June 1st, 2014
04:27 PM ET
8 years ago

Political Chatter: The politics of Bergdahl's release

The release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was detained by the Taliban for nearly five years, included a heavy dose of partisan politics Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after he was securely in American hands.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice was once again in the line of fire on the political talk shows, just as she was after the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

Bergdahl’s release has ignited the debate over negotiating with groups the United States has determined to be terrorists.


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We’ll get you up to speed on the latest in Washington with this comprehensive roundup of all things political:

Bergdahl’s release: Rice appeared on two Sunday talk shows and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on one to discuss Bergdahl’s release and respond to critics. Their comments were similar on each show, indicating they were well-prepared and anticipating push back.

Critics, including Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that President Barack Obama set a “troublesome” precedent that will have “huge consequences” by negotiating with terrorists.

“If you negotiate here, you've sent a message to every al Qaeda group in the world that says ... there is some value now in that hostage in a way they didn't have before,” Rogers said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

But Rice defended the decision, saying the U.S. has “a sacred obligation” to bring back Americans taken into captivity.

The United States “doesn’t leave a man or woman on the battlefield,” she said on “State of the Union.”

“Sgt. Bergdahl wasn't simply a hostage, he was an American prisoner of war, captured on the battlefield,” Rice insisted on ABC’s “This Week.”

Bowe Bergdahl's parents: 'It isn't over'

Hagel, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said the same thing: “This was a prisoner exchange after five years he'd been a prisoner of war.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said on “This Week” that with the transfer, “every other terrorist has an incentive to capture more soldiers.”

Instead of negotiations, Cruz said the U.S. could have used military force.

Rice didn’t address whether military force had been an option to capture Bergdahl but said, “If for some reason we took a position now in the 21st century when some of our adversaries may not be traditional state actors that we would not do our utmost to bring our prisoners of war home, that would break faith with the American people and with the men and women who serve in uniform.”

The administration received the support of at least one veterans group on Sunday.

Paul Rieckhoff, head of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said on “Meet the Press” that Bergdahl’s release is “an important message that's been sent to our forces - that we will always come for you.”

Rice also said on CNN that negotiations did not take place with the Taliban but with the government of Qatar, something echoed by Hagel.

“The transaction really was done by the Qatar government,” he said without noting they were the intermediaries with the Taliban.

On CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said his biggest concern was the release of five detainees from Guantanamo Bay detention center in exchange for Bergdahl. “It is disturbing that these individuals would have the ability to re-enter the fight,” he said.

Guantanamo detainees swapped for Bergdahl

Rice said on CNN that “these prisoners will be carefully watched, that their ability to move will be constrained.”

She expanded on ABC, saying the U.S. has been given “assurances” that the released detainees “in all likelihood will not pose a significant risk to the United States.”

Hagel on “Meet the Press”: “I will not sign off on any detainee coming out of Guantanamo unless I am assured, unless our government assured, our country can be assured that we can sufficiently mitigate any risk to American security.

The administration has also been slammed by members of Congress for not notifying them before Bergdahl’s transfer.

Political divide: 'Don't negotiate with terrorists' vs. 'Leave no man behind'

“I just don't understand why you wouldn't engage with people (Congress) who have done this for a long time,” Rogers said.

Hagel said he notified the appropriate members of Congress on Saturday, but he and Rice said they didn’t have time to tell Congress 30 days in advance because of the “acute urgency” of Bergdahl’s “health condition.”

Rice and Hagel were also asked whether the U.S. was going to investigate and potentially impose consequences on Bergdahl for his original disappearance, which includes speculation that he deserted or left his post.

Rice said his five-year detainment was an “extraordinary price” and that they will eventually learn the details of his disappearance.

Hagel said, “This is a guy who probably went through hell for the last five years. And let's focus on getting him well and getting him back with his family.”

The VA scandal: Just two days after the resignation of VA head Eric Shinseki, Rieckhoff with IAVA said Shinseki should have been aware of the problems.

“We've been trying to tell him, there have been congressional testimonies. Me personally, every other veterans group in the country had been trying to warn him, trying to warn the President. The IG report has been supported by dozens of other IG reports, GAO reports - they didn't listen,” he said on “Meet the Press.”

Audit that led to Shinseki's resignation paints scandal in starkest terms

McCain has a suggestion for the next VA head.

“I would ask (Oklahoma Sen.) Tom Coburn, if there [is] anybody in Congress that knows more about health care. Then Tom Coburn should be the next secretary of the Veterans Administration, in my view,” he said on “Face the Nation.” The Republican is retiring from Congress at the end of this year.

It would be a shock if Obama nominated Coburn, who is a big proponent of smaller government and private health care.

