June 5th, 2014
08:46 AM ET
7 years ago

Bergdahl backlash surprises White House

Updated 10:35 a.m. ET, 6/5/2014

Brussels, Belgium (CNN) - White House officials expected controversy when the deal was announced to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for the release of five Taliban detainees from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Despite the feel-good moment in the White House Rose Garden featuring President Obama and Bergdahl's beaming parents last Saturday, the five-for-one trade was sure to create an uproar, a White House official acknowledged.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker'][twitter-follow screen_name='JimAcostaCNN']

What came as a surprise to White House aides, one official says, was the barrage of harsh personal attacks aimed at Bergdahl and even his family.

But Obama stressed Thursday he has no regrets about the decision.

"I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his parents and that the American people understand that this is somebody's child–and we don't condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get them back," he said at the end of the G7 summit in Belgium.

Critics of the prisoner exchange have suggested the U.S. received the short end of the deal, in part, because of the questions about the still murky events that led to Bergdahl's initial capture.

"It's very interesting to me that they would be willing to release five extraordinarily dangerous Taliban members in exchange for this soldier who apparently left his post. We don't know all the details," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in an interview on CNN's "Out Front."

Some of Bergdahl's fellow soldiers have accused him of desertion. But Obama administration officials have cautioned against drawing any final conclusions about how Bergdahl fell into Taliban hands. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty.

Senior Democratic leaders counter that Republicans are simply using Bergdahl as a political football to damage the President.

"Opponents of President Obama have seized upon the release of an American prisoner of war. That's what he was. Using a moment of celebration as a chance to play political games," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday.

Conservative opponents of the President have also taken aim at the former POW's father, Robert Bergdahl, noting the long beard on his face when he stood next to the President.

"The reason why I said that Robert Bergdahl looked like Muslim is that he looks like a Muslim," Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly said on his program.

Robert Bergdahl told Time magazine in 2012 that he grew the long beard and studied the Afghan language of Pashto to better understand his son's captors.

Critics of the exchange have also seized on the video released by the Taliban showing Bergdahl being handed over to U.S. forces as evidence that the POW was not in the declining health that administration officials had claimed as an urgent reason for his release.

On Wednesday, senators were given an opportunity to view the "proof of life" video that emerged last January and became the basis for the administration's concerns. A senior U.S. official said the administration is now reviewing whether that video will be made public, as some senators have suggested.

While acknowledging there are still questions to be answered about Bergdahl's capture, administration officials say the freed captive will need to recover from his ordeal before he can fully cooperate with an expected Pentagon investigation into his actions.

"I think we all owe him and his family, regardless of our feelings on this, a little bit of time, so he can get in better health, he can reunite with his family, and then we'll figure out what happened," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Wednesday. "I think we owe it to him to do that."


Filed under: Bowe Bergdahl • President Obama
soundoff (278 Responses)
  1. sonnie3

    Will they sweep this under the rug like all scandals that come from the White House?

    June 5, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  2. rs

    Smitty
    So true, but Obumbles has been out to destroy America since day one.
    ___________________________________
    Pretty big words from someone whose party actually caused the government to shut down- costing the U.S. taxpayers $24 billion. That's REAL patriotism, right?

    June 5, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  3. Jim

    Surprised? Why would you be surprised when you violate the law you signed into effect less than a year ago? Why would you be surprised that America is outraged that you turned five of the most heinous American hating enemies loose for one deserting American traitor? Why would you be surprised that America is outraged that you staged a publicity stunt in the White House Rose Garden featuring a man who has vowed revenge against America for dead Afghans? Really, why would you be surprised?

    June 5, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  4. bill

    did he find this out in the news???? what a commander? in briefs.

    June 5, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  5. rs

    I knew the GOP was crooked. I knew the GOP didn't care about real Americans; I knew the GOP played fast and loose with facts for political advantage. But, I really never thought I'd see the day these Righties thought they could flip flop a position (on the return of an American soldier from captivity no less) so blindingly fast, and then expect people to buy it.

    They demanded this release.
    They approved this trade.

    This is just raw game playing. Game playing isn't leadership, and lies aren't facts. I am sure their campaign ads on this will be up by the weekend.

    June 5, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  6. Tommy G

    rs
    Tommy G
    Let's say we are back in World War II days.... Let's say we were lucky enough to have captured the head of Hitler's intelligence agency and four other top generals, including Rommel. Do you honestly think Roosevelt would have exchanged them for a deserter before the war had ended
    Obama is not only naive, incompetent and clueless, he has now shown he is outright DANGEROUS to every single person in the military as well as every single US citizen. He exists ONLY to serve his own political interests and the interests of this country and its people be damned.
    ___________________________
    As you like to play with history- a question:
    What happens to POWs at the end of a war? On what date THIS year does the Afghan war end?
    -–

    The Defense Dept. did NOT list Bergdahl as a POW due to the circumstances around his disappearance. Please don't make things up.

