This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," June 7, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, FOX HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report", outrage over the Bergdahl swap grows as a short-lived foreign policy celebration quickly becomes the Obama administration's latest political fiasco.
Plus, the EPA's new climate rule puts the energy state economies in jeopardy, not to mention the careers of vulnerable Democrats.
And Republican voters nominate a real contender in Iowa, but set up a bitter runoff in Mississippi. We'll tell you what Tuesday's primaries mean for a GOP Senate take-back in November.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We had a prisoner of war whose health had deteriorated and we were deeply concerned about, and we saw an opportunity and we seized it, and I make no apologies for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report". I'm Paul Gigot.
That was President Obama Thursday defending the swap of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for five high-level Taliban detainees. What started as a celebratory announcement in the Rose Garden last weekend has quickly turned into the administration's latest political fiasco, with lawmakers from both parties criticizing the decision, and the White House engaging in damage control once again.
Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal "Potomac Watch" columnist, Kim Strassel; assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman; and America's columnist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady.
So, Kim, it's pretty clear, even though the president isn't apologizing, that they miscalculated the reaction to this, at the very least. Why do you think they did that?
KIM STRASSEL, "POTOMAC WATCH" COLUMNIST: Well, it's remarkable. I think they thought that they were going to go out, they were going to sweep the headlines from the Veterans Administration scandal off the front page, they were going to claim a big foreign policy victory. And they didn't want anything to get in the way. And so even though senior administration officials had to know that there were a lot of questions about Sergeant Bergdahl's past and his service, they decided to roll the president out with his parents in a Rose Garden speech. They sent Susan Rice out to talk about how he would serve with honor and distinction. And soon as the story started to come out about his real background, they were in big trouble.
GIGOT: But it's interesting, because it seems that some of the backlash here is as much about this idea they were promoting this and celebrating this as if it was a tremendous victory, with saying, for example, Susan Rice saying he served with honor and distinction. The issue here seems to be that they miscalculated that political oversell.
STRASSEL: Right. I mean, you could absolutely make the case. And there's a case to be made that, you know, we don't leave American prisoners behind.
They could have made that case. They could have said that, nonetheless, this was a hard choice to make, having to hand back five Taliban bad guys.
They could have put out a press release. It was the celebratory nature of it that really came back to bite them.
GIGOT: Is there a larger, Mary, foreign policy calculation here by the president that you see in all this?
MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST: Yeah, I mean, I disagree with Kim that they thought, you know, that the world would -- or the U.S. would celebrate this. I think they felt like, we can do whatever we want, and what we want to do is get rid of the prisoners in Guantanamo, end the war on terror, and continue this American retreat, which has been part of the president's agenda since he took office.
GIGOT: So do you think they figured this may actually have been unpopular, but we're going to do it anyway?
O'GRADY: Well, I think they had to. The only other kinder way of thinking about it is that the staffers at the White House and the people who are running this out of the White House had no idea he had deserted. I don't think they ever believed that you could make a case that going and trading a deserter for -- essentially, what were five generals in the Taliban -- made sense.
GIGOT: But, Mary, how is this different, what the president did than what Israel often does? They have traded, for example, a thousand Palestinian prisoners, in one case, for one Israeli soldier. Isn't there -- how different is this than that?
O'GRADY: Well, you know, I think the big difference is that the U.S. still has a lot more civil liberties and freedoms than you have in Israel when it comes to fighting terror. I mean, they're much stricter when you're boarding an airplane, and certain parts in their society are much stricter.
GIGOT: So they can afford to free the terrorists, is that what you're saying? And -- and --
O'GRADY: They have other ways of fighting their war on terror. We don't have those ways. You saw what happened with the NSA. There is a big uproar. Nobody wants to fight the war this way. Nobody wants to fight the war that way. You know, the Israelis will fight it using more covert resources and so forth.
GIGOT: Better prepared to be able to defend against five Taliban people, who are the Palestinians.
O'GRADY: Certainly are.
JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Another big difference, the recent Israeli case you mentioned, this was an Israeli soldier who was doing his duty, was basically snatched while on duty. The difference here is Sergeant Bergdahl had left.
Now, this idea of leave no man behind, I never served in the military, but my understanding is, this is a two-way commitment. It's a commitment that troops make to each other, and our government makes to the troops. I'm not sure this commitment holds once someone abandons their post. And at that point, if it's not a commitment, then why Sergeant Bergdahl? Why are we not trading these guys for the girls in Africa? Why are we not trading more prisoners for other people in Afghanistan that I think are being mistreated by the Taliban? So I think there are a lot of reasons. But the calculus of this trade doesn't seem to make sense.
GIGOT: Kim, what about the political backlash here? It's coming from both parties, and including some Democrats who say we should have been consulted in Congress. But how long-lasting is this going to be, or is this one of these tempests that's going to subside?
STRASSEL: It depends on the political side, right? So the Democrats, the senior Democrats are already saying this is a tempest in the tea pot, and, oh, again, this is yet again another example of Republicans trying to go after this president --
GIGOT: Yeah, but there's a lot of Democrats who are also criticizing this administration.
STRASSEL: There are.
GIGOT: You can't just say this is just Republican criticism.
STRASSEL: No, no, no. No, the more serious Democrats, people like Dianne Feinstein, who runs the Senate Intelligence Committee, have been very critical about the notification aspect, so. But the bigger issue, Paul, this is going to turn into -- especially in the House, this is going to turn into a discussion about what sort of power Congress has going forward over Guantanamo, what sort of oversight they have in terms of prisoner transfers, because a lot of people view this as President Obama's -- a big shot across their bow saying I can empty that prison if I want to. So you're going to hear a lot of discussion about, are there ways to use appropriations money to stop the closure of Guantanamo or to transfer more prisoners.
GIGOT: All right. Thanks, Kim.
When we come back, amid the Bergdahl outrage, a new EPA climate rule gets lost in the news. But it could mean big trouble for energy state economies, not to mention vulnerable Democrats heading into the midterms.