Hillary Clinton and Benghazi: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a popular topic on the Sunday talk shows as Republicans continue to attack her over Benghazi and with the early release of the Benghazi-focused chapter of her book.

Cruz chided Clinton for being “all politics all the time” and that her Benghazi chapter is “pure political spin.”

Clinton knocks those 'who exploit' Benghazi in memoir chapter

Cruz even dug up the popular mantra - right-wing conspiracy - from President Bill Clinton’s years, which is a tactic Republicans are using to remind people that a potential Hillary Clinton presidency would be a third term for Bill Clinton.

“And she's more focused on blaming the so-called vast right-wing conspiracy than on the terrorists,” he said on “This Week.”

Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee, made similar comments on “Fox News Sunday,” saying she “has been playing politics with this issue from the very beginning” and that her book preview is part of an “organized political defense.”

But Priebus went further than Cruz, saying Benghazi disqualifies her from running for president.

“I think she gets an ‘F’ as Secretary of State. Whether it is Russia, Iran sanctions … and now obviously Benghazi,” he said.

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri defended Clinton, saying the Republicans are the ones who are playing politics over Benghazi.

“And the interesting thing to me about me the release of the POW, Sgt. Bergdahl, is the Republicans immediately criticizing that. We saved an American and foreign policy gets criticized. We lose American lives on foreign soil, the President gets criticized,” she said. “Are you seeing a theme here? It's politics.”

Cruz went beyond Benghazi in his criticism of Clinton, connecting Clinton with Obama, whose approval ratings of foreign policy was at 38% in an April NBC News poll.
“The Obama-Clinton foreign policy is a disaster,” he said.

2016: Cruz refused to say if he was going to run for president but seemed to make a strong pitch. “What I'm ready to do is to make the case to the American people that the path we're on isn't working,” he said on “This Week.”

Meanwhile, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who retired from the Senate after just one term, left the door wide open for a possible presidential run.

“We're taking this one day at a time. I'm very happy to be back in the discussion,” the former Democratic senator said on “State of the Union.”

soundoff (103 Responses)
  1. Robert N. constant

    President Dwight David Eisenhower said in his farewell address: "Beware the Military Industrial Complex" He was talking about the numerous industrial giants whose business is based on the United States being at War. These corporations are among the biggest contributors to the Republican Party. When the United States is at war, they make money. When we are at Peace they loose money or make much less.
    Republican Congressmen and Senators being paid "campaign contributions" by the military Industrial complex do their bidding, and promote US policies that keep us in perpetual warfare.
    These Congressmen and Senators do not care for American Servicemen. Their policies would have them in perpetual warfare swelling the ranks of the loyal dead and the patrons of the VA. These Congressmen and Senators are bound to opposing US policies which do not send our young men and women off to die so that the Military Industrial Complex can make more billions in profit.
    It is time to stop the financing of US political campaigns by corporations whose aim is make money on the deaths of our fine young patriots. It is time to vote warmonger Republicans out of office.

    June 1, 2014 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  2. Kuron

    I guess it is okay with the Republicans to trade arms for hostages, like Reagan did, but not a few detainees that are costing the taxpayer money to feed and house.

    June 1, 2014 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  3. Steve

    It is ridiculous for Ted Cruz to criticize anyone for being "all politics all the time" when Cruz himself fits that description so well.

    June 1, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  4. Quixote

    I would say i cannot believe that repubs would try to paint this as a negative thing...after all we just got a US soldier back from the vile terrorist scum who hqve held him for years.........but at this pont there is nothing so disgraceful, so low, so disgusting that they could do would surprise me.

    June 1, 2014 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  5. Surthurfurd

    I guess the GOP believe that an American is not worth 5 Taliban. I think 1 American is worth more than a parking lot full of them.

    June 1, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  6. Mac

    @RS
    It's nothing but politics for the POTUS! This prisoner trade has been in the works since 2011.

    Even in this article CNN included the VA scandal. The reality is Barry deliberately broke the law to bury the VA issue and then sent out his minions on talk shows to once again mislead the American people.

    I am very happy Sgt Bowe is home but caving to terrorists to gain political support is just more proof that Barry cares about one thing. Himself!

    June 1, 2014 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  7. mitsu

    I call this a smart move by The President, now he'll have the opportunity to go after them, with a full assault and kill them all. The heads of the Taliban in their caves. Smart Mr. President.

    June 1, 2014 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  8. Smitty

    @rs, tell Obumbles he did this to get the V.A. off the front page, its also unknown whether he was awol, deserter kidnaped??? but come on this is politico by the failed admin.