    Also, I didn't see that the war in Afghanistan had ended, because it hasn't. It is still an ongoing war. What sane person releases five top leaders of an organization that we are still actively fighting?

    Speak to my points and enough with the made up BS. Anybody defending Obama on this latest insanity has their head stuck so far up their backside there is no hope of ever getting it out.

    June 5, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  7. smith

    @Silence-"Pretend facts" Really? The soliders who were there and are speaking up are pretend facts? The emails sent to his father are pretend facts? The afghan villagers who saw Bergdahl by himself looking foe somebody who spoke english are pretend facts? What is true is that this deal blew up in Obama`s face even Dems aren`t happy.

    June 5, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  8. Pollopa

    All the pant wetting over this is laughable.
    Let's look at this from the other side. The captors have to be sweating over the debrief that Bergdahl is now providing. The released detainees now have to be wondering what they can do to get out from the eyes upon them. Do you all really think that there isn't an intellegence gain from this event? If you think not, you really don't know our capabilities.
    Now let's add in the new Afghan gov't and the new diplomatic opportunities this leads to with the rebels and this government. Come on, quite being so short sighted. That is how this President wins every time. Long term strategy to put America on a stronger footing. You can claim otherwise all you want, and short term you may be right, but it's not the battle to win it's the war.

    June 5, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  9. midnight97

    We are speculating without investigating and having all the facts – listening to both sides. Isn't this how we got into the "war" in the first place? Before we act out, criticize, and place judgments on an individual – let's make sure we investigate and have all the facts and listen. As for the 5-released and sent back – we "US" – has made "deals" as wars end – again investigate, acquire all the facts and listen before placing judgment.

    June 5, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  10. Marcus (from...?)

    'tom l – "The mission to bring our missing soldiers home is one that will never end. It’s important that we make every effort to bring this captured soldier home to his family," Inhofe said in a statement in June, 2013 ====== So would "every effort" include giving them nuclear weapons? Of course not. There are limits to "every effort" and you know that. You just are trying to deflect the obvious inadequacies in this "deal" that President Obama made.'

    Funny that Inhofe did NOT say anything about limits to the 'every effort' thing but you are, AFTER the swap was made.
    Very funny... not.

    June 5, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  11. Ken

    That they didn't realize such a terrible deal would come with backlash means the Obama administration's judgement isn't great. That they made such an awful deal in the first place (and arrogantly circumvented the law in doing so) means they lack some fundamental leadership competencies.

    June 5, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  12. salty dog

    No one wants to play anymore Tom? Hint, its not your fact finding, or intellectual insight, just saying.

    June 5, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. Johnnie

    Why does Obama hate this country so much? Just when you think he can't do any worse damage than he's already done, he comes up with even more ways to hurt this country and endanger us.

    Democrats were in very deep doo-doo in November and Obama just keeps diggin gthem deeper and deeper into the doo-doo. You can surely kiss the Senate good bye now Democrats. Obama is causing irreparable damage to the the Democrat Party.

    June 5, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  14. JJO

    Obama is the most radical, destructive and worst President in history. He is arrogant, a pot head, lazy (maybe works 10am to 4pm) incompetent, anti-semitic, lawless, apathetic, a fraud, never had a real job, aloof and a COMMUNIST. Obama and the Democrat party are continuing to destroy the great US economy.
    In five plus years they have; deficit spent $7.5 trillion (most of any Pres.) with nothing to show for it, increased national debt to $17.5 trillion and counting, real unemployment rate of 15%, no job growth, 8.5 million lost jobs, 92.5 million not working, black/hispanic unemployment over 20%, they hate oil/coal industries, fossil fuels, military, private sector, success, constitution, right to bear arms, over 3,400 soldiers killed in Iraq/Afgn since Obama became Pres., one in five people in poverty (highest ever), created disastrous Obamacare that has increased rates, cancelled insurance, lost doctors, is largest tax increase in history, destroyed jobs and the economy and now costs $3 trillion, wasted billions of taxpayer funds on scam clean energy deals like Solyndra and Ener1 to campaign donors, foreign policy of cowardice and appeasement that has allowed at least three terrorist attacks,
    Fort Hood, Benghazi and Boston, supported worst Sec. of State in history, Hillary Clinton, who is responsible for the murder of Libyan ambassador and three staffers in Benghazi, supports worst AG in history, Eric Holder, who is responsible for killing a border agent and the AP scandal, 48 million on food stamps, allowed terrible VA system to kill our brave military and increased business killing govt regulation/employment more than any other Pres. Obama should be IMPEACHED.

