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Opinion

Defenses of President Obama's handling of Bowe Bergdahl release fall short

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Philip Klein,Barack Obama,Bowe Bergdahl

As the controversy surrounding the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl grows, President Obama and his allies are launching a series of defenses attempting to blur the lines of what's actually at issue, but those defenses fall short.

One of the first arguments being made is that those questioning the details surrounding Bergdahl’s release somehow are in favor of leaving U.S. soldiers behind. This is absurd. The question isn’t whether soldiers should be left behind, but whether the price paid for securing Bergdahl’s release — letting go of five dangerous Taliban commanders — justified the deal.

Liberals spent a good part of the last decade excoriating anybody who suggested that they wanted Saddam Hussein in power or were pro-terrorist because they opposed the Iraq War, but this is exactly the same form of argument they're employing by suggesting anybody questioning the deal wants to leave soldiers behind. In other words, they're focusing on one result of the policy, without considering any of the costs. Unless liberals are going to argue that securing Bergdahl's release was worth any price -- even, say, giving nuclear weapons to the Taliban -- by their own logic, they favor leaving soldiers behind.

Another argument that Obama and his allies have been trying to make is that it's irrelevant to bring up evidence that Bergdahl was a deserter. “Regardless of circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American prisoner back,” Obama said. “Period. Full stop. We don't condition that.” Now, it's fair to argue that whether the prisoner exchange was a good deal or not is a separate issue from whether Bergdahl was a deserter. In other words, there's a case for bringing him back and handling evidence of desertion under American laws and procedures rather than simply letting him rot in the custody of the Taliban.

However, the argument that the nature of his service is irrelevant to the discussion was made less convincing because the White House initially attempted to turn Bergdahl's release into a public relations victory and presented Bergdahl to the American people as a national hero. Given that Obama did a Rose Garden photo op ceremony flanked by Bergdahl's parents, and given that his national security adviser, Susan Rice, declared on ABC's "This Week" that Bergdahl, “served the United States with honor and distinction” it's perfectly legitimate to highlight evidence to the contrary.

These issues are separate, still, from whether Obama violated the law by not providing 30 days notice to Congress.

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Philip Klein

Commentary Editor
The Washington Examiner