Quotes of the day

House Republicans will investigate President Barack Obama’s deal to exchange five Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan promised Virginia GOP members on the eve of their state convention Friday.

“I’m part of the IRS investigation,” Ryan said at an after-dinner speech, reports Politico. “We’ve got the Benghazi investigation, the Veterans Affairs investigation, and we’re going to do an investigation about this troop transfer with the Taliban. So we’ve got a lot on our plate.”


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.


Rice hadn’t just fueled suspicions that the White House had oversold the Bergdahl deal — she had once again made herself part of the story and rekindled smoldering embers of resentment over her Benghazi role. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Rice’s main antagonists during the Benghazi furor last fall, has now called for her resignation, saying “I can’t believe anything she tells me.”

The media has been quick to amplify the criticism. On Wednesday, FOX News White House reporter Ed Henry described a new “credibility problem for the Administration, in which Susan Rice was again pushing a false narrative.” On MSNBC’s Morning Joe the same day, co-host Mika Brzezinski marveled, “Why would Susan Rice be sent out, Susan Rice, be sent out repeatedly to say he served honorably and really push that as one the fundamental reasons behind this swap?” And with typical nuance, FOX’s Bill O’Reilly declared Rice “a moron.”


The former administration official said the uproar over Rice is due in part to the politicization of senior posts in government like the national security advisor that were traditionally minimally political.

“What that results in is you now have a national security advisor going on shows carrying the president’s political water,” the ex-official said. “That’s fraught with peril because usually national security officials will get a lot of latitude on national security matters but when they start to politicize it all bets are off and you open yourself up to a lot of criticism.”


[T]he White House’s political chops in this fiasco look about as sharp as Dom DeLuise’s forehead. That’s kind of weird when you consider that his foreign-policy shop is largely run by political hacks — as Kim Strassel notes in her excellent column from yesterday. “Obama’s Kissingers,” as Strassel calls them, should be better at the politics than the foreign policy, given their resumes. But it turns out they stink at both. When you run foreign policy like a domestic political operation, it turns out that both the policy and the politics can blow up on you. I think this is because over the long haul foreign policy doesn’t work like domestic politics. You can have the best political hacks in the world, but if you give them a job they’re not suited for, it will actually make things worse. If you want to see what I mean, ask your mechanic to do your prostate surgery…

This White House went a different way. They sent Susan Rice — Susan Rice! — out on the Sunday shows to beclown herself again. This woman was going to be secretary of state until she went out on the Sunday shows and read Ben Rhodes’s talking points verbatim. Apparently that’s sort of her thing. She reads what the hacks above — or below — give her. It’s like she’s the Ron Burgundy of foreign policy. But you’d think this time around she’d go over with her staff exactly what they know — and don’t know. You’d think she’d be like Roy Scheider in Jaws 2 telling the town council, “As God is my witness, I’m not going through that Hell again.” Instead she’s like Mikey from the Life cereal commercials and the White House political hacks are like the other kids. “Give these talking points to Susie, she’ll say anything.”

And now, to cover their mistakes, these guys are complaining anonymously to Chuck Todd that Bergdahl is being “swiftboated” by his former comrades. My friend Iowahawk called this one perfectly. Seriously, what’s the point of putting the hacks in charge if they can’t even hack right?


In fact, while the Taliban stuck to its demands (freedom for the Taliban Five), the Obama administration abandoned all of its preconditions. Originally, the State Department said it would only talk to the Taliban on three conditions: if it laid down its arms, agreed to abide by the Afghan constitution, and renounced al Qaeda. The Taliban repeatedly and openly rejected these demands, and so the State Department abandoned them. As the New York Times reported, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “first signaled the opening for talks by recasting the administration’s longstanding preconditions” as “necessary outcomes” in 2011.

Three years later, the Taliban has still shown no willingness to agree to any of these three preconditions-turned-outcomes. And releasing the Taliban Five will not help matters…

It is easy to see why the Taliban is confident in its ability to negotiate with Washington. The group secured the release of prominent leaders in U.S. custody under the terms it demanded. There is no good reason for Americans to be similarly confident in the Obama administration’s ability to negotiate with the Taliban.


Thursday on Fox News Channel’s “The Kelly File” Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) told host Megyn Kelly that if the story Fox News’ James Rosen broke today that U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had converted to Islam during his captivity and even declared himself a warrior for Islam, he was directly lied to by the White House.

