June 1st, 2014
04:27 PM ET
9 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. rla

    Yeah and now we find out he may well have deserted, men died looking for him and the lies keep coming!! Way to go Obama and the progressive extreme left

    June 2, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  2. sifto

    Just another blunder by WH..O is having his morning coffee and smiling...

    June 2, 2014 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  3. hkirwin


    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.

    "If you don't agree with us and follow blindly you are an obstructionist. If you don't agree with the release of five terrorist for a deserter you are a punk and a loser." Sad isn't it?

    June 2, 2014 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  4. quinLee

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

    Sure, let's listen to this little twerp with his dual citizenship and zero military experience. All you ultra "patriots" steeped in google "facts" about the constitution, foreign policy,economics and such should really do a better job choosing your leaders.

    June 2, 2014 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  5. OrmondGeorge

    I'm not a TRUE "black helicopter" guy, and I'm not a purist's "Liberal."

    Has anyone else seen Homeland?

    June 2, 2014 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  6. mason

    Susan Rice Lied about Bengazi, and she's Lying about Sgt.Bergdahl!

    June 2, 2014 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  7. Lily

    He was a traitor and both he and his father sympathize with the taliban. What the heck was Obama thinking?

    June 2, 2014 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  8. A Veteran

    IT appears that Hagel and Obama illegally released a deserter who cots the lives of American soldiers searching for him, and may cost the lives of Americans in the future with the release of the TOP 5 enemy combatants being held at Gitmo. I find it disturbing on multiple fronts.

    A US Army Veteran

    June 2, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  9. ironman666

    here is a another ding bat that should been fired

    June 2, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  10. Laurie

    He is a deserter...He left his post.....Now there is a price on every American Soldiers head....I am disgusted with Obama and his cronies....I think we should have traded them...

    June 2, 2014 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  11. John

    Re-rs – or people who realize this is not a good thing in the long run. Once these 5 terrorists begin killing Americans again what was gained?

    June 2, 2014 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  12. TX_Dan

    Susan Rice's tweet regarding Bergdahl – "What, n there's no video to blame?"

    June 2, 2014 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  13. Rick McDaniel

    The question of Bergdahl having deserted, rather than being captured, appears to be a valid question.

    June 2, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  14. vikingwoman

    Yeah this admin is 'dammed' no matter what they do, according to the GOTP, so might as well just go about their biz! I really hope term limits will be revisited by the 'anti- government ' crowd so we can get rid of these do nothing but criticize, got no alternative solution except using force (hello Ted Cruz)! I'd love to see politicians fire themselves! Oh well, one can dream!!

    June 2, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  15. smith

    There needs to be an investigation about the events that lead to Bergdahl`s disapearence. Only time will tell if the prisoner swap was a good or a bad thing.

    June 2, 2014 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  16. rell87

    It was an attempt to get good press and distract from the many failures and scandals. It backfired when everyone found out they traded 5 mass murderers for a deserter and Taliban sympathizer.
    Is there anything these clowns cant screw up?

    June 2, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    Four dead Americans and millions upon millions of dollars in "investigations". One live American soldier war hero POW and the GOP is moaning the "price paid was too high".

    Yeah. GOPerville politics.

    Gutter trash.

    June 2, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  18. Hector Slagg

    Aw, Well,
    We (you) elected "AWOL FUMBLE FINGERS" so this is what you get. Same thing in Benghazi. Where was what-his-name when he should have been leading? Out Campaigning no doubt. It is pathetic, isn't it. Your Heroes that have spent us into obilivion and still you defend them. Old WE ARE THE ONES WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR is a real winner. Just another Bump in the Road I guess. Even Harry Truman is rolling over in his grave.

    June 2, 2014 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  19. Dee

    I think it was heroic what the President and his National Security team signed off on for the release of an American POW but as usual the naysayers come out. It does not matter what the President does McCain is the first on TV to criticize him because Obama got something done.

    When he gave the speech at West Point last week he was criticized for not mentioning the Taliban, now we know why.
    With all he has on his plate he manages to pull things off and if he had told congress this mission would have been compromised because they would have put it in the media to hurt this President.

    Another great mission accomplish he doesn't get credit for Osama Bin Ladin (dead). He does not get enough credit, yes bring our men and women home including American hostages.


    June 2, 2014 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  20. ragansteve1

    " . . . Rice appeared on two Sunday talk shows" Isn't that the scene of the last crime?

    June 2, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  21. remlik

    Something is not quite right about this. Was he on a secret mission? Is he just a whacko? His father is creepy, talking about getting the release of all prisoners from GB. We are not getting all of the facts here. I believe his fellow soldiers' opinions above all others.

    June 2, 2014 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  22. jpmichigan

    If Mr. Bergdawl actually walked away from duty, for what ever reason that would be considered desertion on his part. We will have to w and see all the facts.

    June 2, 2014 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  23. Rudy NYC

    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.
    When these "terrorists" that Cruz is referring to were captured, they were described as "enemy combatants" that had been captured on the battlefield. The entire rationale by the Bush administration's detaining prisoners was that they were effectively prisoners in their "war on terror" being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    June 2, 2014 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  24. tom l

    rs has determined that we, as Americans, are not allowed to think for ourselves and have our own opinion otherwise I guess we are with the terrorists. Because everyone knows that we can't form our own opinion and must think exactly like the president otherwise we are not being patriotic Americans. Does rs even realize that he has now fully evolved into George Bush thought? Either we're with you, rs, or we're with the terrorists, right?!?

    June 2, 2014 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  25. Rudy NYC

    "McCain has a suggestion for the next VA head. "
    McCain has suggested himself as the next V.A. head.

    I think that would be a brilliant idea. Let's talk McCain into doing the job since he knows how to do it so well.

    June 2, 2014 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
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