama for that too.

    You are *not* being objective about this. The Rose Garden thing was a *mistake.* Just take a step back and look, politically, at the calculus involve:

    ( [Release of Gitmo Prisoners] +
    [Defying Congress] +
    [Circumstances around Bergdahl's capture] ) X
    [Republican resistance AND The fact it was *their* law]

    Total those up those liabilities and ask if they are greater or less than the feel good aspect of the last POW coming home.

    Seriously. The American people have never been particularly comfortable with Gitmo releases. And their patience with politicians circumventing laws is at an all time low. Add onto that the murky facts as to Bergdahl’s capture (which won’t play well with the public) and it becomes clear that making a big deal out of this — in the present political climate — is a terrible idea.

    Take out any one of those factors and it could go either way. But taken together? With 6+ years of Republican attacks for *anything* under his belt? The rollout of this was botched.

    Should they still have done the deal? Yes. Sign the deal, make an announcement, and immediately send out defenders who articulate the administrations points clearly and succinctly. But don’t throw a “Mission Accomplished” party. Learn from the mistakes of the last administration.

    But again we see a team that was particularly brilliant at the calculus of smart political campaigning TOTALLY FLOP when it comes to the political calculus of being president.

    I support the president, but saying that this is all the fault of the mean Republicans is crazy and totally dismissed the responsibility of the White House to properly manage a situation.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 13

  28. rachel says:

    @ralphb:

    It’s truly pathetic.

    It’s sickening is what it is.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  29. Matt Bernius says:

    @CB:

    But could anyone really have anticipated this burning opposition to repatriating a POW?

    If it was just a POW? No. But this wasn’t *just* a POW. It’s a POW who was captured under unknown circumstances (and who may have abandoned his post), it involved breaking a (most likely unconstitutional) law, and the release of multiple Gitmo prisoners.

    But again, let’s break down the political calculus here:

    ([Release of Gitmo Prisoners] +
    [Defying Congress] +
    [Circumstances around Bergdahl's capture]) X
    [Republican resistance that pass the law in question]

    Seriously, the simple fact it was a prisoner exchange for Gitmo Prisoners alone should have been enough to scuttle the celebration. I mean did Obama’s advisors learn anything from the total bipartisan defeat of his attempts to close Gitmo?

    If you cannot see *why* this is a “Mission Accomplished* moment, you are really too far to your partisan side.

    Again, the release should have happened. But the handling of it was *entirely* flat footed. Especially after 6 years of hard lessons in the face of an unrelenting opponent. Again, at some point the turtle bears responsibility for expecting the scorpion to act against its nature.

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  30. ralphb says:

    @rachel:

    It’s sickening is what it is.

    It really is sick. I don’t recall ever being this personally angry about one of these predictable freakouts before. Up to now I thought we all might have had a bit of basic decency. Now I see that I was wrong and the current Republican political class has not a shred. They are becoming more like the Taliban every day.

    If there is a demographic wave coming to sweep them away, it can’t get here soon enough.

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  31. bandit says:

    Obama would trade terrorist killers for traitors and collaborators all day every day – he’s just setting the market – BO and Susan Rice agree – collaborating is their definition of serving honorably and the Obama scrote likkers here agree

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  32. stonetools says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Should they still have done the deal? Yes. Sign the deal, make an announcement, and immediately send out defenders who articulate the administrations points clearly and succinctly. But don’t throw a “Mission Accomplished” party. Learn from the mistakes of the last administration.

    First of all, it was a “Mission Accomplished” moment. The life of an American citizen was saved, and an American soldier was returned from captivity (and possible danger of death from illness or execution) to the bosom of his family. So yes, there should have been a moment of celebration. Lest we forget, his home town was planning a homecoming celebration-till the wingnut death threats started coming in. Should they have not planned a celebration either, because they should have anticipated that Bill O’Reilly and other assorted scumbags would start stirring up trouble and various “patriots” would respond by threatening the family? (BTW, when are you and Doug going to condemn that?).

    Are you under the delusion that if it had been done quietly, the Republicans would have said nothing? Because I can predict what they would have said. They would have said , “This deal stinks to high heaven, and the President knows it. That’s why he concluded it in the dead of night, sneaking in a traitor and deserter for five terrorists” . Bottom line, there was no way the President would not have been attacked for this deal.

    Hiowever, I agree with you that the President should have been better prepared for Republican treachery. Again, the President needs to have the kind of mean Machiavelli type character as his chief of staff who can see these things coming. Instead, in Jack Lew he has a wonkish milquetoast who is a “good person” where maybe a “good person” shouldn’t be.

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  33. Matt Bernius says:

    @stonetools:

    Are you under the delusion that if it had been done quietly, the Republicans would have said nothing?

    No. Of course they would have said something.

    But it would have taken away some of the ammunition. Including the point that the Administration was “celebrating” this.

    And, while his homecoming is a good thing, the celebrations (at the presidential level) are tempered by the fact that there is also going to be an ongoing investigation into the circumstances around his disappearance.

    The entire topic of his hometown welcome is outside of the issue of whether or not Team Obama’s handling of the politics of the announcement was effective or not.

    Again, I think it’s worth asking why a team that is so good at managing campaigns is so bad a messaging when they’re in office. I think the chief of staff really botched this one. And it’s far from the first time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 10

  34. CB says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Nope, I agree, full stop. They should have accounted for the circumstances behind his disappearance, and the impact those circumstances had right on up the chain of command. I think that the admin is growing more tone deaf, and think that they’re basically tripping over their own shoelaces at this point.

    But it’s one thing to disagree with the political handling, and another entirely to pull a 180 and rail against getting a prisoner released after calling for just that for years. One side strikes me as operating in markedly worse faith than the other, which is really all I mean to say. I have no real love for the admin, or party politics in general, and would like a blunt and honest accounting of the rationale behind the decision making process. But as ever, we won’t get it. We’ll get bullshit from both ends.

    I still stand by my shock at the vitriol being flung at Bergdahl and his family (his family!!). I never would have anticipated that reaction, even given the circumstances.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  35. Dave Schuler says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Not to mention Leon Panetta.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  36. CB says:

    And to be honest, I think ANY crowing about ANYTHING related to Iraq and Afghanistan is shameful at this point. Survivors of calamity don’t celebrate. They reflect, and they try to move on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  37. Matt Bernius says:

    @CB:

    But it’s one thing to disagree with the political handling, and another entirely to pull a 180 and rail against getting a prisoner released after calling for just that for years.