Rubio said, “Let me say the substance of this report that you reported, I’ve asked questions that are specifically on point and the answers I got directly contradict or dispute what you have been reporting this evening. So clearly, if this happens to be true, we’ve got a serious problem with the Administration that’s misleading members of congress because the question i asked was on point with what you’re reporting here tonight.”…


Some Democrats are already unhappy. “It comes to us with some surprise and dismay that the transfers went ahead with no consultation, totally not following law,” Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday.

Then, after a Wednesday briefing in which the administration tried to sell lawmakers on the wisdom of the deal, other Democrats emerged with doubts undiminished. “That did not sell me at all,” said Sen. Joe Manchin. “I still have concerns,” said Sen. Mark Pryor. And Sen. Mark Begich — like Pryor facing a tough re-election battle this year — said some of his concerns had been allayed, but “there are still some questions.”…

Having relied on the U.S. obligation to take care of its troops as an explanation for the Bergdahl case, Democrats might have a difficult time falling in line the next time if there’s no American to be saved.


According to multiple reliable sources, on Air Force One during President Barack Obama’s recent Asia trip, he spent some time talking with his traveling press corps about his approach to foreign policy. He was defensive and, by one account, “fuming.” He felt that the criticism of his approach was unfair. He had clear ideas about how to manage America’s global interests. In his own words, they centered on a single concept: “Don’t do stupid shit.”

Announcing the red line in Syria? Definitely stupid shit; he didn’t have to say anything and shouldn’t have if he didn’t mean to follow through. Letting it be crossed 12 times before acting? Stupid shit. Announcing a plan to take moderate action and then withdrawing it afterward? Also stupid. Announcing support for Syrian moderates and not giving it in a timely or adequate fashion? Same. Entering Libya without a long-term plan and letting it fall into chaos immediately after the U.S. departure? Given all we know from every other intervention the United States has ever been involved with overseas, ditto. Overly focusing on core al Qaeda as terrorist franchises spread around the world as never before? More of same, mainly because it involved willful self-delusion and valuing a political message over the ground truth. Being so indecisive on Egypt that the United States had two policies at once — one in the State Department and one in the White House? Appointing ambassadors without the credentials to do the job only because they donated money? Taunting Russian President Vladimir Putin into action with laughable sanctions? Yes, yes, yes. In each case, not only should we have known better, but there were actually people in the administration who did know better and were ignored.


What happens when the world’s greatest spin doctor commits malpractice — on himself?…

From the Veterans Administration scandal to the jaw-dropping events surrounding the swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the man with the most remarkable intuitive grasp of how to preserve and enhance his own image the world has ever seen has now tarnished it almost beyond recognition…

You can only spin for so long before you start spinning yourself. Spin and spin and spin and soon you have a whirlwind to reap.


Debate all you want over what motivated the White House to do the Bergdahl swap. What’s beyond debate is that politics drove its rollout, and that there was nobody with enough seriousness or clout in the White House to stop it.

It was a political desire to sweep the Veterans Administration scandal off the front pages that put President Obama in the Rose Garden with Sgt. Bergdahl’s parents—when Secretary of State John Kerry, or even a press release, would have given distance. It was a political desire to claim a foreign-policy victory that saw Ms. Rice again peddling a phony story, this time about how Sgt. Bergdahl had served with “honor and distinction”—when senior officials had to know that was questionable. Who failed to warn the president that Sgt. Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers would surely speak out? Who failed to walk him through the ABCs of the statute he signed requiring Congressional notification, or warn him of the bipartisan fury his cold shoulder would inspire?

Most remarkable is that despite the endless loop of foreign-policy fiascoes, this White House seems oblivious of the need for institutional change. It has had its share of experienced hands ( Bob Gates, Leon Panetta ) come and go, but shows no evidence it learned from them. In Obama world, there is only politics. And so the world will continue to burn.



Beckel said that the White House had to have known some of the information about how Bergdahl was a deserter and found it “so incomprehensible” that the White House held the “tone-deaf” Rose Garden ceremony with all this knowledge. He surmised they have to have “smoked a bunch of dope” to actually think this all would be a good idea.

Greg Gutfeld, however, found it amusing Beckel was so shocked at how “such a competent White House” could get stuck up in all this, but Beckel said this just “adds to their incompetence.”

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