In the mad rush to wash their hands of Afghanistan, President Obama and his team have made an embarrassing series of military, diplomatic and policy errors that future historians will closely examine as a case study in folly and blundering.
The folly and blundering have now peaked with the prisoner exchange of five Taliban terrorists for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who spent five years in Taliban captivity.
The more Americans learn about the deal, which traded a jihadist dream team for an American deserter, the greater the fever pitch of anger. And it begins with the way the deal was announced, in a Rose Garden ceremony, with the president at the podium.
Making matters worse, along with the law-breaking release of Gitmo terrorists, one that puts a price on American heads and sets a deadly precedent, the Obama team has now heaped on political errors that trivialize the suffering of military families who lost loved ones in Afghanistan and Iraq.
That’s the only conclusion we can draw from White House Press Secretary’s Jay Carney’s painfully glib interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday.
Cooper, to his credit, pressed the president’s flack for answers on why the U.S. would negotiate with terrorists, and Carney offered a series of unconvincing rationalizations for the hastily executed deal, which was illegally carried out without consulting with Congress.
But most galling was Carney’s response to Cooper’s question about why the announcement required the pomp and circumstance of a Rose Garden ceremony, where the president presented the news flanked by Bergdahl’s tearful and grateful parents:
“It was the right thing to do because of what we were doing to make it clear to the public that the president thought this was the right thing to do and to join with his parents who have been suffering for five years in his absence. To make that statement,” Carney explained.
And no doubt the Bergdahl family is happy to have their son safe at home; while the debate over the wisdom of the deal is appropriate, no one begrudges the fact that the family is reunited after a difficult ordeal.
But given the serious questions about the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture, why spotlight his family’s suffering, when so many families have suffered loss as loved ones were killed or injured in Afghanistan or Iraq? Few of them have been invited to the White House to have their sacrifice celebrated in the Rose Garden, even though their loved ones served with unquestioned honor and distinction and their suffering will last a lifetime.
That’s the problem with Carney’s clumsy and obvious attempt at political spin. It’s clear to anyone who’s paying attention that the White House was hoping to achieve a bump in political approval from the announcement, and hosting the Rose Garden ceremony for the media was the way to make it look like a celebratory occasion.
The president’s spokesman blundered in declaring that one family’s suffering was somehow unique or special or more deserving of presidential attention. To sanctimoniously posture and declare “this was the right thing to do” raises questions as to why the president hasn’t thought it was “the right thing to do” for other military families. More and more, it looks like this was the “right thing to do” but for all the wrong reasons
The evidence is rapidly mounting that the Bergdahl swap was never a good idea on substantive policy grounds. The policy and political failures of this debacle are bad enough. The president and his team shouldn’t compound the error by wrapping their crude political goals in offensive rationalizations. Stop spinning, Mr. President—just level with the American people, for once.