    I agree, but at this point, we’ve seen this happen too many time to be surprised. I mean, “I was for it before I was against it” has entered into the popular vernacular for a reason.

    And to be fair, there are a lot of Conservatives/Republicans who never made public statements about Bergdahl.

    And there are others who reversed or shifted their positions before this took place. Loath as I am to cite him, Alan West actually wrote the general attack strategy for Republicans in *February* of this year:
    http://allenwestrepublic.com/2014/02/26/allen-west-bergdahl-taliban-prisoner-swap-lacks-transparency/

    What’s was shameful were the Republicans who reversed themselves in a matter of hours (i.e. initially welcoming the release and then deleting those tweets).

    But, as Harold Washington said “Politics ain’t mumbly peg” – especially now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  38. Rafer Janders says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    But it would have taken away some of the ammunition. Including the point that the Administration was “celebrating” this.

    No, they just would have switched to other ammunition. They would then have said “the fact that the Administration ISN’T celebrating this shows that they know that what they did was wrong.” The LACK of celebration would suddenly have become an outrage.

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  39. Nick says:

    @Rafer Janders: I must say, I never comment here but Rafer totally blew the ENTIRE premise of this post out of the water. Mr. Mataconis, you have been played.

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  40. stonetools says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    The entire topic of his hometown welcome is outside of the issue of whether or not Team Obama’s handling of the politics of the announcement was effective or not.

    Yeah, the point of that is that the regular “heartland” Americans of Hailey, Idaho, apparently thouht that it was an occassion of celebration and joy. I think a lot of Americans would have wondered why Obama wouldn’t have made a point of having the parents over to the Rose Garden and making some remarks. Really, it was completely unprecedented that the return of a POW wouldn’t have been greeted with celebration. That said, the Administration knew that it was dealing with scorpions. Hopefully, they’ll have learned from this and be ready next time. Mind you, they should have been ready this time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  41. Moosebreath says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    “I mean, “I was for it before I was against it” has entered into the popular vernacular for a reason.”

    Yes, but it used to be an attack on a politician’s character. The current crop of Republicans have made it a point of pride.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  42. CB says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Yeah, agreed, it’s all low hanging fruit. It’s kinda boring and inconsequential in the end, isn’t it.

    But sometimes it just feels good to yell at the clouds.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  43. Eric Florack says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Given the responses to your comments, the Democrat Party cheering committee, OTB section, apprently is willing to *make* this political.

    (sigh)

    Oh, and a couple of points. first off, Ive heard that Obama, to open the negotiations, freed five AQ warriors, even before the deal for Bergdahl made. so, we’re not dealing with five releases for Bergdahl, but ten, in reality.

    Secondly, and in your defense, Obama and his people have been trying to push a deal for years. Trouble is, each time he went to congressional heads, members of both parties uniformly said ‘dont do it’. Perhaps now we have an idea why Obama did it without their go ahead… he knew he wouldnt get it…. and rightly so.

    Odd thing. Obama wants to be seen as a great peace maker by negotiating with terrorists… but wont negotiate with Congress.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 17

  44. al-Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Odd thing. Obama wants to be seen as a great peace maker by negotiating with terrorists… but wont negotiate with Congress.

    Negotiate with Republicans like John McCain? McCain thought it (the exchange) was a good idea, until he thought it was a bad idea. Negotiate with craven opportunists like that? I can’t imagine why the president would avoid those grease balls?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

  45. CB says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Very odd indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  46. Jeremy R says:

    I’ve mentioned this in a previous Bergdahl thread, but it is truly bizarre how much Doug has shifted on this issue over the course of a week:

    Sat May 31

    This is exceedingly good news and, from the photograph above, it appears that Sgt. Bergdahl is in relatively good condition given the circumstances of his condition, especially since its unlikely that his captors were abiding by the Geneva Convention. The prisoner swap is apparently something that negotiators have been working on for some time and, while some may complain about it, it strikes me that it was well worth it. Here’s hoping that Sgt. Bergdahl returns to the United States as soon as possible and that he receives all the treatment he needs.

    Sat May 31

    [I]t’s unclear what the penalty might be for failure to comply with the 30 day notice requirement other than giving Congress the ability to air a legitimate complaint.

    As to the broader issue, though, it strikes me that it’s going to be hard for the GOP to come out of a real battle with the President over this looking good, if that’s what they choose to do here. Yes, it’s true that we have “negotiated with terrorists” to ensure the release of an American Prisoner of War, but it’s not as if we haven’t done that before. President Reagan did it on several occasions as part of the efforts to ensure the release of the Americans and others who were kidnapped in Lebanon back in the 1980s and, indeed, went so far as to engage in secret diplomatic negotiations with Iran to advance those discussions. But what else were he and President Obama supposed to do? In both cases, rescue seemed to be unlikely due to where the men in question were being held. So, if you want to get the prisoner out alive, you have to talk to the people holding them. Yes, we’re admittedly taking a risk in releasing these five men from Guantanamo, but prisoner exchanges have been a part of war since time immemorial, why is it such a bad thing this time?

    On a final note, I guess I’d just have to wonder what these Republicans would say to Sgt. Bergdahl’s parents. Would they tell them that we should have let their son continue to be held hostage to prove a broader political point? We like to say that we would never leave a solider behind, and today we proved that. Sgt. Bergdahl is coming home, and that strikes me as a good thing. Perhaps Republicans should stop trying to score political points against the President and be thankful for that.

    Mon June 2nd

    As I noted in my post on the initial GOP reaction to this release on Saturday evening, it strikes me that Republicans are making a big political mistake if they start attacking the President over this. I will concede that here are legitimate questions regarding the circumstances and terms of the deal that led to Sgt. Bergdahl’s release, and the question of just how much we can trust the Qataris to live up to their assurances regarding the five released prisoners. Additionally, I’m still somewhat unclear on the exact terms of the law requiring the President to give Congress advance notice of any prisoner transfer out of Guantanamo Bay and what exceptions might exist to those requirements. And, finally, there are some outstanding questions regarding the circumstances that led to Sgt. Bergdahl’s capture, including allegations that he may have deserted his post and there are also some questions regarding comments that his father has made in public.

