I got into it with Jake Tapper on Twitter yesterday. I'd accused him of tailoring his Bowe Bergdahl coverage to right-wing spin -- mostly sympathetic to Bergdahl before his release, harshly critical as soon as Bergdahl was out and right-wingers started screaming bloody murder. Tapper explained that the soldiers he'd interviewed weren't among those being marketed to news organizations by a right-wing PR firm -- and insisted that, however resentful of Bergdahl they were, they really, really wanted Obama to get him home:
Look, I turned 19 in 1978, when there wasn't even draft registration, much less a war; I never wore the uniform. I'm a reprehensible East Coast non-gun-owning smartypants liberal. By definition, I have no values and no morals -- right? But I'm confused here -- Bergdahl was a scumbag deserter who'd gotten guys in his unit killed, yet soldiers still believed that the U.S. was 100% honor-bound to get him home? And therefore they didn't want Tapper to say he was a scumbag deserter (even though he did mention it on CNN last February, only to insist that Bergdahl really needed to come home, and even though Michael Hastings reported the story two years ago)? If I were a Real American, would I understand the logic of this?
The New Republic's Brian Beutler has similar questions about conservative operatives who are ginning up Bergdahl outrage:
It's difficult to work up sympathy for the conservatives second-guessing the negotiated release of an American POW in Afghanistan, when they and their fellow travelers spent Monday doing things like this and this and this and debating whether Bowe Bergdahl should have been rescued at all on Fox News.I think Beutler and I are expecting too much logic. What did Real Americans and True Patriots want in this situation? They wanted the U.S. to honor the sacred duty not to leave any servicemember behind -- but they also wanted Bergdahl to somehow not be unworthy of rescue. And, ultimately, they wanted a war George W. Bush spent seven years losing not to end far short of victory, with prisoners Bush made incapable of being tried not being released, as prisoners are always released when wars end.
But despite all that, they take tremendous umbrage at the suggestion that their actions provide any insight into their beliefs, and particularly at the suggestion that they think we should've left Bergdahl behind.
... if the deal was bad, and was bad largely on account of Bergdahl's unworthiness of sacrifice, then this is an endorsement of the idea that he should be in Taliban custody today, perhaps traded down the line for something less valuable than five Guantanamo detainees who probably would've had to be released anyhow. If conservatives genuinely don't believe he should've been left behind, and find the suggestion offensive, then they must name a price they'd deem acceptable and that his captors would have deemed sufficient.
They're angry at the facts, and they're taking it out on Obama. A real president, I guess, would have made the facts all go away.
I suppose what a real president would have done that would have been satisfactory was create an elaborate scenario whereby Bergdahl was freed with no apparent quid pro quo -- and then the five Taliban prisoners would have been released 24 or 48 hours later, or maybe a week or a month later, and news reports of a quid pro quo would have been denounced as scurrilous and unpatriotic. That's what Reagan would have done. That's what Bush would have done. That's what a President Romney would have done. And the grumbling would have been muted, because, hey, those guys don't hate America, right?