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.

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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. paul reynolds

    We all know the Fakes News-propaganda generated "Outrage" if Our President LEFT Bergdahl in Afghan!
    * President ABANDONS Ranger, betrays Americans and Military!
    * President Obama turns his back on Military POW despite Trade deal for Prisoners already scheduled to be released at the end of 2014 by International Laws!
    * President Obama ignored the RepubliCon and McCain demands for an Exchange of these 5 Taliban!
    * America never leaves Troops behind, WHAT was Our President Thinking.!??
    So fake "Fair" and "Balanced"

    June 5, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  2. Silence DoGood

    @tom l
    @Silence,
    "conservatives then "Do anything to bring him home. Why doesn't Obama DO something." (cue tears)"
    =====
    I just want to focus on the intellectual dishonesty of that statement. There are obvious limits to "anything", aren't there? When they said "anything", do you think they meant that would include perhaps trading nuclear weapons for the return of Bergdahl? Of course not. So, in this case, the thought is that the price tag was too high and it came under curious circumstances. Now, surely if George Bush had gone around the law and not consulted congress this would have bothered you, and rightfully so.

    My advice to you, since you have said before that you are a young man, is to not twist things the way you are. I applaud you for your passion and interest in politics and you should be a liberal at your age. But please try to be fair and recognize that when you so passionately choose one side vs the other, you will be wrong sometimes because no side is correct 100% of the time.
    ------------
    And I can see that my use of hyperbole is lost on you. The point I am trying to make is that conservatives and congress folk have been obviously hypocritical on the record and used a (as yet un-tried) serviceman as a political pawn.

    I never said I was a young man. Far be it from you to "twist things" as I apparently do. And I bow to your sage advice. That was sarcasm BTW.

    June 5, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  3. Gurgyl

    Sorry Godzilla, you are not CIC, I am. I know what to do. I did right thing. Ask boy's parents. The end.

    June 5, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. salty dog

    Well said pollopa

    June 5, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "Why? Proper "vetting" would have informed even the most "green" intern in the White House, that there would be problems with Sgt. Bergdahl's service record"'

    1. The circumstances of Bergdahl's disappearance were all known by the GOP/Teatrolls over the past several years while they were demanding his rescue. McCain, Ayotte, and many of the others who were serving in the House and Senate over this time period knew very well what the circumstances of his disappearance were and they demanded that Obama get him back, expressed sympathy for him and his family

    2. You can rest assured that CNN's headline is deliberately misleading. Nobody was surprised at the GOP/Teatrolls' hypocrisy or their instant attempts to dampen the good news, rain on the parade, etc., during a mid-term year because they feared it would be a positive for Obama, and by extension, other Dems. What's somewhat surprising is that they're suddenly very concerned with persecuting Bergdahl for being a "deserter" despite him being innocent until proven guilty and despite the fact that they knew about the circumstances of his disappearance from camp when hey made their previous demands for his rescue. What's even more suprising...altho I suppose it shouldn't be in light of the GOP/Teatrolls' radicalization and extremism for the past 6 years...is that the GOP/Teatrolls are even going after the guy's innocent family members, who have done nothing wrong but grieve for their lost son and grow a beard. It's insane, dangerous, has led to death threats, and is some of the most unhinged and un-American nonsense we've seen from the GOP/Teatrolls in the past decade.

    June 5, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. Tommy G

    Marcus (from...?)
    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.
    -–

    His status was AWOL (Away Without Leave). Too hard for you to look up?

    What sane person thinks these 5 people can't still do damage, plot and organize no matter where they are located? They will NOT be held in jail cells.

    These guys were all big guys BEFORE their capture, let alone now that they have been at Gitmo. They will be (actually already are) hailed as heroes now. Their power and influence will be elevated, not diminished. And after their long detention, I'm sure they would never ever consider seeking retribution.

    Obama and his clueless koolaide drinking supporters have proven once again, just how dangerous they are to this country and all of us.

    June 5, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. Gt

    Lets see..terrorist for traitor...yea big surprise

    June 5, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "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."

    Show me the conviction papers. Show me where it says he's been proven guilty.

    June 5, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  9. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    It's funny to read so many Republican losers posts on here. I suppose it's out of frustration. They can't control what our President is doing, so they make up ridiculous stories and howl at the moon. When Hillary is President, you will make up lies about her too. Oh yeah... BENGHAZI!!!!!

    June 5, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  10. Pander Bear

    Apparently the GOP believes that the 5 Taliban who were released were Magneto, Mystique, Pyro, Toad, and Juggernaut. Which is why it was so important that we not close down Gitmo and transfer these super villains to US SuperMax prisons cuz they have super powers and all.

    June 5, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  11. xplain_plz

    It really doesn't matter what was done or not done vis-a-vis Bergdahl. When Obama arranges a prisoner swap to brings him home the GOP/TP is outraged. If Obama had left Bergdahl in Taliban hands the GOP/TP would be outraged that Obama had abandoned an serviceman. If Obama had sent a team to rescue him and it was successful, the GOP/TP would outraged that U.S. troops were put in danger to rescue a deserter. If it hadn't been successful and Bergdahl was killed in retaliation, the GOP/TP would be outraged that Obama recklessly sacrificed the life of an American GI. It really doesn't matter which option Obama chose or could have chosen. Whatever happened, the GOP/TP would be outraged simply because the decision was made by Obama.

