Skip to comments.White House braced for Bowe Bergdahl backlash
Posted on 06/04/2014 4:16:21 PM PDT by Second Amendment First
President Barack Obamas Rose Garden appearance Saturday afternoon with Sgt. Bowe Bergdahls parents was an attempt to humanize the prisoner swap to deflect potential criticism of letting five Taliban leaders out of Guantanamo Bay, White House aides say.
It didnt work.
White House aides were aware Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had been tagged a deserter, and that they would be grilled over not keeping Congress in the loop. But they figured people would be most outraged over the national security implications.
(Also on POLITICO: Obama officials head to Hill to talk Bergdahl)
The White House has been surprised by how much attention has remained on the questions about Bergdahl, from the circumstances of his disappearance to the wild beard his father grew while he was being held thats even led to Bergdahls hometown canceling a celebration. All this, Obama aides say, is in their minds a proxy for the hatred toward the president.
The new PR plan: Frame the criticism as another example of Republicans complaining about something just because Obama was the one to do it.
White House aides and other liberal outlets are highlighting what they see as Republican hypocrisy, citing past quotes from GOP lawmakers calling for Bergdahls freedom.
Republicans had been saying for years that the United States should do everything possible to get Bergdahl backand now many are leading the outrage over the deal Obama made. Reps. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) and new Iowa GOP Senate nominee Joni Ernst are among those who started out tweeting out praise about Bergdahls releasethen, after the political tide turned, deleted those tweets. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in February even endorsed the idea of a five-prisoner swap depending on the detailsnow he says what he knows of the terms of the deal present a grave risk.
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Im for prisoner exchanges but only if the deal is right, which means releasing only those who arent going to reenter the battlefield, McCain said Wednesday. These are hard core [prisoners] that were judged to be a risk to national security.
Obama aides say theyre not worried about the prospect of weeks of segments on Fox News or hearings by a Republican House that has spent four years investigating and rebuffing the White House on issues like Solyndra and Fast and Furious.
Thats not to say aides were surprised by the questions about Bergdahl as a possible deserter, most of which had been in the public and under White House review for a very long time. This was always going to be complicated, but they didnt think not getting Bergdahl back, no matter the circumstances, was an option.
The United States has a pretty sacred rule and that is we dont leave our men or women in uniform behind and that dates back to the earliest days, Obama said Tuesday at a news conference in Warsaw, Poland. Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if hes held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We dont condition that.
(Also on POLITICO: Full defense policy coverage)
Aides believe thats how most people outside of the Republicans in Congress and their base will see the situation.
I think the principle of leaving no man behind will ultimately prevail, said White House spokesperson Eric Schultz.
Bergdahls release came at the end of a week in which Obama was trying to, as he and his aides repeatedly put it, turn the page on Afghanistan first with a surprise trip there last Sunday, then with the announcement of his phased troop withdrawal plan and then with a speech at West Point meant to present his vision of foreign policy going forward.
White House aides argue that was a coincidence, though Obama did thank the emir of Qatar for his help finalizing the deal on Tuesday, the same day he announced the plan to get out of Afghanistan and the day before the West Point speech.
To Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), thats a little too convenient for a deal he already thinks was disproportionate.
Graham said the White House has a habit of manipulating foreign events for presidential gain, citing the leaks of classified information after the bin Laden raid, the faulty talking points on Benghazi and now this.
Is it an accident that in the same week the president announces the end of hostilities, the withdrawal of all forces by 2016 and also retrieves the one captive? Graham said. They were looking at the end of hostilities as being a political shot in the arm for them and regaining a lost solder would be seen as positive.
From what Graham has seen, he says he believes the White House simply wasnt up to speed with all the questions about Bergdahl.
All the information coming out from his unit is pretty bad. Were not going to try this young man on the Internet, Graham said, but they completely blew this.
National Security Adviser Susan Rices turn on the Sunday talk shows had long been planned for the weekend after the West Point foreign policy vision speech, White House aides say. But even though they were aware of the deserter questions, the lines she and other aides have been using to defend Bergdahls record were no mistake.
Bergdahl, served with the United States with honor and distinction, Rice said on ABCs This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
Sergeant Bergdahl put on the uniform of the United States voluntarily and went to war, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday, explaining the line. That takes honor and it is a mark of distinction.
Graham used that as a way to draw a direct line, through Rice, between Bergdahl and Benghazi. She had to step out of the running for Secretary of State after delivering faulty talking points on the deadly Benghazi attack in September 2012 as the U.N. ambassador.
