Many analysts are convinced that Obama's real motive in making this deal was to help him make good on his promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and thus pad his legacy. Administration officials have been hinting as much anonymously for a week.
A senior Pentagon official tells the Daily Mail that the president rejected proposals to rescue Bergdahl because "the president wanted a diplomatic scenario that would establish a precedent for repatriating detainees from Gitmo." This is in keeping with his withdrawal-at-all-cost Afghanistan policy, in which the only timetable that matters is the one driven by his personal political priorities. Obama wants out of Afghanistan before he leaves office and he needed Bergdahl home -- no matter the price -- to do that.
This is almost surely why the White House went ahead with an ostentatious Rose Garden event with Bergdahl's parents. Deep in the White House bunker, they still thought this would be a "huge win" politically. They expected a moment of national celebration to welcome home a hero and that Americans wouldn't much care that we traded away five enemy combatants in a war that was winding down anyway.
And they were so enthralled by their political strategy that they didn't think to get their facts straight about Bergdahl's record. Hence the hapless performance by National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who went on ABC's "This Week" to say that Bergdahl had served with "honor and distinction" and that he was captured on the battlefield. One can reserve judgment about whether Bergdahl was a deserter, but it's already clear that Rice's comments were baldly false. And the claim that Bergdahl's health was so bad that it justified Obama's decision to flout the (possibly unconstitutional) law requiring they notify Congress of any Gitmo prisoner transfers seems to be unraveling as well.
But none of that matters. Because this is just a whipped-up controversy.
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