    Some of these are legitimate questions, but based on their initial reaction to the deal, it seems clear to me that Republicans seem intent on reflexively treating this story the way they treat everything that this President does, as an opportunity to bash the President. Ordinary Americans looking at this story are going to see an American soldier who was held prisoner for five years finally coming home and being reunited with the family and friends that had been missing him. It is good news and it is inevitably something that is going to inure to the President’s benefit, which may be what most sticks in the craw of some people on the right. The politically smart thing to do, it strikes me, is to express gratitude for the safe return of one of our soldiers and allow him to heal and reunite with his family.

    Turning this into yet another opportunity to bash the President and score political points just comes across as petty, and if Republicans think voters aren’t going to notice that kind of pettiness they are kidding themselves.

    An American solider is home, his family is happy. Perhaps Republicans should keep their reflexive desire to score political points against the President suppressed for at least a few days. Not only might it be the politically smart thing to do, it also happens to be the decent and humane thing to do.

    It’s worth noting the Rose Garden public statements occurred Sat May 31st and the ABC News Susan Rice answer was on the following day. It was around June 3rd when Doug became far more critical on the congressional notification issue, and the 5th when he introduced his “messaging” critique which apparently made things he’d previously dismissed as petty political points fair game.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  47. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jeremy R:

    It was around June 3rd when Doug became far more critical on the congressional notification issue, and the 5th when he introduced his “messaging” critique which apparently made things he’d previously dismissed as petty political points fair game.

    A week of uncritically listening to right-wing propaganda will tend to do that to a guy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  48. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jeremy R:

    Jesus, it’s almost like you’re able to use the Internet to go and find what a guy had previously written about something and use that against him….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  49. Eric Florack says:

    yeah, its just Republicans.
    Or, maybe not

    http://www.nationaljournal.com/white-house/i-ve-had-enough-when-democrats-quit-on-obama-20140609

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  50. Eric Florack says:

    @al-Ameda: well, Rick, perhpas now you’ll understand my lukewarm at best support for McCain back in the day?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  51. Eric Florack says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The point you seem to miss is those political consequences exist because it is a bad deal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  52. steve s says:

    This country has no chance of doing anything important and productive until the Party of Stupid is defanged.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  53. Eric Florack says:

    @steve s:The Democrats?
    Yeah, I suppose so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 10

  54. David M says:

    People who disapprove of the deal do not care about notifying Congress or whether Bergdahl was AWOL when he was captured or the released detainees. They care that Obama is a Democrat and this is the GOP outrage of the week.

    The only reason to care about this issue is to try and help the Republican Party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 4

  55. Another Mike says:

    @al-Ameda: You call them grease balls. I call them elected representatives. The real issue here is not that President Obama broke the law, as quite possibly the law encroached on the authority of the executive. Even conservative legal people recognize that a court would rule that way. The real issue is that he released five Taliban fighters back into the ongoing fight in Afghanistan. Maybe they will really spend a year first in Qatar, but many have doubts about this.

    Another issue is that Bergdahl was a deserter. There may have been good reason having to do with his safety that he wasn’t carried that way. There was a big investigation after his disappearance and the Army and his fellow soldiers knew what the real deal was from the start. The thing to do would have been to return him low key and hold an Article 32 investigation. He could then be quietly courts martialed or simply administratively discharged from the Army.

    There is no one to blame for how this whole Bergdahl affair turned out except President Obama and his people. Did he really think those in the military would stomach this big Rose Garden PR affair of treating Bergdahl as some kind of hero. Deserters are not treated as returning heroes. Ok, we got him back, but what we got back was a deserter. And we paid a heavy price to do that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11

  56. stonetools says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    A week of uncritically listening to right-wing propaganda will tend to do that to a guy.

    Right now he seems to be channelling the Hot Air front page.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  57. rudderpedals says:

    @Eric Florack: Ron Fournier is very concerned. What shall we do?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  58. wr says:

    @Rafer Janders: “The fact that Dianne Feinstein is a cowardly opportunist who bows to the wind”

    Actually, I don’t think that’s the case here. It’s more than Feinstein is a ferocious defender of her own priveleges. Just as she runs around screaming that Snowden is traitor and the NSA is wonderful — except when it comes out that they spied on congress. Then it’s a national emergency.

    At this point in her far too long career, the only thing DiFi cares about is that she is accorded proper respect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  59. stonetools says:

    @Another Mike:

    Another issue is that Bergdahl was a deserter.

    Why don’t you contact the military and tell them not to bother with an investigation, since apparently you’ve settled the issue.

    Did he really think those in the military would stomach this big Rose Garden PR affair of treating Bergdahl as some kind of hero.

    It’s important to realize that we have NOT heard from the “military.” We’ve heard from three or four disgruntled members of his platoon ( a platoon comprises a lot more than 3-4 people) . Those few were led by a raging conservative (Cody Full) who contacted a Republican PR firm. The “military” has decided to do an investigation on the issue. Let’s wait for the results of that. Right now Bergdahl’s status isn’t deserter. It’s POW and American citizen and therefore his safe return is worth a little celebration.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  60. wr says:

    @Matt Bernius: “You are *not* being objective about this. The Rose Garden thing was a *mistake.* ”

    Funny, I remember exactly this argument about Obama celebrating the passage of the ACA. “Oh, it’s too controversial. He’s rubbing his opponents noses in it.”

    For some reason, whenever this particular person does what ever politiciian in history has ever done — that is, take some credit for his accomplishments — the right starts screaming and the “modertates” start whining about how what he did was right, but he should never have mentioned doing it.

    I know why Republicans do this — they want to deprive him of a victory. I know why right wingers do it — they think he’s uppity. What I don’t understand is why you fall for crap like this.

    He did a good thing. He announced it to the world. That was not only his right but his duty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  61. Dave Schuler says:

    @wr:

    A very wise remark. There isn’t much that’s more important to a senator than the prerogatives of being a senator (and the prerogatives of the Senate).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  62. wr says:

    @Matt Bernius: “If you cannot see *why* this is a “Mission Accomplished* moment, you are really too far to your partisan side.”

    I’m sorry, Matt, but “if you don’t see this my way you’re completely partisan” is not actually a winning argument.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  63. wr says:

    @Matt Bernius: “But it would have taken away some of the ammunition. Including the point that the Administration was “celebrating” this.”

    To be immediately replaced with “the administration was hiding this.”