Who told Susan Rice that he served with honor and distinction? Where does she get all this stuff? Who told her that that the consulate in Benghazi was strongly and significantly secured when it was a death trap? Graham said. They are trying to pump up the deal.
The White House has also scrambled to get Congress on its side, after it failed to give notice to lawmakers that prisoners would be released from Guantanamo Bay.
All 100 senators are being briefed Wednesday evening by James Dobbins, a State Department specialist on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, Admiral James Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Robert Cardillo, the deputy director of national intelligence.
As for chief of staffs Denis McDonoughs meeting with Democratic Tuesday to discuss the release, White House aides chalk that up to his regular outreach on the Hill, not a response to the backlash.
The administration line has been that it has previously consulted lawmakers about the possibility of a deal, but two senior Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia said such conversations were a long time ago.
When they say, Oh yes, they were briefed, what they are referring to is 2011-2012 when I was still in grade school, Rockefeller said.
But some Democrats are backing up the White House.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) that over any of the other concerns about Bergdahl or informing Congress, soldiers and their families need to know the United States will bring every last captive home, no matter what.
That is fundamental thing that our country needs to stand for, Brown said.
Asked whether the White House miscalculated, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he trusted the top military commanders, including Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Winnefeld.
Levin would not say whether he viewed the deal as a good one or a bad one.
I cant make that judgment but I put a lot of stock into what the military leaders say, Levin said. This isnt something Obama decided without the advice and support of his military. Theyre the ones who are in command of the people who would be at risk if these guys returned to the battlefield. They also have a sworn obligation to bring their people home.
It didnt work.
It worked fine with the members of the press.
It was only those pesky soldiers who screwed it up. They Swift Boated the story!
Considering that the Resident-in-Chief at the White House is an imbecile who’s totally out of touch with the American people, it’s no surprise there’s a “backlash.”
The only surprise is that those tools in the White House even care.
There is something else here. Don’t chase the dissenter rabbit. Bring him home and try him and shoot him. But he is not the story. Why did we pay ransom? There is something huge under this.
Wow, so they knew they were lying when they sent out Rice to say he served honorably and with distinction.
I'm in complete agreement with Mr Schultz.
Bowe should not be left behind.
He should be brought home to face a Court Martial and if he deserted he should be thrown in Leavenworth for the rest of his life
If he actively taught the Taliban how to best ambush our troops and how to improve their IEDs he should be tried, convicted and executed by hanging - a firing squad is much of an honorable death for such a dishonorable criminal.
But I do agree he should not be left behind, just not for the same reason Mr Schultz does
“All this, Obama aides say, is in their minds a proxy for the hatred toward the president.”
Oh I see. So when Dianne Feinstein said he broke the law. It was because of her hatred for Obama. Got it now.
Actually, it didn’t even work well with the press. That’s why the WH is in frantic spin mode. They tried the misunderstood hero meme, they’ve tried the eeeevil Republican “Swift Boat” meme, and nothing is working.
That’s probably why Holder - the bad cop - announced the revival of the “home grown terrorist” section, devoted to the tracking of imaginary right wing terrorists. All this while verified Muslim terrorists - “refugees” that Obama brought into this country - go unnoticed until the bombs go off.
Those are the aides that advised this travesty in the first place. Pity 0bama didn't exchange them for Bowe. BTT
Obama did not have time to tell Congress of the “trade” before it happened.
Obama did not tell any member of Congress about the trade. They had to learn about the trade by “reading the newspaper” because there wasn’t time.
Yet, there was time to fly the Bergdahls from Idaho to Washington between the trade and the photo op.
My conclusion is that Obama thinks we are all as stupid as members of the DemonCrap party.
We have a PR regime in charge of our nation. Susan Rice is the lead PR idiot. Obama waits to read the spin in the newspaper. Amazing.
I didn’t read it, I read nothing this homosexual run blog reports.
>> prisoners would be released from Guantanamo Bay
The closest Politico will come to mentioning the 5 high-risk terrorists.
The Mainstream Ministry of (Mis)information is working hard to bend this story.
The WH is really feeling the heat? That’s too bad.
Let me try to think of something tactful to say...
Apparently Feinstein outed herself as a rabid racist.
In other words, come hell or high water Obamadullah was going to SET THE 5 TALIBAN COMMANDERS FREE BECAUSE HIS #1 PRIORITY IS HIS TALIBAN BROTHERS!
“Yet, there was time to fly the Bergdahls from Idaho to Washington between the trade and the photo op.”
It’s just a coincidence. That, and...oh look! A rabbit!
cuz dude that was like so 4 days ago.