There’s a growing sense that, at least for now, the Bergdahl prisoner exchange and its fallout has the left spooked.
Maybe Obama will weasel out of this mess, too, either by way of the same tricks that have extricated him from so-called “scandals” such as Benghazi, or by distracting us in some new and horrific way. Or maybe there will be a hurricane somewhere that can provide a serendipitous photo-op to impress those Americans who have political attention-deficit disorder.
But at the moment this story, probably more than any other story of Obama’s presidency, is one that makes him look bad. It seems to simultaneously expose his disregard for the safety of America and Americans, his sympathy for fundamentalist Islamist governments, his failure to do his homework, his drive towards greater executive power, his disregard for Congress (including some members of both parties) and the law itself, his mendacity, and the stupidity and collaboration of his advisors in all of the above.
I may have left something out, but you get the idea.
The military men and women who served with Bergdahl and on whom Obama counted to keep their mouths shut are (unlike the diplomats in Benghazi) speaking up and telling what they know. The NY Times and Time and other organs that normally can be counted on to carry Obama’s water are spilling it all over the place. That leaves lonely folk such as TNR’s Brian Beutler and Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce doing their level best to convince the world that it’s only vile Republicans complaining about the swap, and that their carping is motivated by petty politics and a cold attitude towards the suffering of prisoners of war.
But it’s not taking too well so far, not as well as during previous dustups. Obama and his advisors may be surprised at that because they may not have understood the feelings this story would tap into. Peter Wehner understands that this story has had a visceral effect, shocking even some people who didn’t think themselves shockable anymore about anything Obama might do:
My response to what has occurred is not just intellectual but visceral. I consider what occurred, when everything is taken into account, to be substantively indefensible and morally dishonorable. The president, in my estimation, has rendered a great service to our enemies, and they know it. (Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban, hailed the release of the top five Taliban commanders from Guantanamo as a “great victory” for the mujahideen of Afghanistan.) The president’s decision may well endanger American lives down the road. And his administration has elevated an apparent deserter–one whose actions were reported on in the past (see this 2012 Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings) and who is responsible for the death of fellow soldiers who tried to rescue him–into a hero.
This strikes me as morally grotesque…
In this case, it’s the president and I who occupy different worlds, including different moral worlds.
This story, unlike some of the others, is neither hard to understand nor difficult to follow. It seems awful on its face, and many of the American people are reacting on that same visceral level. For how long they will react that way, however, and to what effect, I do not know.
As evidence of the revulsion towards what Obama has done and towards Bergdahl’s actions, I present Facebook’s “Bring Bowe Bergdahl Back” page and its fellows:
A number of individuals who initially supported the page’s mission are now having second thoughts as troubling revelations continue to emerge…
The page, which is nearly five years old, has about 34,500 likes as of this writing. Other pages, including one called ‘Bowe Bergdahl is a Traitor,’ have already attracted nearly as much attention in just the past 48 hours.
Administrators of that page are sharing anonymous comments by self-identified soldiers who offer a glimpse into their knowledge of Bergdahl and the circumstances of his ostensible capture by the Taliban.
Comments on the page show an overwhelming shift in public sentiment regarding the prisoner.
When Chris Matthews and Diane Feinstein are among the critics, Obama knows he’s got a problem. Jon Stewart, an Obama supporter who was already angry at the Obama administration over the VA hospital scandal, is at least as unhappy about the prisoner exchange, too.
All of this indicates that there’s something about this one that—at least temporarily—is achieving a level of disgust with Obama that doesn’t seem to have been reached previously. But the only obvious remedy, impeachment, seems to still be politically unavailable. I repeat a question that’s been asked before: what would Obama have to due to trigger a real possibility of impeachment in the House leading to actual conviction in the Senate?
[NOTE: Here's a good summary of the Bergdahl scandal so far.]