    June 1, 2014 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  9. kerrypenn49

    The release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a good thing, but just like everything else this Obama administration is involved in, there is a degree of incompetence, lies and deceptions.
    I think negotiating with terrorists has been proven to be counter productive throughout the world.
    Another example of the lies and deception is"
    "Rice also said on CNN that negotiations did not take place with the Taliban but with the government of Qatar, something echoed by Hagel.
    “The transaction really was done by the Qatar government,” he said without noting they were the intermediaries with the Taliban."

    June 1, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  10. Obama, please leave already!!

    "Political Chatter" - the hallmark of the Obama "administration"!

    June 1, 2014 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  11. Hugo

    rs-r you s erious? Let's think about this deep thinker, VA in shambles (single payer), Obamacare floundering, Benghazi hearings coming up (oh yeah, we already have all the answers, it was a movie, my bad), mid terms around the corner...hmmmm what to do, look over there a squirrel...Only idiots and low information voters will try to deflect and obfuscate from the facts of deception. Wait till the next unemployment numbers come out...don't forget to count all those that gave up.

    June 1, 2014 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  12. Politique

    Ridiculous. Does anyone truly believe that the U.S. doesn't negotiate with terrorists? It does so all the time and has been doing so for decades. Bush's tough talk is now American foreign policy?

    June 1, 2014 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  13. basedonfact

    Maybe the GOP thinks we should have funnelled weapons to Iran as payment like Saint Reagan did?

    June 1, 2014 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  14. tony

    It is show how he is.dictator. it is important subject and he is not consul with congress. He thinks govt has only executive branch and he does whatever he likes. No wonder nothing works under his administration. Im happy our soldier got back home but we have to talk what prices we have to pay in the future if those bad men go back fight against us

    June 1, 2014 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  15. Iamnotfooled

    Welcome home Bowe Bergdahl.

    June 1, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  16. COL V

    Mr. RS,
    Before you make statements of emotion, why don't we gather all the facts. It appears the President violated the law, by not informing Congress of this alleged prisoner exchange. Claiming this was done to the health of SGT Berghdal seems awfully politically expedient after the VA debacle.
    I for one as a retired Soldier, wonder how Berghdal was captured. Did he abandon his post? Did he have sympathetic feelings for the Taliban? Did you read his Father's anti American posts? Something just does not add up here and I will be interested in what the truth is behind this story.

    June 1, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  17. Name

    Give him back to the soldiers he deserted and c how well that goes. Last week they give up the name of our top spy in Afghanistan this week they trade 5 terrorists for 1 deserter. Way to go white house!

    June 1, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  18. Tom l

    Either you're with us or you're with the terrorists!! Right, rs?

    June 1, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  19. Semperfi68

    This whole conversation is making me ill...WE DO NOT LEAVE OUR TROOPS BEHIND...This is really, really, going to backfire on the GOPT.

    Look..Everytime Democrats get out and vote we win..get out and vote..

    June 1, 2014 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  20. Al

    For the family of this Marine, I can understand their joy, to finally realize that their son is coming home is a great feelings, I'm sure. But now there is another side, all the members of the Military are now going to be an even larger target or chip if you will. The enemy has been shown that the United States will negotiate with terrorist, Like I said in the first sentence, it's a good feeling to know your son is coming home, but what will be the cost. Only time will tell, and I hope I'm wrong, but terrorist dong practice morals nor do they care about life. To the parents, God speed for your son will be home soon.

    June 1, 2014 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  21. Rick H.

    @RS Then Barack Obama must be the BIGGEST LOSER....he had a photo op with the boys parents. Wise up....the Demoncrats politicize EVERYTHING.

    June 1, 2014 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  22. Chris-E...al

    I am a republican and will be ! That p.o.w desires life just like a abort baby . And its ours to care for .

    June 1, 2014 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  23. tweeddemon

    I think most reasonable folk would believe a third term of Bill Clinton would be a good thing.

    June 1, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  24. Danlien

    Negotiating with terrorists? If we're using Gitmo detainees, then that works for me. If we're going to release them, do it at a price. Let's bring as many Americans home as possible.

    June 1, 2014 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  25. radgast

    I don't think its relevant if he left his post, that's another issue that should be addressed at an appropriate time. This should be classified as a prisoner exchange, and I would hope every would consider any of our soldiers worth exchanging for guys who have been locked up for 10 years but no significant evidence to convict, let them go and if you can keep an eye on them you may actually be helping the cause, worse case scenario is they are back in action but I don't we will even try to capture them a second time round, there are five hell fire missiles on some drone waiting if the cause arises. Glad to have him back.

    June 1, 2014 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
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