    You seem to think yours is the more sophisticated view, when really it appears you have payed attention to nothing over the last six years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  64. Tyrell says:

    One thing I have thought sbout is that this soldier may be a huge source of useful information that will help in the war on these terrorists. It might be information about terrorist leaders, locations, weapons they have, supply lines, their plans, and numbers. That could be some of the cause of all the secrecy. If he can give information that could prevent just one attack or lead the the capture or death of one terrorist, then this deal is worth it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  65. @Jeremy R:

    My opinion changed as the facts became more apparent.

    There’s something wrong about that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  66. Another Mike says:

    @stonetools: Maybe you have forgotten what the discussion environment is like in the military and the constraints on service members just volunteering commentary. It doesn’t exactly work like it does in the civilian world. In an Article 32 investigation they can testify under oath, and unlike in a grand jury proceedings, Bergdahl can have his say too.

    The soldiers appearing on TV are not disgruntled. They are just former soldiers now free to talk. It is could be unwise for a soldier still on active duty to comment on Bergdahl for public consumption. I never would have.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  67. C. Clavin says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Odd thing. Obama wants to be seen as a great peace maker by negotiating with terrorists… but wont negotiate with Congress.

    1st…prisoner exchanges are not negotiating with terrorists.
    2nd…Congress has been unwilling to negotiate anything…they vote against things that they are for…their own frigging ideas.
    If your opinion is based upon nonsense…then your opinion…by definition…is nonsense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  68. Davebo says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    What facts are you referring to Doug?

    In other words, what do you know now that you didn’t know then?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  69. KM says:

    @Doug Mataconis says:

    @Jeremy R:

    My opinion changed as the facts became more apparent.

    There’s something wrong about that?

    Actually no, that’s what you are supposed to do when facts come to light. The thing is, these are not facts you speak of – they are suppositions, rumors and accusations. Very very few hard facts and evidence are present right now. Even less that you can take as evidence in a court martial. As James has been pointing out on his threads, military justice is its own animal and they haven’t declared him a deserter yet. The American public is free to think whatever it wants, but desertion is a serious military legal charge, not a slur the way its being used right now. I wonder if his platoon mates who are screaming obscenities about Bergdahl realize they may have to testify under oath and risk perjury….

    Deserter is a status, an actual legal charge that requires proceedings. You are accusing the man of a crime. Until such time as he is formally investigated and charged, he is a POW you happen to suspect. He is an accused deserter, Doug – not proven guilty. That is the fact that keeps getting lost in this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  70. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    My opinion changed as the facts became more apparent.

    Which facts specifically? Not someone’s opinion, but facts — which facts have come out in the last week that were not previously available?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  71. @KM:

    It is a fact that Obama failed to comply with the law.

    It is a fact that there have been allegations made against Bergdahl related to desertion and that the Army has opened an investigation. I haven’t reached any conclusion on that matter but it certainly is proper to report on those allegations.

    It is a fact that there is a reasonable question regarding whether or not it was wise to release the 5 specific men that were exchanged for Bergdahl.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  72. @Rafer Janders:

    The specifics of the allegations against Bergdahl and the issue of the lack of notice to Congress. When I wrote about the release on that first Saturday evening, neither of those issues had been fully explained.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  73. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It is a fact that Obama failed to comply with the law.

    Sorry…that is not a fact. It is your opinion. Other opinions differ…including those that say CONGRESS is the one that acted unlawfully.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  74. Gavrilo says:

    @stonetools:

    Actually,

    A Pentagon investigation concluded in 2010 that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl walked away from his unit, and after an initial flurry of searching the military decided not to exert extraordinary efforts to rescue him, according to a former senior defense official who was involved in the matter.

    But, nice job attacking the soldiers from Bergdahl’s platoon! Classy, as always.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  75. KM says:

    @Doug:

    It is a fact that Obama failed to comply with the law.

    Has nothing to do with the charge. Irrelevant to calling him a deserter – you’re having a separate issue with the CIC (justified or not).

    It is a fact that there have been allegations made against Bergdahl related to desertion and that the Army has opened an investigation. I haven’t reached any conclusion on that matter but it certainly is proper to report on those allegations.

    Then he should be rightly referred to as the alleged deserter. Isn’t that standard for someone who’s been accused of a crime as a nod to innocent until proven guilty? I think you’d get a lot less flak if you made the distinction as it is an important one. When you say “deserter”, you imply you wholeheartedly believe the charge, not that you “haven’t reached any conclusion on that matter “. Terminology matters. Law’s your thing, you know this one.

    It is a fact that there is a reasonable question regarding whether or not it was wise to release the 5 specific men that were exchanged for Bergdahl.

    Again, separate from the deserter charge. If Obama released these same 5 people in exchanged for a capture Medal of Honor winner, you should have the same level of concern. Of all the “facts”, this is the most reasonable and the one we should be discussing. Instead, unproven ad hominems on the captive muddle the narrative.

    I hate to point it out but you’re getting really defensive Doug. A might touchy. I too have some questions and concerns regarding this deal. However, I see that there are several issues getting mashed up (deserter/support the troops, broke the law/illegal law, etc) and I’m trying to separate them out. Your posts over the course of the week are slowly blending them all together and are really really resembling the right-wing narrative going on right now. You call him deserter freely when a week ago (when we already knew he walked off!) you avoided them term.

    It’s clear you have doubts and that’s OK. Some of us here share those doubts. But you’ve basically done a 180 in less then a week on almost the whole shebang. What Bergdahl did/didn’t do is separate from what the Administration did/didn’t do – it’s not one giant bundle of outrage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  76. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    The 30 day notification requirement for releasing inmates from Guantanamo is an unconstitutional infringement on Obama’s warmaking powers. That is just as valid a “fact” as the “fact” that Obama broke the law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  77. stonetools says:

    @Gavrilo:

    But, nice job attacking the soldiers from Bergdahl’s platoon! Classy, as always.

    Er, no.

    At best, a few of the soldiers from Bergdahl’s platoon ( A platoon is typically around 50 people).

    And that investigation did not officially find that Bergdahl “deserted”. Reading IS fundamental.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  78. @C. Clavin:

    If the President thought it was unconstitutional then he should have vetoed the NDAA it was a part of. He doesn’t have the authority to decide which laws he will and will not comply with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  79. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It is a fact that Obama failed to comply with the law.

