Watching the escalation of the right-wing response to the Bergdahl case, from “why isn’t Obama doing anything to free this guy, doesn’t he know that we never leave a man behind?” to “why did Obama negotiate with terrorists like this?” to “why did Obama trade Taliban prisoners in exchange for this deserter who should have been left behind?” to “why would Obama release the Legion of Doom like this, unless he wants the Taliban to rule us all?” to “wow, I can’t believe Obama allowed demon-spawn Muslim Bob Bergdahl to claim the White House for Islam (I wish I were joking),” it’s really been one of the most illuminating, step-by-step looks at the way the right wing echo chamber works. If you follow me on Twitter, first of all congratulations on your class and good taste. But also, you may have seen me retweeting a series of 2, 3, and 4 year old conservative expressions of dismay that Obama wasn’t doing enough to secure Bergdahl’s release, followed by more recent expressions of dismay by the very same conservatives that Obama had secured Bergdahl’s release. It would be funny if these people weren’t still numerous enough to win elections.
Collecting conservative hypocrisy on Twitter is nutpicking, I know. Luckily, the same phenomenon can be seen in our Republican elected officials, like the always consistent John McCain:
Update: Asked specifically by CNN’s Anderson Cooper about the prospect of a 5-for-1 prisoner exchange, McCain replied, “I would support. Obviously I’d have to know the details, but I would support ways of bringing him home, and if exchange was one of them, I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider.”
That was in February.
McCain appears to have changed course again after the Bergdahl announcement was made over the weekend.
Go figure. I wonder why?
Elias Isquith, who does follow me on Twitter and thus is verifiably good and cool, notes that this has also been a front-row seat to the savaging that movement conservatives and neocons, who Love The Troops, just ask them, give to troops who don’t fit their stereotype of “the good soldier”:
Less understood is that when a member of the military fails to adhere to the far right’s rigid formula of what a soldier should be (nationalistic, religious, obedient; conservative) right-wingers like Palin come down on them like a ton of bricks. Where they once were heroes of almost mythic proportion, now they become charlatans — or maybe even traitors. During these moments, the far right’s hatred for the apostate soldier can only be understood if it’s recognized as a mirror image of their usual reverence. It’s not just that Sarah Palin is disappointed with Bergdahl for loathing the war in Afghanistan so much that he was “ashamed to be an American”; it’s that she now considers Bergdahl to be someone who is worth so little that the president’s acting to secure his life and liberty is, effectively, an insult to the rest. You know that old truism that nothing can turn to hate as quickly as love? This is what that looks like in politics.
I have no idea what happened to Bowe Bergdahl the night he disappeared from his base. If he deserted, then he should probably face punishment for that. But it seems to me that there’s no way to determine that he deserted without an investigation, and you can’t really complete an investigation when the only person who knows for a fact what happened is in enemy custody. Also, too, you know, we just don’t leave soldiers behind if we can help it, even the ones who aren’t the Platonic Ideal of the good soldier. The notion that we’ve “negotiated with terrorists” to secure his release is ridiculous and means that every prisoner exchange the United States has ever conducted was effectively a capitulation to “terrorists,” who we must now be defining as “anybody we don’t like.”
Oh, and these “hardest of the hard-core” (Senator McCain’s characterization) who we released from Gitmo? They weren’t facing any charges, they were going to have to be released eventually unless we plan on fighting the Taliban in perpetuity, and they’re going to be spending a year confined to Qatar, after which time we’ll be on our way out of Afghanistan anyway. Which probably doesn’t matter, since only 5% of the detainees released by Obama have gone back to fighting against us, as compared to the 30% who did so when GWB was in charge.
This whole “scandal” is a farce. A Democratic President did A Thing, ergo all good Republicans must oppose That Thing, regardless of what That Thing was, or whether those Republicans had ever supported it in the past. The American political process continues to cycle down the drain.