From the June 9 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Since the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, media have scandalized the administration's negotiations with the Taliban, conducted through a third-party, despite the fact that foreign policy experts and military leaders have long acknowledged the necessity of such negotiations.
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen condemned the White House visit by the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan for five years, as "utterly repellent," even though Cohen acknowledged that the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's capture are unclear.
In a June 4 post, Cohen attacked President Obama for inviting Bergdahl's parents to the White House on May 31 to announce that his release had been secured. Noting reports that Bergdahl may have been captured by Taliban combatants after leaving his post on his own volition, Cohen labeled Bergdahl a "deserter" despite admitting that the "ultimate truth about Bergdahl has yet to be determined":
On Jan. 31, 1945, the U.S. Army executed a soldier from Detroit named Eddie Slovik. He was what we would now call a loser -a petty thief, a self-proclaimed coward and, by his admission, a deserter. He was the first U.S. soldier executed for desertion since the Civil War and, as far as I can tell, the last. He soon became the subject of a book and a movie - and then slipped into history, ignominious and pathetic in death and now almost entirely forgotten.
Now, all these years later, deserters are treated somewhat differently. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is accused by some of his Army colleagues of deserting his post in Afghanistan, leaving behind his weapon and his body armor. He was taken prisoner by the Taliban and was just swapped for five terrorists who were being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. If the charges are true, the Taliban got back valuable and esteemed warriors and the United States got a deserter.
Cohen went on to question the President's "huggy session" with the Bergdahls and made clear that he is "not for executing deserters, but I am not for hugging parents, either":
But the Rose Garden production sticks in my craw -- Obama leaving with his arms around Bergdahl's mother and father. So touching. So warm. So utterly repellent! Did the president know that their son was being accused of desertion? Did he care? As commander in chief, did he ponder what he owed the many millions of soldiers who were also scared or fed up with war -- but did not allegedly amble off? Did he consider how Bergdahl's platoon was exposed and what could happen to the men who went out in search of him?
Truly, I find it necessary to have retrieved Bergdahl ... in some way. The freeing of five killers of Americans as part of the deal bothers me, but maybe there was no other way. But I am even more bothered, though, that the president and his incautious mouthpiece Susan Rice -- she said Bergdahl served "with honor and distinction" -- turned what had to be a sordid but possibly necessary deal into a virtual patriotic exercise. It was fundamentally a lie. It was frankly sickening.
Cohen's column echoes right-wing attacks on Bergdahl's father, Bob, who grew out his beard in solidarity with his captive son. Fox contributor Laura Ingraham claimed Bob Bergdahl looked like a "terrorist," and Fox host Bill O'Reilly said he was "insulted" by his appearance at the Rose Garden.
While Cohen claimed to be "sicken[ed]" by the treatment of the Bergdahls, he has also written that "people with conventional views must repress a gag reflex" when considering interracial families.
Fox News pitched the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as "Benghazi 2.0" after an Obama administration spokesperson declined to take a stand on whether Bergdahl is guilty of desertion before all the facts are in because, "like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty"
Since the White House's May 31 announcement that it had secured the release of Bergdahl, the only prisoner of war left in the Afghan conflict, in a prisoner swap, Republican strategists have led a coordinated campaign to hype claims that Bergdahl was a deserter. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf pointed out that the allegations have not yet been fully investigated and the government is "still establishing a fact pattern," but Fox has already began to aggressively hype the argument and accuse the Obama administration of lying about the facts.
On the June 3 edition of The Kelly File, Fox News' strategic analyst Col. Ralph Peters attacked the "arrogance" of Harf's statement, framing it as an insult to the troops and "Benghazi 2.0":
PETERS: Megyn, what you just saw and heard was Benghazi 2.0. A political flunkie in the State Department insisting that she knows better what happened on the ground than the soldiers on the front line or the people in a firefight. The arrogance is boundless. You know, I wish -- the Obama administration, if it can't have the grace to be decent about anything else, at least stop insulting our troops. She called those soldiers from the front lines liars. And by the way, she's the liar!
Fox & Friends had a similar take. Also responding to Harf's statement, co-host Steve Doocy called State's refusal to issue an immediate verdict on allegations of Bergdahl's desertion "unbelievable," putting the claims in the context of Fox's favorite Benghazi myth:
DOOCY: And how familiar does that sound: 'Don't listen to the guys on the ground.' Wait a minute, that's what we did in Benghazi, remember?
Doocy was attempting to jump off of a portion of the right-wing media's Benghazi mythology that has been so consistently repeated by Fox that, to many conservatives, it has become impervious to facts.
For more than a year, the network has been fixated on a set of administration talking points that then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used on September 16, 2012 and that linked the Benghazi attacks to an anti-Muslim video. Previous investigations have found that the talking points reflected the intelligence community's best assessment at the time and that further information only became available 2 days later, after the FBI disseminated its interviews with eyewitnesses -- which quickly led the administration to update its assessment. Yet Fox has continued to ignore reality and imagine the delay was part of an elaborate plot to conceal the truth about the attacks.