    Let me (again) quote an actual attorney regarding this issue:

    “Whether they are actually breaking the law or not is for a court to decide, of course.”– Doug Mataconis, June 9, 2014 at 12:27 PM.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  80. @KM:

    Nowhere have I made any claim to pronounce Sgt. Bergdahl guilty of anything, you are grasping at straws.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  81. @Rafer Janders:

    Are you telling me that it is not fact that President Obama failed to comply with the notice requirement?

    Even the Administration admits that part. They just haven’t decided which justification they want to rely upon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  82. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The specifics of the allegations against Bergdahl and the issue of the lack of notice to Congress. When I wrote about the release on that first Saturday evening, neither of those issues had been fully explained.

    False. Both the facts regarding Bergdahl’s capture and the issue of alleged lack of notice to Congress were well-known a week ago.

    Sure, people have been talking about them all week and throwing up a lot of chaff, but no actual new facts have been put into the public record that were not available before.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  83. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Are you telling me that it is not fact that President Obama failed to comply with the notice requirement?

    No, YOU’RE telling me that:

    “Whether they are actually breaking the law or not is for a court to decide, of course.”– Doug Mataconis, June 9, 2014 at 12:27 PM.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  84. KM says:

    @Doug:

    Nowhere have I made any claim to pronounce Sgt. Bergdahl guilty of anything, you are grasping at straws.

    Then I take it alleged deserter will now be entering your lexicon?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  85. KM,

    I will continue to refer to the fact that there are charges of desertion being made against him. There is nothing wrong with phrasing it in that manner, and I consider this debate closed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  86. Rafer,

    Yes, because only a Court has the legal authority to evaluate your claim that the notice requirement is unconstitutional.

    Until then, it is a fact that no notice was given. Therefore, the law was not complied with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  87. stonetools says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It is a fact that Obama failed to comply with the law.

    It is a fact that there have been allegations made against Bergdahl related to desertion and that the Army has opened an investigation. I haven’t reached any conclusion on that matter but it certainly is proper to report on those allegations.

    It is a fact that there is a reasonable question regarding whether or not it was wise to release the 5 specific men that were exchanged for Bergdahl.

    And all of this was known the day you posted your first column. I guess you read some Hot Air , talked it over with your buddy Jazz Shaw, and decided to reconsider.
    I do find it curious that you haven’t condemned Bill O’Reilly for attacking Bergdahl’s father, condemned right wing nut cases for issuing death threats against the Bergdahl’s family, or condemned the Pajamas Media crowd and the right wing blogosphere for trying and convicting Bergdahl for desertion in the press.
    Had your condemnations been more even handed, I would be more supportive of you. Right now, this just looks like a hack job on Obama .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  88. stonetools,

    I am not going to justify myself to you or anyone else, so this will be my last comment on this thread.

    Yes, I changed my mind about how serious the arguments that were initially made against the deal on the evening of May 31st after gaining more information. And I didn’t condemn Bill O’Reilly because I don’t watch the talking heads on evening cable news and really don’t waste my time worrying about what they have to say.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  89. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It is a fact that there is a reasonable question regarding whether or not it was wise to release the 5 specific men that were exchanged for Bergdahl.

    Yes, we’re admittedly taking a risk in releasing these five men from Guantanamo, but prisoner exchanges have been a part of war since time immemorial, why is it such a bad thing this time?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  90. Rafer,

    Did you even bother reading this post?

    (I’m guessing the answer is no)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  91. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Yes, because only a Court has the legal authority to evaluate your claim that the notice requirement is unconstitutional.

    What, MY claim that the notice requirement is unconstitutional? I never claimed any such thing, you just made that up. Point me to where I supposedly claimed that.

    Until then, it is a fact that no notice was given. Therefore, the law was not complied with.

    And yet in the case of Lyft and Uber yesterday, you held the exact opposite position, that even when a law on the books was supposedly not complied with, one couldn’t claim that the law was actually being broken without a court so ruling.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  92. stonetools says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Yes, we’re admittedly taking a risk in releasing these five men from Guantanamo, but prisoner exchanges have been a part of war since time immemorial, why is it such a bad thing this time?

    Its almost like we don’t have ways of tracking their communications, observing them from satellites , or sending flying robots to blow them out of existence if they rejoin their buddies in Afghanistan. Frankly, this part of the deal doesn’t worry me much.
    Say what you like about Obama, an unwillingness to use drones isn’t an accusation you can rationally make.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  93. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Are you telling me that it is not fact that President Obama failed to comply with the notice requirement?

    Some of these are legitimate questions, but based on your reaction to the deal, it seems clear to me that you seem intent on reflexively treating this story the way they treat everything that this President does, as an opportunity to bash the President. Ordinary Americans looking at this story are going to see an American soldier who was held prisoner for five years finally coming home and being reunited with the family and friends that had been missing him. It is good news and it is inevitably something that is going to inure to the President’s benefit, which may be what most sticks in the craw of some people on the right. The politically smart thing to do, it strikes me, is to express gratitude for the safe return of one of our soldiers and allow him to heal and reunite with his family.

    Turning this into yet another opportunity to bash the President and score political points just comes across as petty, and if you think voters aren’t going to notice that kind of pettiness they are kidding themselves.

    An American solider is home, his family is happy. Perhaps you should keep your reflexive desire to score political points against the President suppressed for at least a few days. Not only might it be the politically smart thing to do, it also happens to be the decent and humane thing to do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  94. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Are you telling me that it is not fact that President Obama failed to comply with the notice requirement?

    On a final note, I guess I’d just have to wonder what you would say to Sgt. Bergdahl’s parents. Would you tell them that we should have let their son continue to be held hostage to prove a broader political point? We like to say that we would never leave a solider behind, and last week we proved that. Sgt. Bergdahl is coming home, and that strikes me as a good thing. Perhaps you should stop trying to score political points against the President and be thankful for that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  95. Rafer,

    Again, I refer you to the linked post in my last comment, which you obviously didn’t read. That’s all I have to say.

    But, I will point out that this post is about two public opinion polls on this issue. If you don’t like the numbers in the poll, don’t blame me.

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  96. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Again, I refer you to the linked post in my last comment, which you obviously didn’t read. That’s all I have to say.

    Not only did I read it, but I commented on it. Nowhere in that thread, however, do I offer any opinion about the constitutionality of the statute.

    (I’m guessing the answer is no)

    Your guess is wrong.

