Has there ever before been an Obama scandal that was still getting worse by the hour, days after the story broke? The new lie about the Taliban supposedly threatening Obama into violating U.S. law lasted, what, two hours tops before it fell apart?
Is there anything the White House has told us, from last weekend through yesterday, that actually held up? I’m having a hard time thinking of anything they said that turned out to be completely true. Bergdahl wasn’t captured in battle, he didn’t serve with distinction, he wasn’t dying in captivity, Obama didn’t have to break the law to complete the deal without notifying Congress, the military command and intelligence community didn’t support the trade, the government of Qatar won’t be “monitoring” the released Taliban commanders, either Harry Reid or Obama is lying about when Reid was brought into the loop…
And now we’re getting word that members of Congress – not all of them Republicans – are furious that the Administration has been, shall we say, less than forthcoming to them in briefings. I suspect we’ll be hearing more about that as endangered purple-state Democrats see their latest round of internal polling this weekend.
Meanwhile, every new development in the story – right up to the bombshell allegations that Bergdahl converted to Islam and was collaborating with the enemy, who provided him with firearms – has slammed into Obama like a right cross landing on a palooka with a glass jaw. Now, I’m not sure I buy this particular report, which reads as a bit sketchy and relies on too many third-hand sources for my taste, but the significant thing is that the Administration seems characteristically unprepared for it. It’s something they should have known about and been ready to deal with, coming as it does from a government intelligence contractor. One gets the impression, as I believe an NBC reporter observed during the maelstrom of news yesterday, that nobody at the White House even bothered to Google Bergdahl, much less work with intelligence officials to develop both sound policy and a serviceable public relations strategy.
Not only did Obama think this whole thing was going to be a slam-dunk political victory, from the round of applause he’d collect at the Rose Garden, to the anticipated Sunday-show bloodbath as Republicans with tough questions were castigated as nitpicking hacks who wouldn’t thank Obama for curing cancer (as Paul Begala feebly asserted on CNN Thursday, still trying to run with the moth-eaten talking points the White House gave him last Saturday.) He also assumed nobody would call him on any of his B.S., and he might have been largely correct, if other Afghanistan veterans hadn’t spoken up.
There are three big problems folded into the Bergdahl scandal: his status as a deserter, Obama breaking the law to seal the deal, and the hideously lopsided deal itself – which not only unleashes five dangerous Taliban on both Americans and natives in Afghanistan, but makes the United States look weak and submissive, a narrative not helped by desperate White House flacks claiming the Taliban was actually able to force Obama to break American laws. Of those three problems, the second might have been finessed by Obama’s Pajama Boy army – he breaks the law a lot, after all – and the third could have been spun away as a largely hypothetical future blowback, massaged by repeating those hilariously empty-headed assurances that the government of Qatar would make the Taliban Five behave themselves.
But the problems with Bergdahl himself are immediate and unspinnable, especially by the President who brought you Benghazi. That’s a blind spot I think should not be underestimated: Obama and his team seriously believe their media pals buried Benghazi forever, and don’t understand that most of the American people have not been hypnotized by their endless “Dude, that was like, two years ago” chant. Those same Americans snort with derision when Barack Obama claims he’s a tough-guy military leader who will leave no soldier behind, and anyone with common sense knows that Obama’s rhetoric about recovering a POW without any conditions whatsoever is nonsense – there are obviously prices we wouldn’t pay for a single prisoner, and if Obama actually believed otherwise, he would have given the Taliban the store and secured Bergdahl’s release years ago.
It matters that the biggest, boldest, emptiest lies told by this White House were so quickly destroyed… and their first instinct was to respond with more lies, which didn’t last a day. This scandal doesn’t distract from all of Obama’s other woes – it plugs into them and draws them together into the narrative our media gatekeepers have adamantly refused to write for five years.