1. No one buys the White House line on this, not even the Senate. The White House says they had to do this illegal thing – skipping the obligation to inform the Senate a month ago – because the terrorists said they’d kill the hostage. That’s not a description of a post-war prisoner swap at all. It’s one or the other. Americans aren’t angry about this deal because of the way the Afghan war is ending – they are angry because they see a president willing to illegally circumvent Congress to release five bad guys and put lives at risk in an attempt to keep a campaign promise. Even Democrats in the Senate agree. Talk about a messaging breakdown.
2. This is more about Barack Obama realizing he made a politically beneficial promise in 2008 without thinking it through than the government pursuing the national security interests of Americans. His inability to lead on this created the epic cluster of the effort to try KSM in New York City, and his inability to work with Congress led to the impossibility of coming up with a bipartisan solution for some form of tribunal or due process as opposed to indefinite detention without trial. In his first meeting with the incoming administration, Bob Gates warned them that they were overly simplifying what it would take to close Gitmo – he turned out to be prescient. He should’ve thought of a solution before he made the promise.
3. For most of the country, Gitmo’s closure is a secondary not a primary goal. Closing Camp X-Ray is the number one aim for Barack Obama so Joel McHale will stop making fun of him, but shouldn’t be the number one aim for the country. Personally, I’d be fine with a due process tribunal of some kind that also keeps Gitmo open until the last terrorist dies, just as we did after World War II even with “nonviolent” bad guys like Rudolph Hess. I doubt many Americans would have a problem with that result either.
4. The issue of Bergdahl’s desertion is to a large extent a sideshow, even if it’s distracting a lot of the attention in the media space. Gates, Leon Panetta, James Clapper, and possibly even Hillary Clinton understood years ago that whether Bergdahl was a deserter or not, this is too high a price to pay, especially when a simple ransom offer was reportedly on the table earlier. This suggests the real aim was getting these five guys out of Gitmo, not getting Bergdahl back. And that’s a really troubling thought.