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  97. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    But, I will point out that this post is about two public opinion polls on this issue. If you don’t like the numbers in the poll, don’t blame me.

    No, this post is also about the reasons for the numbers behind those two polls.

    I’m not blaming you for the numbers in the polls — I’m blaming you for your rather gutless reluctance to take on the fact that the people responding to those polls have been manipulated by a craven and cynical Republican establishment.

    The polls prove that if you lie long and loud enough, some people will start to believe you. An actual journalist would look at that situation and think, hey, the underlying story here is “Republicans lie about previously uncontroversial POW return.” A hack journalist would look at that and think, hey the story is simply “POW return is controversial.”

    One of them is an investigator, the other merely a stenographer.

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  98. Rafer,

    If you read the post then you have your answer to what I would say to Sgt. Bergdahl’s parents.

    As to the rest of it, yes I know you believe that Obama can do no wrong and that everything is the Republican Party’s fault. I’m no fan of the Congressional GOP myself, but this one isn’t their fault no matter how much you want to pretend otherwise.

    Have a good day.

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  99. Terrye C says:

    If you look at the polls it is obvious that it is not just Republicans who have a problem with the way Obama handled all of this.

    It is easy to blame it all on the GOP, but that is not really the case. Obama screwed up. Simple as that…does that mean that people think we should have left Bergdahl with the Taliban to rot? No, I don’t think so…but when 56% say that his release was not worth the price we paid that tells you that Obama did not exactly sell this to the American people.

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  100. stonetools says:

    I will go this far. The Obama Administration should have been prepared for the right wing to do its worst to deny Obama any credit for saving Bergdahl including having on hand a smooth and coherent defense of its actions, complete with timeline.Hopefully Jack Lew and the rest of the WH staff are hard at work on that now.But then Obama’s virtues are sometimes his weaknesses. He has a much sunnier view of his opposition than he should, and he appoints people to his Administration who share that view, which means he is always surprised when conservatives come at him from behind and punch him in the kidneys . The people who should be watching out for him just aren’t thinking that he has enemies out there, who mean the worst, and who plan to attack him no matter what he does. He needs a Rottweiler on staff, and he is surrounded by poodles.

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  101. KM says:

    @Doug:

    KM,

    I will continue to refer to the fact that there are charges of desertion being made against him. There is nothing wrong with phrasing it in that manner, and I consider this debate closed.

    **sigh** You choose not to follow typical journalistic and legal practice by referring to individuals against whom are charges as “alleged”. Someone can be guilty as sin with 100 witnesses and they are still the alleged murderer til that verdict is read. Bergdahl doesn’t get that courtesy, the matter is closed. But you haven’t come to any conclusions, you’re objective, you’ve said nothing prejudicial leaning towards either side, no siree and go to your room, young lady!

    Just an FYI, this what I mean by touchy. You run a blog with an open comment section, you’re going to get kickback. I pointed out that the language being used (“deserter”) is not precise and carries a connotation that is tainting the discussion. I noted that a more objective option was available that still reflects the fact that inquiries are being made (“alleged deserter”). Alleged is the proper term and reflects the facts as we know them. You shut that down awful fast in a rude manner unlike your normal posts.

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  102. KM says:

    @stonetools:

    He has a much sunnier view of his opposition than he should, and he appoints people to his Administration who share that view, which means he is always surprised when conservatives come at him from behind and punch him in the kidneys .

    There is no such thing as a good honest politician. Even if they started out that way, they don’t stay that way long.

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

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  103. Terrye C says:

    @al-Ameda: A few months ago they thought they would be notified of the exchange and would have some say about how and where these people were released. I am glad this young man is home, but my husband is a veteran and he thinks Bergdahl should be looking at a court martial. I think those numbers for Republicans and Independents have more veterans included and veterans are less sympathetic to Bergdahl.

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  104. stonetools says:

    @Terrye C:

    No, I don’t think so…but when 56% say that his release was not worth the price we paid that tells you that Obama did not exactly sell this to the American people.

    Gotta agree with this part. Obama does seem to go on the impression that his actions sell themselves. Again, if you don’t think you have enemies that will attack any and everything you do, that’s reasonable. But this is not the case, and has never been the case.

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  105. KM says:

    @Terrye C:

    Bergdahl does deserve his day in court. Let’s do this. If he is guilty, then they can prove it and cashier his ass to Leavenworth. If he’s not, then he’s gonna be owed one hell of an apology. The question is does the military feel confident enough in a conviction to go for it? What proof do they have this was intentional desertion and can it stand up to a court martial?

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  106. Gustopher says:

    I think this, and nearly every other issue, can quickly broken down as follows:

    Republicans: Traitors who put party about country

    Libertarians: Cheerleaders for traitors who mistake the blood on their hands for pom-poms, while claiming to be above it all.

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  107. stonetools says:

    @Terrye C:

    I am glad this young man is home, but my husband is a veteran and he thinks Bergdahl should be looking at a court martial.

    Then your husband should be happy to know that the military is investigating him for the purpose of determining exactly whether he will be court martialed.
    Because five years in a Taliban dungeon, facing sickness, torture and the threat of execution at any moment obviously isn’t punishment enough for some people.

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  108. Terrye C says:

    @stonetools:

    My husband does not even think the public at large needs to know a lot of this stuff. His feelings are that this is a military matter and they should handle it…but then it was Obama who had to make it a Rose Garden event and then send Susan Rice out to strut for the TV cameras.

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  109. Terrye C says:

    @KM:

    I think they will know more about Bergdahl’s intentions after they interrogate him. The military will have all sorts of information from outside sources to work their way through as well. For men like my husband who spent years in the military deserting your post is a serious infraction. It is the sort of thing that can get people killed. Maybe Bergdahl was not rational at the time. I certainly don’t pretend to know what was going through his mind. But I do think it would be a mistake to believe that it is only the fault of the GOP that people are troubled by this. It is not that simple.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  110. Terrye C says:

    @stonetools:

    This is true…and Bush had enemies too. Truth is the GOP is doing to Obama exactly what the Democrats did to Bush every chance they got. It is how Washington works. I don’t much like it, but it is a vicious political game they play. Both sides.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  111. stonetools says:

    @Terrye C:

    Well if you are truly happy an American prisoner of war came home , you should celebrate it. Certainly his family deserves that. They after all didn’t do anything wrong (although his father did have a beard. Right wingers freak out about strange things).