    June 5, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. Tony D

    Sniffit
    "There are obvious limits to "anything", aren't there? "
    ---
    Guess who gets to decide them. Guess.
    ---

    OBAMA!!! So why are you constantly blaming others for his stupid decisions and screw ups? HE DOES IT TO HIMSELF!! You're worse than a delusional mother constantly blaming the other kids for their toddlers' out of control behavior and diaper soiling.

    June 5, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  13. Silence DoGood

    @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.
    -------------–
    In a country of Laws, who respect their military, they would bring him home, then put him on trial if the facts warrant. You on the other hand are apparently judge and jury on a person who it amuses you to use as a pawn in embarrassing our president.

    June 5, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  14. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @tom l
    But I keep being told that he is so in touch with how Americans feel. This is exactly the opposite. He clearly does not have a good feel for how Americans think.

    Yes he does. Most Americans despise the right wing traitors like Karl Rove, Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch and the Kock Brothers and I suspect President Obama does as well.

    June 5, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  15. Dean

    Obama's crowning acheivement in foreign policy...and it's a disaster. Americans are really getting sick of this guy. Say what you will about Bush...he never came close to the incompetence displayed by this guy.

    June 5, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  16. smith1

    Get over it. Congress was briefed over a year ago on a possiable swap. Video's of Mc. Cane asking the president to get Bergdahl released. also comments from other repos to get bo home now this.? Two faced trolls. Lets see what the Army does before we pass judgment. Just one more repo excuse to have an investigation and harass the president. Such patriots that's why they keep cutting military funding.

    June 5, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "-
    Guess who gets to decide them. Guess.
    -

    OBAMA!!! So why are you constantly blaming others for his stupid decisions and screw ups? HE DOES IT TO HIMSELF!! You're worse than a delusional mother constantly blaming the other kids for their toddlers' out of control behavior and diaper soiling."

    Aaaw, really cheeses you guys that a black man gets to make decisions, don't it? You've been howling it for 6 years, but we've yet to see the wolf.

    June 5, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  18. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @sonnie3
    Will they sweep this under the rug like all scandals that come from the White House?

    Wake up and smell the petroleum. The only "scandals" have been created by right wing troublemakers. Let's see... ACORN, IRS, BENGHAZI, FAST and FURIOUS, etc., have been beaten to death by garbage like Darrell Issa for years and not once has a White House official been indicted. How about forming a committee lead by Issa to see if Obama kidnapped the Lindbergh baby?

    June 5, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  19. barryinlasvegas

    Obama and his spin doctors thought they could get the VA scandal off the front page and off the Sunday TV news shows by holding a press conference with this traitors mom and dad at the Rose Garden.

    It backfired because King Obama paid too high a price to free a traitor to his county.

    June 5, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  20. Marie MD

    @dean, you are joking right?
    We lost 50+ during the shrub #43 administration in bombings and attacks and bin laden and his cohorts attacked NYC.
    This doesn't include the thousands dead and maimed because of the war of lies in Iraq?
    If anything such a simpleton as bush should have NEVER been elected to lead our country. He did more harm to the US place in the world and its own citizens than any other president I can think of.
    Your demi Hollywood Reagan god slept through most of his presidency and gave millions to insurgents who then turned into the Taliban. He traded guns. Marines died. I can go on and on.
    The teaklans are a disaster waiting to happen and when it happens it's HUGE!!!

    June 5, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "Say what you will about Bush...he never came close to the incompetence displayed by this guy."

    Yeah, thank Allah we found all those weapons of mass destruction Sadam was hiding.

    June 5, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  22. Jerry Okmaura

    How smart can you be, if you were surprised?

    June 5, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  23. smith1

    repos so worried about repercussions on Americans from the prisoners released but no upset at all about the school shootings here at home. Maybe mental health programs and better background checks here would be a better way of protecting Americans But it is not as flashy as acting patriotic and trashing the president. Most repos are scared poopless of the NRA and don't have the balls to go against them. More than half the clowns in congress have never been in the military yet they seem to know more. Spineless bunch of trolls

    June 5, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  24. it must be said

    Bergdahl backlash surprises White House
    --

    I don't know why this would be the case. Anybody with an IQ higher than 50 can see these was not only a bad deal, it was an insanely bad deal. And yet supposedly the most brilliant person to ever inhabit the White House can't see this? I guess it is those thick dark ideological lenses that he sees everything through. They distort reality but reality allows rears its ugly head on the delusional ideologues like Obama.

    This is why the country has been screwed for 5.5 years and will continued to be screwed for anothe 2.5 years at the hands of this joke President.

    June 5, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  25. John in Brooklyn

    Should ANY absolutely ridiculous, audacious and, indeed unpatriotic behavior on the part of conservatives and the conservative press surprise any of us these days? Had ANY other president made this deal, the conservatives would have praised his leadership and called on the country to rally behind the commander-in-chief in his efforts to retrieve a POW. Instead, they have decided that they don't need evidence to sully the reputation of Bergdahl without any investigation into how he became captured. Why is this president different? I think we all know the answer to that.

    June 5, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
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