    June 5, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "“Todd and I are praying for Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, his family, and all of his fellow soldiers who are putting their lives on the line to defend our freedom and protect democracy abroad,” Governor Palin said. “The capture of Private Bergdahl and the bombings in Jakarta prove that we have not defeated terrorism, and that radical extremists will stop at nothing to attack Westerners and our ideals.” – Jabberwocky Barbie, when it was convenient to use his POW status to criticize Obama

    "“No, Mr. President, a soldier expressing horrid anti-American beliefs – even boldly putting them in writing and unabashedly firing off his messages while in uniform, just three days before he left his unit on foot – is not ‘honorable service.’ Unless that is your standard.” – Jabberwocky Barbie, after Obama secured Bergdahl's release

    THEY. WILL. SAY. ANYTHING.

    June 5, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  16. Ol' Yeller

    @Tommy G
    "Let's say we are back in World War II days.... Let's say we were lucky enough to have captured the head of Hitler's intelligence agency and four other top generals, including Rommel. Do you honestly think Roosevelt would have exchanged them for a deserter before the war had ended
    Obama is not only naive, incompetent and clueless, he has now shown he is outright DANGEROUS to every single person in the military as well as every single US citizen. He exists ONLY to serve his own political interests and the interests of this country and its people be damned."
    ****
    Let's say we were all moronic hypocrites like the rightie posters who are making up complete lies on here.... Let's say we were all inclined to make wild and unrealistic claims as to the importance of these 5 enemy combatants (they were not on the designated list of terrorists), and trading them for some tried and convicted 'deserter' (which last week the righties were all wringing their hands and bemoaning the fact that Obama had NOTHING to save this Hero Warrior who had tragically fallen into the hands of the enemy blah, wah, blah...). Do you honestly think the American people are so dumb as to not see through this charade?
    Obama is a twice duly elected President who has faced nothing but hypocritcal and unfair judgement from the very people who want to elect another neo con puppet of the corporations who profit from these little wars of convenience. He has honorably endured this unfair treatment to serve the interests of this country and its people.

    FIFY

    June 5, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  17. Marcus (from...?)

    Tommy G – 'The Defense Dept. did NOT list Bergdahl as a POW due to the circumstances around his disappearance. Please don't make things up. Also, I didn't see that the war in Afghanistan had ended, because it hasn't. It is still an ongoing war. What sane person releases five top leaders of an organization that we are still actively fighting? Speak to my points and enough with the made up BS. Anybody defending Obama on this latest insanity has their head stuck so far up their backside there is no hope of ever getting it out.'

    OK – for starters, then what was Bergdahl's official status, unwilling guest of the enemy?
    Second – what sane person thinks that Qatar is ruled by the Taleban? That's where the men are being sent to until the war (or at least the US participation in it) ends.
    Three – As for the WWII delirium, those five guys were big (ten years ago) in the Taleban, no doubts about it, but to compare them to Rommel and other German generals... you're grasping at straws here.

    June 5, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    CNN Headline: "Bergdahl backlash surprises White House"

    Obama, during the very speech they quote in the article: "I'm never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington, right? That's par for the course."

    Gee...wonder why CNN failed to quote that part in the article. FALSE. NARRATIVE. MANUFACTURE.

    June 5, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. Marcus (from...?)

    Tommy G – I never knew that QWatar was ruled by the Taleban, oh, wait, it's not!

    June 5, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  20. 2_indy1600

    Two words: Afghan Elections.

    June 5, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  21. GODZILLA1

    Sorry Obama but this was not the right thing to do.

    June 5, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  22. smith

    @rs-What your not talking about is at least nine soliders and his NCOIC have said the Bergdahl went AWOL. They were there and not one solider or anyone else has said anything that is different. 10 witnesses and a confession to his NCOIC is alot to just shrub aside.

    June 5, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  23. Mike

    looks like republicans opened their big mouths too fast and they have no house committee to hide behind this time...the GOP is gioing down for fabricating this scandal, they are messing with the US Army

    June 5, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  24. GB

    That marine being held in a Mexican prison is somebody's child as well, Mr. President.

    June 5, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  25. Tom l

    Sniffit,
    Ok, I'll guess. I would think that the person that says "do anything to get him home" would be the one to determine what that limit is rather than you trying to mis characterize their words. Shane on you because you claim that the repubs are making this political when that is exactly what you are doing.

    June 5, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12