At the most immediate level, the foreign policy controversy has already distracted the news media from other kinds of stories upon which congressional Democrats were hoping to focus. The foreign policy controversy intensified just as there was evidence that the economy was picking up steam and that the Obama’s health care program was gaining strength. Both signs of accomplishment were put on the back burner, overshadowed by the Bergdahl debate.
The stories also feed the perception of some voters who feel that Democrats have not done a good job managing government. This is a White House that once prided itself on competence. Obama, a well-educated politician who surrounded himself with bright staff, vowed to avoid the kind of mismanagement that had been on display with Hurricane Katrina during President George W. Bush’s term. But that reputation has slowly been undercut, especially after the botched health care website rollout and the VA scandal.
Some of the coverage of the foreign policy, including recent reports on how the deal with the Taliban was handled, have played into these kinds of criticism. The New York Times published a lengthy piece about the diminishing returns that Obama was able to obtain over the past several years in exchange for the release of the Taliban 5 and evidence of how his team had mishandled the process.