    Maybe we should celebrate the safe return of only some Americans-and only when a Republican President is in office.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  112. stonetools says:

    @Terrye C:

    It is how Washington works. I don’t much like it, but it is a vicious political game they play. Both sides.

    Oh I don’t think there is any question at all that the GOP has been MUCH more obstructionist that the Democrats were with Bush. Indeed, they are even proud of it, so you’ve lost me there.
    This is NOT a “both sides do it.” Sorry.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  113. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    You know full well that’s not how it works.
    I know you’re a hack…but you are not usually intellectually dishonest.
    Congress cannot abridge the Executives powers as the Commander in Chief. That’s as much a fact as any other.
    You insist on portraying your opinion as fact.
    Jenos does the same.

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  114. C. Clavin,

    You are portraying your opinion that the notice requirement is unconstitutional as fact, when it is not fact it is merely your opinion.

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  115. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    No I’m portraying the infringement on the Executives powers as CinC as “fact” equal to your “fact”…but in truth nothing more than our opinions.
    The obvious analogue is Bush’s torture program.
    I would prefer he go to prison. I know that’s never, ever, going to happen and I understand why.
    This will never ever go to court because no one has standing.
    A court decision would be the closest thing to fact and it ain’t gonna happen.
    And compared to torture it’s a petty political argument propagated by partisan hacks with only political goals in mind.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  116. Terrye C says:

    @stonetools:

    Oh really? Well for one thing, the Republicans did not stop or obstruct Obama from making this deal…they just did not go along with it…now when Bush was president, he was attacked non stop for saying the same thing about Saddam Hussein that Bill Clinton had said. He got the blame for everything from terrorist attacks to bad weather. No..I am sorry, but the Democrats can dish it out…they just suck at taking it.

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  117. Tillman says:

    @Terrye C: You and I remember 2002-2003 very differently.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  118. Tillman says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    As to the rest of it, yes I know you believe that Obama can do no wrong and that everything is the Republican Party’s fault. I’m no fan of the Congressional GOP myself, but this one isn’t their fault no matter how much you want to pretend otherwise.

    I believe plenty of the commenters here have expressed frustration with Obama doing wrong before, so that’s snarky of you.

    As to everything being the Republicans’ fault, you have read that two-year-old Ornstein and Mann article about how it pretty much is their fault, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  119. Terrye C says:

    @stonetools:

    I am glad that he is home..but then again, he was taken prisoner after he walked away from his post. He placed himself in that situation. To be honest, I have wondered if it was all some kind of suicide attempt. I can be glad he is home and still fault Obama with the way he handled the whole situation. If he had contacted people like Feinstein and McCain…if he had kept the whole thing low key there might not have been as much of a back lash from so many people.

    I do not have a problem with his father’s beard. I don’t have a problem with the beards the guys on Duck Dynasty have either. None of my business…btw, I have read that Bergdahl’s dad is a registered Republican. I guess that makes him one of the bad guys.

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  120. Tillman says:

    Also, can we all agree that saying a law is unconstitutional does not obviate someone breaking the law?

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  121. C. Clavin says:

    @Tillman:
    Two things.
    People intentionally initiate test cases all the time. Here no one has standing in the other side.
    And rarely does the Constitution specifically identify anyone and give them specific powers. It does the Executive. War powers.
    The Executive could no more bring suit against Congress for abridging its power than Congress can the vice versa.
    It’s all opinion and will never be settled.
    But calling either side “fact” is lying.

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  122. An Interested Party says:

    Odd thing. Obama wants to be seen as a great peace maker by negotiating with terrorists… but wont negotiate with Congress.

    Not so odd at all when you realize that many terrorists seem to be more open to negotiation than many Republicans in Congress…

    I’ve mentioned this in a previous Bergdahl thread, but it is truly bizarre how much Doug has shifted on this issue over the course of a week.

    No more bizarre than so many Republicans who have done the same shift…Republicans that Doug claims that he would never vote for…funny that…

    …now when Bush was president, he was attacked non stop for saying the same thing about Saddam Hussein that Bill Clinton had said.

    Yes, but thankfully Clinton didn’t extend that to the disastrous Iraq debacle as Bush did…

    He got the blame for everything from terrorist attacks to bad weather.

    Well, 9/11 did happen on his watch…

    Also, can we all agree that saying a law is unconstitutional does not obviate someone breaking the law?

    Indeed, the President shouldn’t have broken the law…the life of an American soldier isn’t worth that…

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  123. rachel says:

    @Terrye C:

    Well for one thing, the Republicans did not stop or obstruct Obama from making this deal…

    They didn’t get a chance to, which is one reason they’re complaining. I say, “Good for Obama for not giving them that chance.”

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  124. Grewgills says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Just take a step back and look, politically, at the calculus involve:

    ( [Release of Gitmo Prisoners] +
    [Defying Congress] +
    [Circumstances around Bergdahl's capture] ) X
    [Republican resistance AND The fact it was *their* law]

    Now let’s rate the relative importance of each in this calculus:
    Releasing GITMO prisoners ~2
    Defying congress ~3
    Circumstances around his capture ~5
    Republican resistance ~90
    Yes he should have anticipated Republican 180s on the matter and been ready for them to go into full attack mode, but that doesn’t mean the Republicans should get the ‘free pass’ Doug is giving them. Remember it was only a couple of days ago that he couldn’t give a ‘free pass’ to Clinton in Benghazi, but seemed to give one to the Republicans making the attacks, now he can’t give a ‘free pass’ to Obama, but once again gives the Republicans a free pass on their about face on Bergdahl and their lies and character assassination. This all feels too much like blaming a rape victim for going to a dive bar wearing a short skirt.

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  125. Grewgills says:

    @Another Mike:

    Another issue is that Bergdahl was a deserter.

    You are treating hearsay as fact.

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  126. Matt Bernius says:

    @Grewgills:
    I’m *not* excusing the Republicans. This is not a “both” sides do it. But just because the Republican are at fault doesn’t mean that the Administration is blameless (which I feel is the binary default of a lot of people here).

    Which gets me to:

    This all feels too much like blaming a rape victim for going to a dive bar wearing a short skirt.

    This is an awful analogy to use here (not for the least reason that it totally shuts down any response… I mean who want to have to remind people that it’s not the first time that the administration had been metaphorically “raped” at this particular bar by this group of people… seriously, I feel dirty for writing that). There’s a reason why I keep referring to the fable of the turtle and the scorpion.

    Seriously, how many times does the administration need to get stung halfway across the river before they learn their lesson? Acknowledging that this keeps happening isn’t the same as saying it’s all Obama’s fault.

    Or to put it a different way, does anyone here *honestly think* a Rose Garden press conference with the family as a backdrop was a good idea? I’m open to being wrong. But I’m looking for a *good* defense of that decision — especially given the facts that were available at the time.

    BTW, @Grewgills I think you are WAY underestimating the Gitmo thing. That is still a huge hot button for a lot of people. We who “know better” may disagree, but Gitmo+Taliban is a total third rail.

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  127. Grewgills says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    My opinion changed as the facts became more apparent.

    Which facts became more apparent after the 3rd, other than the Republican attacks that you thought wouldn’t serve them well gained traction?

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  128. Grewgills says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Turning this into yet another opportunity to bash the President and score political points just comes across as petty, and if you think voters aren’t going to notice that kind of pettiness they are kidding themselves.

    I wish you were right, but I have no faith that you are.

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  129. Grewgills says:

    @Matt Bernius:
    Re my analogy, I feel dirty using it, but this whole affair feels dirty to me.

    Seriously, how many times does the administration need to get stung halfway across the river before they learn their lesson? Acknowledging that this keeps happening isn’t the same as saying it’s all Obama’s fault.

    Yes, but in that analogy it seems to me like Doug has spent a lot of time castigating the frog for his poor decision making and has given a pass to the scorpion. There is clearly one side that is acting in poorer faith here and that party is only getting derision in the comments section.

    I think you are WAY underestimating the Gitmo thing. That is still a huge hot button for a lot of people.

    I think it is a huge deal for a lot of (I think poorly informed) people that don’t want any of them in the US, particularly not in their back yard. Released somewhere else, not so much. As evidence for that I submit the lack of outrage over better than 75% of the detainees having already left GITMO.

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  130. Tillman says:

    Yes he should have anticipated Republican 180s on the matter

    I’m going to take the far-out radical position on this one and say: I don’t think you could have seen this coming beforehand. The Rose Garden press conference might have been much, but it makes sense coming from an administration with low approval ratings looking to tout some sort of foreign policy victory presuming the loyal opposition’s staunch traditional support for the military would cut against possible criticism. I don’t think they could have predicted the amount of character assassination that followed.

    @Matt Bernius:

    Or to put it a different way, does anyone here *honestly think* a Rose Garden press conference with the family as a backdrop was a good idea? I’m open to being wrong. But I’m looking for a *good* defense of that decision — especially given the facts that were available at the time.

    I don’t think it was a good idea, but White House receptions for returned POWs are not that unusual either. (Ctrl+F “Celebrity POW” for the relevant section.)

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  131. Tillman says:

    @C. Clavin:

    The Executive could no more bring suit against Congress for abridging its power than Congress can the vice versa.

    That has more to do with the courts not wanting to intervene, doesn’t it? We can still say, with neither fact being mutually exclusive, that the executive broke a law and that said law is probably unconstitutional anyway. Moreover, that a law being unconstitutional, until explicitly stated as such by a court, doesn’t constitute a defense for breaking it.

    I hate to go all lawyerly on it, but it doesn’t seem like saying one at the other is addressing the right point. Rafer pointing out Doug’s inconsistency on when nonadherence to the law is okay, that’s a good point to make.

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  132. wr says:

    @Matt Bernius: “Or to put it a different way, does anyone here *honestly think* a Rose Garden press conference with the family as a backdrop was a good idea?”

    Yes.

    He was celebrating a success for the American people.

    Any president would have done exactly the same thing.

    The fact that you’ve so internalized the right wing howler monkeys that you’ve decided it’s Obama’s duty to shrink away lest he disturb them is the only thing that’s wrong here.

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  133. anjin-san says:

    when Bush was president, he was attacked non stop for saying the same thing about Saddam Hussein that Bill Clinton had said.

    Umm. Bush was attacked non stop for starting the disastrous Iraq war. I don’t really give a crap what Bush said, I care about what he did.

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  134. Rafer Janders says:

    @Grewgills:

    I wish you were right, but I have no faith that you are.

    I was actually just quoting Doug’s words back at him. The entirety of that post was simply me cutting-and-pasting what Doug had written a week ago, before he did a 180. I thought it would be interesting to see Doug debate Doug….

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  135. KansasMom says:

    @stonetools: This has been driving me nuts for days. Jack Lew is the Treasury Secretary. The WH Chief of Staff is Denis McDonaugh.

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  136. Stonetools says:

    @KansasMom:

    You are right. Stand corrected. Should have used the Google:-(.
    So, McDonough is maybe the one who should be looking for a new job.
    In my defance, Lew was his previous CoS- and he didn’t do that well, either, IMO.

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  137. bill says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    (a) The fact that Dianne Feinstein is a cowardly opportunist “liberal democrat” who bows to the wind…..

    there, fixed that for you!

    you gotta figure if even jon stewart is dissing obama about the whole thing then it’s just not a few cranky republicans. all the networks jumped on it within a few days too-and rupert murdoch does not run them all.

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  138. Grewgills says:

    @bill:
    Nah, cowardly opportunist is the better explanation, of course that describes well over half of the politicians on both sides of the aisle.

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  139. bill says:

    @Grewgills: half, how generous “conservative” of you! this whole bergdahl thing was fun to watch, can’t remember a more lively topic. hopefully the military investigation will be quick and thorough.

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  140. Grewgills says:

    @bill:
    I agree regarding the quick and thorough, though I found it more sad than fun to watch.

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  141. Muchbox says:

    Well that was thoroughly amusing watching the sharks eat their own over this.

    “In the name of Allah the most gracious and most merciful…”

    God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, amen

    @ daqeqa Agrree! “democracy” is a cult in the west. I think most of afgs see law in terms of sharia not secular democracy, man centric laws

    BB

    The words he spoke are “something Muslims would say throughout the 1,400 year history of Islam every time they conquered a location”

    No wonder people are a bit ticked off about this. When obama says things like “i will stand with the muslims…and my muslim faith” And and so a deserter is venerated at the White House and hailed for his “service” by the National Security Advisor and the distinguished Senator from Connecticut. Now Iraq burns because of the current commander in chief …those guys are just heading south to pick up their five “friends” in Qatar.

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