One of he few credible arguments for the re-election of Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012 came 20 years earlier from a magazine article I had read at the time. It was an interview with a centurion journalist who had been covering the White House back in the days of Coolidge. He was asked about the upcoming election (George HW Bush vs Bill Clinton) and gave an answer that stuck with me. It was something like this.
Bush? 2nd rate but I’ll vote for him, they’re both 2nd rate so why put a new 2nd rate man in when you’ve already got one with four years experience.
I can’t find it online nor can I remember the name of the reporter being interviewed but when I look at the Bergdahl deal it would seem that four years in the White House has taught these people nothing.
As I’ve already said even before we knew Bergdahl’s loyalty was iffy I think such a 5-1 deal was irresponsible at best and criminal at worst. If it was up to me this wouldn’t have been done.
If I however was the person in charge of making this deal there is a way it could have been done without this firestorm. Here is how I would have done it:
The Taliban Five would have been released one at a time over the course of say 12 -18 months.
Each of the men would have been let go under seemingly different circumstances. One might have been released “at the request of the Afghan government as part of peace negotiations” another turned over to a third country like say Qatar which wanted him. A third given to Pakistan for safe keeping and the last two given to the UN where they could have been quietly released on whatever grounds they chose to use.
In each case the administration would have had a public excuse for the move both diplomatic & security and all of the moves could have been framed as part of drawing down GITMO. That would have been the argument and the case the administration could have made.
As for Bergdahl, after the 3rd or fourth transfer we could have had a third-party (say Saudi Arabia or Pakistan) “arrange” for the release and then give him for us. It would have been done without fanfare and a story would have come out that due to both his desire of both him and the family and the fact that he is still active duty military he would not be made available.
Boom, same result, same deal, but no PR coup for our enemies, no PR disaster over his release, and if any of these guys got out of line before the others are released, they could have stopped. Five small stories all below the fold and in the context of the President’s promise to close GITMO
Furthermore no need to send Susan Rice on another magical mystery tour pretending that a soldier whose loyalty into Sgt. York. No provoking his fellow to speak out in outrage nor crushing a gold star mother with the realization that her son died to try to save a traitor. Just a favor done for the US by a friend and an administration doing its job.
But who am I kidding, this wasn’t about making a calculated long-term risk to achieve US goals. It was about providing a “victory” to an administration desperate to get the VA scandal off the front page in an election year.
It shows that while a 2nd rate President with 4 years experience is better than a 2nd rate candidate without it, apparently a 2nd rate candidate is far superior to a fourth-rate unqualified President with four years in office.
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