Jonah Goldberg

There he goes again. At a press conference in Brussels Thursday, President Obama was asked if he was surprised by the controversy over his decision to trade Bowe Bergdahl for five high-ranking Taliban leaders.

His response was vintage Obama: "I'm never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington."

Thus establishing from the start that he considers the controversy to be a kind of partisan farce, he proceeded to rebut criticisms virtually no one has made. This is Obama's favorite rhetorical trick; he builds and then tears apart a straw man while insisting that the American people are on his side.

"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 that we don't condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get them back," he said. "This is not a political football."

Scour the Internet until your fingers bleed, and you won't find a single person who has denied that Bowe Bergdahl is someone's child.

Search through the statements of Obama's critics -- Republicans and Democrats -- and you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees that the U.S. should do what it can to retrieve its POWs. No one has ever said the U.S. shouldn't try.

But, obviously, we must put conditions on the effort. That Bergdahl was held captive for half a decade is proof of that.

The Obama administration had been negotiating for years for Bergdahl's release. Why negotiate at all if we don't have conditions? Without conditions, the Taliban could ask for anything -- all of the prisoners in Gitmo, a billion dollars, the LA Clippers -- and our hands would be tied.

Of course, the real intent behind Obama's spin is to take the focus off credible allegations that Bergdahl was a deserter sympathetic to America's enemies and put it on the more sympathetic parents who just wanted their child back.

But the insinuation that only his critics are guilty of politicizing this foreign policy decision is reprehensible and ridiculous. A 2012 Rolling Stone story on Bergdahl included a quote from a "senior administration official familiar with the negotiations" who said that, "It could be a huge win if Obama could bring him home." The official added, "Especially in an election year, if it's handled properly." Recall that this same administration has defended itself on the Benghazi scandal by insisting that it never let election year politics influence its foreign policy.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.