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. WGB

    I believe the White House should refrain from employing Susan Rice as a spokesperson on any topic whatsoever. She is a very polarizing figure who comes across as confrontational in her every word and deed. She may have some value providing advice to the President because he trusts her but as far as having any credibility with the American public; well after her Benghazi mishap, she is damaged goods. She only aids in allowing Republicans tee off on her.

    June 1, 2014 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  2. Logictox

    We have never bargained with terrorist. This single release will put thousands of lives in jeopardy.

    June 1, 2014 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  3. jboh

    If President Obama had turned down the deal, and Bergdahl had died, the TEA/GOP would be crying just as loud. Their hate for President Obama has reach the point of mental illness. Send them back to the funny farm in November before the damage America even worse than they already have.

    June 1, 2014 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  4. AL

    @rs only punks and loser like democrats will negotiate with terrorists.

    June 1, 2014 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  5. Jack Dawson

    Bull cookies! The guy is a deserter, BO is trying to draw attention away from the VA scandal, an the negotiations for the five piles of slime started about two years ago. BO broke the law, again, for political expediency pure and simple, but no one will call him on it because it shows his compassion for the troops (supposedly).

    June 1, 2014 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  6. independant jim

    no man left behind has been a constant call for our military when we send our troops into harms way they need to know that we will bring them back ..for the GOP to say our troops should be abandoned if they fall into the hands of our enemy is a disgrace

    June 1, 2014 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  7. Namelinda

    Ted cruz is all mouth. He will never be President of the US because minorities will not vote for him. We view him as an enemy. To play politics with a US serviceman held captive for 5 years is a disgrace to veterans. The Republicans are more to blame for Benzhai than Hillary because their cuts to military spending created a security problem all over. So Republicans take a good look in the mirror. Hillary is a threat to Republicans in the 2016 election. Run Hillary! Run!

    June 1, 2014 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  8. MaxinAZ

    Thank God the soldier has been released from his almost 5 years in hell. If the President didn't do this the GOP would say he left him high and dry. You can't win with this GOP.
    Benghazi, Benghazi, IRS, Birth Certificate, Muslim, Benghazi. They pound it over and over again and eventually some people start believing that maybe something might be amiss. It's called lying and our political parties should be above it.

    June 1, 2014 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  9. NYNJCT

    This was terrible negotiation and diplomat for USA to release FIVE HIGH PROFILE TERRORISTS and to take over ONE
    AMERICAN SOLDIER. To break the rule that 'Don't negotiate with terrorists' was enough to shrink American pride.

    June 1, 2014 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  10. Alex

    I'm sorry but this is so dangerous... They have now given terrorists incentives to kidnap soldiers and get their leaders back. The guy was a deserter and the family is fishy in regards to GITMO... This will not end well. For all we know, the Homeland television show becomes reality.

    June 1, 2014 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  11. Joepa14221

    Obama and democrats just put a target on all of our soldiers back

    June 1, 2014 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  12. Barasheit

    rs, that was political. Take a nap.

    June 2, 2014 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  13. Mike

    This is America. We do not hold people without a trail. Republicans have no ground to stand on.

    June 2, 2014 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  14. flimflamthankumam

    why does it seem that we,the public, aren't getting the true story to the release of the AMERICAN POW?why after all these years since 9/11 the constant yell of "we do not make deals with terrorists" now disregarded?just wondering that's all.

    June 2, 2014 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  15. Mike

    A young man joins US forces to fight for his country, is captured on the battlefield and held captive by our enemies for five years. Republicans call him a traitor.

    June 2, 2014 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  16. A Republican supporter of President Obama

    The republican mouthpieces are a total joke. Cruz thinks that a military option would have been better.....5 years of military activity did not yield the same result.

    Once again proof the GOP is not capable or competent to lead this country. If I were them I would at least celebrate the return of our personnel and commend our president for doing the right thing.

    June 2, 2014 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  17. Tony in Maine

    Ah yes, Republicans. The suits who are too busy making money to serve in the miltary. Google "who served." The results are interesting. What a bunch of...

    June 2, 2014 05:16 am at 5:16 am |
  18. southern cowboy

    How else is Barry going to get his Muslim Brothers out of Jail. Even though he did it illegaly. But then again his AG
    doesn't have a clue what is or isn't Legal

    June 2, 2014 05:30 am at 5:30 am |
  19. croaton

    It would seem that a deserter from the military is more important than our honorable veterans under King Obama.

    June 2, 2014 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  20. Name. willard

    I am belived that susan rice are too big liar her story about benghizina amercian people will not trust with susan rice right

    June 2, 2014 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  21. Anonymous

    Negotiations with known terrorists was unnecessary for this rescue and was an absolute act of treason by the entire Obama Administration – by reentry into society of these enemy combatants to the United States. This is an impeachable offense.

    June 2, 2014 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  22. krehator

    Ban political parties. Save the country from the mindless partisan bots.

    June 2, 2014 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  23. to rs

    rs sad: There should be no "POLITICS" around the release of an American POW. Only punks and losers (like the GOP) will try to capitalize on this.
    ------–
    ITA! But repubs aren't known for recognizing anything other than their one my-way-or-the-highway approach. They all need to be voted out unless they can start doing their jobs (for real, this time).

    June 2, 2014 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  24. Gurgyl

    -these GOP thugs are so ridiculous guys, while a release is taking place of Americans, GOP is says negotiations, what a joke. I think this type are republican bunch is the real terrorist organization in America needs to be in bars. This guy is so pathetic.

    June 2, 2014 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  25. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Guns Over People teatard hero Ronnie Reagan started this practice. Not a peep from the wingnuts about that.

    June 2, 2014 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
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