Of all the polls over the past few years exposing Democrats’ Bush hysteria as the partisan hackery it was — see the ones on drones and spying on reporters, for starters — today’s is my very favorite, just because the demand it places on Obama is so small. Surely, surely, people who spent years screeching about “King George” and the executive run amok don’t object to a federal law that simply requires O to notify Congress a month before releasing any Gitmo detainees. There’s nothing Congress can do to stop him; his Article II power is supreme. All they ask is a little heads-up before we start sending jihadis back out into the big brave world.
Nope. And note that it’s “liberals,” not “Democrats,” who are the most extreme in their position. Centrist Dems are the ones being consistent with their Bush-era rhetoric about a runaway executive, not lefties.
For maximum hilarity, Pew should have refined the question and asked about signing statements. Your best defense here if you’re a liberal is to note that GOP sentiment has also veered wildly back towards legislative power now that Democrats hold the White House. There’s an element of partisan hackery running both ways, although (a) there are plenty of familiar names among righty hawks, like Michael Mukasey, Krauthammer, and the Wall Street Journal editorial board, who are backing Obama on his assertion of executive authority, and (b) I’m not convinced that Bush would have gotten a pass from the base on partisan grounds if he had made a deal that involved releasing the Taliban Five. He got hammered by the right for a lesser offense in negotiating the Dubai Ports deal. Counterterror imperatives are capable of trumping partisan loyalties. Or rather, per Pew’s results, they should be.
The other key finding from today’s poll is unsurprising given the reaction among members of Bergdahl’s own unit to the prisoner exchange, but here you go. Proof positive that “leave no man behind” isn’t working in this case with the audience that should, in theory, be most receptive to it:
Veterans are much more harsh in their assessment of the 28-year-old sergeant. Only 6% of veterans who responded say they sympathized with him, while 33% say they were angry. By 68%-16%, veterans say Obama made the wrong decision.
“If he was a captured prisoner of war, we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” says Joe Davis, the director of public affairs for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “He put his teammates in jeopardy, and you absolutely don’t do that in a combat zone.”
Veterans are worried about the precedent set by the transfer, Davis says. “We have a long history in this country of not negotiating with terrorists,” he says. “And we just did.”
Among “veteran households,” the split on whether O made the right call is 26/55; among households without a veteran, it’s 37/38. That divide, as much as the predictable partisan divide, is what’s responsible for the overall 34/43 disapproval of the swap. If Obama had had veterans in his corner (especially the vets who served alongside Bergdahl), he would have stamped out this brushfire over the deal within 48 hours of it happening. The fact that he doesn’t is really the only reason it’s blazed on into a second week.
Update: Leave no man behind? Note rows two and three from this new Reuters poll: