So why did the White House send National Security Adviser Susan Rice to the Sunday shows to claim that Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction”?
It wasn’t necessary. Rice, speaking for the White House, could have said something to the effect that “Bowe Bergdahl is a troubled young man who made a terrible mistake. Nevertheless, he is an American soldier, and the United States wants him back. The president had a difficult decision to make in balancing the release of the Taliban detainees with this country’s longstanding policy of not leaving U.S. forces behind in a war zone, no matter the circumstances.”
That would not have quieted the controversy over the Taliban trade; critics would still maintain it was a terrible precedent and will increase the danger to America and its allies around the world. And it would not have quieted the controversy over the administration’s decision not to inform Congress about the Taliban release, as specifically required by law. Lawmakers — including some in the president’s party — would still complain about that.
But it would have denied the administration’s critics a devastatingly effective argument.