Obama Was For Notifying Congress About A Deal For Bergdahl Before He Was Against It

John McCain isn’t the only one who’s done a little flip-flopping on the whole issue of swapping Taliban Prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in recent years. Consider this from a White House Press Briefing on June 21, 2013:

Q    Jay, going to back to Afghanistan, the Taliban has offered to release Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five members of the Taliban who are currently being held at Guantanamo Bay.  Is this something that the administration is considering?  Is this something that the President would agree to?

MR. CARNEY:  What I can tell you is that the main dialogue that we support is the dialogue between Afghans — between the Taliban and the Afghan government.  However, there are some issues that we would like to discuss with the Taliban directly, and this includes the safe return of Sergeant Bergdahl, who has been gone for far too long.

We continue to call for and work toward his safe and immediate release.  We cannot discuss all the details of our efforts, but there should be no doubt that on a daily basis we are continuing to pursue — using our military, intelligence and diplomatic tools — the effort to return him home safely.  And our hearts are with the Bergdahl family.

With regard to the transfer of Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, we have made — the United States has not made the decision to do that, though we do expect the Taliban to raise this issue in our discussion, if and when those discussions happen.

As we have long said, however, we would not make any decisions about transfer of any detainees without consulting with Congress and without doing so in accordance with U.S. law.

Q    So you haven’t ruled it out?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m simply saying that — first of all, you have to separate the two issues.  We are focused on the return  — the safe and immediate return of Sergeant Bergdahl, and we continue to use the tools at our disposal to help bring that about.

We also expect the Taliban to raise the issue of their detainees in discussions that we have with them if those discussions take place.  And at this time we’ve made no decisions about the transfer of detainees.  And in accordance with law, we would be consulting with Congress should we make any decisions about that.  So we remain committed to the closure of Guantanamo Bay, as you know.  But separate from that on these specific issues about individual detainees, that would be a process that is done in accordance with law.

Yes, yes, I know. Expecting consistency in politics is probably naive. However, if our leaders are going to be this blatant about their flip-flopping one wonders why they bother making promises at all.

H/T: Weekly Standard

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    Both McCain and Chambliss are on the record as being included in discussions with the White House.
    So your position is that you would have left this guy with the Taliban and waited for permission from Congress to bring home a POW?

  2. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: You keep making the same stupid and wrong point, Cliffy. It’s at the point where not even you can claim ignorance.

  3. stonetools says:

    Fred Kaplan, at Slate:

    First, while Obama and his diplomats made the deal on their own (in line with his powers as commander-in-chief), it’s not true that he left Congress out of the picture. He briefed a small group of senators in January 2012, when a deal first seemed in the offing. Sen. John McCain reportedly threw a fit, objecting that the detainees to be released had killed American soldiers, but after talking with John Kerry (at the time, still a senator and a friend), came around to the idea. (This may be why McCain, though displeased with the detainees’ release, is not raising his usual hell in public appearances now.)

    It seems to me that there is at least room for doubt as to whether Obama did consult with Congress. In my mind, however, there is no doubt that Congress would not have vetoed the deal-something which Doug doesn’t deny but won’t admit.
    I wondere, Doug, would you be willing to look the father in the eye and tell him the President should not have made this deal, because it may have violated a (possibly unconstitutional) law

  4. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    I’m sorry can you explain the Tragedy of the Coomins?

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @stonetools: It seems to me that there is at least room for doubt as to whether Obama did consult with Congress.

    The law doesn’t require consulting, it requires notification. It’s the difference between “we’re talking about doing this, what do you think?” and “we’re setting free five top Taliban leaders next Tuesday.”

  6. Just Me says:

    So Obama believes laws are just guidelines and he doesn’t have to follow them.

    If Obama were a Republican the press would have eaten him alive by now.

    Presidents of any political party have done this-I’m just wondering why Bush and Reagan get the full press treatment while Obama gets a pass?

    But he did it first generally isn’t an excuse that flies for my kids so why does Obama get to use it?

  7. Matt Bernius says:

    @Just Me:

    If Obama were a Republican the press would have eaten him alive by now.

    Right… because there has been absolutely, positively no mainstream media coverage of this issue. I mean, all of the articles in mainstream press that bloggers keep linking to — those really don’t exist.

    Seriously, can you point out how the current and emergent coverage of Obama is *so much more positive* than the coverage of Bush on similar issues?

    Otherwise, what you’re really doing is demonstrating your own partisan biases in interpreting the facts at hand (i.e. when *my side* does it everyone picks on us, when *the other side* does it no one notices).