There’s a breaking news story today which is set to completely change our understanding of the Bergdahl prisoner exchange. From Buzzfeed “A former Bush Administration official hired, then resigned, as Mitt
Romney’s foreign policy spokesman played a key role in publicizing
critics of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the released prisoner of war.”
This blockbuster story was only revealed because Richard Grenell publicly tweeted about his role:
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) June 2, 2014
This has of course been picked up by Talking Points Memo which opens its story, “Republican operatives apparently believe there’s something to be gained by painting Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as a deserter.” (You will wait in vain for the TPM story that opens “Democrats apparently believe there’s something to be gained by painting Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as a heroic POW.”)
If you read the Buzzfeed or the TPM piece you’ll find that no one is directly disputing the claims being made by members of Bergdahl’s platoon. Buzzfeed says the circumstances under which he left the base are “disputed” but doesn’t say who is disputing them or why. In fact, the claim that Bergdahl was a deserter originally appeared years ago in a Rolling Stone article by the late Michael Hastings, not exactly a conservative outlet.
It seems increasingly clear that the White House saw this as a big PR win. The President presented it in the Rose Garden to draw attention to it. But the serious issues surrounding the exchange–Bergdahl’s apparent desertion, the trade for five high value terrorists, the fact that Congress was not given 30 days notice as required by law, the fact that Obama explains his failure o do so by citing a signing statement, the fact that the White House seems to be equivocating over whether the Taliban are terrorists or a regular army– all of these make it a very debatable case.
Rather than admit this blew up in the administration’s face because of legitimate problems, some on the left are eager to turn this into a story about Republican partisanship gone wild. Michael Tomasky got the ball rolling yesterday with this cookie-cutter column. Chris Hayes followed up with this trolling tweet yesterday evening. Now Buzzfeed and TPM are placing a spotlight on the right’s efforts to tell a fuller version of the facts than the White House apparently wanted anyone to discuss. For many in the media these days, information is suspect if it doesn’t come pre-packaged from the White House.
So that’s where we are at this moment. On one hand, there is a push to answer the basic questions about legality, about whether Bergdahl deserted, etc. The developing counter-argument, if you can even call it one, is that Republicans are playing politics when the White House was simply claiming victory. And how dare they do that! Republicans that is, not the White House. If that kind of one-sided partisan focus makes no sense to you, you’re probably not the intended audience for these stories.