Washington (CNN) – Top White House adviser John Podesta defended the administration on criticism about its decision to swap Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners, the proposal to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent and the mishandling of veterans health care.
"The President will make tough decisions," Podesta told a group of reporters Friday at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor.
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On the Bergdahl case and the criticism leveled by Republicans and Democrats, you "just don't get the choice to say I am sorry I am going to wait until after November to bring one of our young soldiers home who has been captured by the Taliban…you have to make a decision right there."
He emphasized Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had approved the transfer of the five detainees demanded by the Taliban in exchange for Bergdahl. One of the major criticisms of the administration has been that these specific men – high-ranking Taliban members who are now living in Qatar – could try to return to the battlefield despite a travel ban, thereby posing a danger to the U.S again.
Besides assurances from the Qatari government, which brokered the deal, Podesta said the U.S. has "ways to monitor them" beyond that government to mitigate the threat posed by them. Asked if that meant independent monitoring of the detainees, Podesta wouldn't divulge details but said the U.S. has "a lot of ways…I think it is fair to say we will keep an eye on them."
Another criticism has been the staging of the event last Saturday at the White House to champion the release which some have called a "victory lap."
"He went out in the Rose Garden because it was important to explain to the American people" this was all about a human being and his captivity knowing the deal would be controversial, Podesta told the gathering.
On the domestic front, the senior counselor to the President responded to criticism of the administration's proposal unveiled this week forcing current power plants to cut their carbon emissions by almost a third by 2030 because they are a major source of greenhouse gases since they are mostly coal-burning. The White House released a report Friday linking climate change to public health concerns as it tries to convince the American people why such a major change is needed and is increasingly using the health argument as a way to convince the American people the need for action.
"Climate change will be increasing a problem for public health," Podesta told the group pointing out bad air worsens asthma, especially in children, which costs the government billions in dollars to treat.
The proposal has prompted major pushback from Republicans, the Chamber of Commerce, and from some moderate Democrats, including ones from coal producing states. Several analysts have said this proposal could weaken the chances of some of the more endangered Democratic Senate incumbents up for re-election this year, raising the question of whether the President may have chosen to pursue a legacy of curtailing climate change over maintaining party control of the Senate
"I don't think the President thinks about it in those terms," Podesta said.
The President thinks he has an "obligation to the American people" to make decisions to build better and cleaner futures for them. He said in red states, in blue states "there is very strong support" for action to deal with climate change but added "no doubt there are some states" where this initiative does "present political difficulty."
Podesta then took a shot saying anyone who denies climate change "will have a very hard time" running in 2016. "If you are a climate denier" and going to run in 2016 "you will have a very hard road to toe." He didn't single anyone out by name, but Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who is considering running for President in 2016, recently told ABC News he doesn't believe human activity is causing climate change.