Via the Weekly Standard. “Swift-boating,” as you may recall, is when critics tell the truth about someone’s military service when the truth is unhelpful to Democrats. Consider this the beginning of phase three of the Bergdahl fallout. Phase one was when soldiers from Bergdahl’s unit caught the White House off-guard by publicly accusing him of desertion. Team O probably thought the combination of nondisclosure agreements that they were forced to sign and the prospect of retaliation if they made life hard for the Pentagon would keep them quiet. That was the key misjudgment from which everything else over the past three days has flowed.
Phase two was the White House desperately searching for someone, anyone, from Bergdahl’s unit who’d stand up in front of the media and vouch for his character. That’s happening entirely out of public view, but rest assured, it’s happening. The fact that they’ve come up with nothing so far speaks volumes about how uniform opinion is within Bergdahl’s old squad about him and his motives. If Team O could produce just one witness willing to face the cameras and argue that Bergdahl was a good soldier who was probably taken against his will, it’d plant enough doubt in casual observers’ minds that this whole thing might be reduced to a he said/she said matter for many — even though there are at least six veterans already who’ve come forward to support the desertion theory. But they can’t find anyone to do it. It’s been a complete barrage of anti-Bergdahl witnesses on cable news since Monday morning. The State Department is so bereft of third-party support that they were forced last night to tell reporters to trust Bergdahl himself over his squad mates, as if a repatriated deserter wouldn’t have an incentive to lie about why he went missing upon his return.
So now, phase three: Start discrediting the soldiers who’ve accused him. It’ll have to be done subtly and tactfully. If they go dumpster-diving on these guys for things like substance-abuse problems or financial trouble, the nastiness of it might backfire on the White House and make their Bergdahl problem even worse. Babbling about “swift-boating” is a good way to get the ball rolling, at least among liberals who are grasping for ways to defend Obama and have come up empty thus far. “Swift-boating” implies that the vets who’ve accused Bergdahl have some political motivation in doing so; it’s of a piece with that BuzzFeed story yesterday hyperventilating about Republican Ric Grenell helping Bergdahl’s comrades get in touch with media outlets. The point is to suggest that this is some sort of dirty trick, maybe even invented whole cloth by nefarious conservatives to wound the president, rather than a bunch of guys who’ve spent five years boiling inside because their friends got killed on patrol searching for Bergdahl finally choosing to come clean. To protect a guy who allegedly served dishonorably, the White House and the left now have no choice but to go after the honorable ones.
Any predictions on what the next bit of oppo is, or who the target will be? I think Evan Buetow’s interview with Tapper yesterday was the most damaging to the White House so far. Hope you don’t have any unpaid parking tickets, buddy.