Fox has seen first hand how ignoring reality and doubling down on misinformation can get results. The network's revisionist history of how information about the Benghazi attack was disseminated; it succeeded in convincing House Republicans to establish a select committee on Benghazi based on a false attack.
But like Fox's Benghazi scandal-mongering, this supposed "Benghazi 2.0" falls flat in context.
Far from calling "soldiers on the front lines liars" or suggesting the administration won't "listen to the guys on the ground," Harf was simply echoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to note that Bergdahl remains "innocent until proven guilty" but that the appropriate investigation will take place:
QUESTION: (Inaudible) according to those around him, his platoon mates, his squad mates, company mates, they said he walked off the base.
MS. HARF: Lucas, some of them - other - there are conflicting reports out there about this. Look --
QUESTION: Are there?
MS. HARF: There are. Go Google it on the web and you'll find a ton of conflicting reports. The fact is we're still establishing a fact pattern about what happened, how he ended up in Taliban captivity. So when he is able to share those, as Chairman Dempsey said today, he will. He also said, like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our army's leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.
So I think people need to be really careful about believing every second or third-hand report out there, and also what the President, what the Secretary, what Chairman Dempsey have said: Regardless of how he went missing, it is our responsibility to him to bring him home, period.
From the June 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the June 3 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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From the June 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the June 3 edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper:
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Several conservative media figures are floating the idea of impeaching President Obama over the recent release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Numerous right-wing activists, media figures, and politicians have been trying to drum up a reason to impeach Obama ever since he took office more than five years ago. National Review writer and former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy released a new book today on subject, endeavoring to explain the "political case" for impeaching the president. In making his case, McCarthy rehashes a wide number of well-worn supposed scandals from the Obama administration. Fittingly, McCarthy has also been at the forefront of the latest calls for impeachment, arriving right as his book hits the shelves.
In comments on June 2 to the Daily Mail's website, the Mail Online, McCarthy reportedly called the exchange of Taliban figures for Bergdahl a "high crime and misdemeanor," because, he claimed, the administration did not sufficiently notify Congress of the planned transfer. The Mail article was quickly highlighted on the Drudge Report.
Appearing on Fox & Friends the next morning, Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said Obama "may very well have committed a federal crime by giving material assistance to a terrorist organization." Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy responded by plugging McCarthy's book and pointing to his comments to the Mail Online about impeachment. Napolitano added that it was a "very, very valid argument that people are going to start talking about."
Later in the day, Fox News' Outnumbered host Sandra Smith asked "does this become an impeachable offense" and highlighted Napolitano's claim that "this breaks federal law."
Fox News contributor Allen West posted on his website, "the U.S. House of Representatives should file articles of impeachment against Barack Hussein Obama." He continued, "I submit that Barack Hussein Obama's unilateral negotiations with terrorists and the ensuing release of their key leadership without consult -- mandated by law -- with the U.S. Congress represents high crimes and misdemeanors, an impeachable offense."
CNN's Chris Cuomo missed a prime opportunity to challenge Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on his inconsistency regarding support for a prisoner swap with the Taliban in exchange for the release of a captive American solider.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American captive held by the Taliban since 2009, was released on May 31, pursuant to an agreement between the White House, the government of Qatar (acting as an intermediary), and the Taliban that secured the release of five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
On the June 3 edition of CNN's New Day, Sen. McCain railed against the exchange as "incomprehensible," arguing that it allows the Taliban "to pick the dream team" who will end up "back in the battlefield putting the lives of Americans in danger." Host Chris Cuomo noted that the exchange had "been in the works for years," prompting McCain to double-down on his argument that the exchange was inappropriate:
MCCAIN: The problem that I have, and many others have, is what we paid for that release, and that is, releasing five of the most hardened, anti-American killers, brutal killers, who are, by the way, are also wanted by the international criminal court for their incredible brutality, and the fact that within a very short time, if the past proves true, they'll be back in the battlefield putting the lives of Americans in danger in the future. And that's what most of us find incomprehensible, that the Taliban should be allowed to pick the 'dream team,' as my friend Lindsey Graham called it, and send them to Qatar, and obviously, they will be back in the fight. Thirty percent of those who have already been released from Guantanamo have reentered the fight, and this is the top. These are the people that have blood of thousands on their hands, at least in one case. And so you have to understand what was done in exchange for the release of Sergeant Bergdahl.
CUOMO: The issue of surprise and shock comes up here, Senator. This deal has been in the works for years. The president says he consulted with Congress about this potential trade. Were you consulted with?
MCCAIN: No, and I've talked to members of the intelligence committee, Congressman Rogers, Senator Chambliss. We were at the meeting where they were talking about releasing some Taliban as confidence measures to move negotiations forward, as long as two years ago. There was never discussion that any of us know about this straight-up and all of the aspects of this trade for Sergeant Bergdahl. And that's just a fact.
CUOMO: On whose side, Senator? Is the president hiding the ball of what types of Taliban guys were involved? Or is your side hiding the ball that you knew but you didn't know everything, so you're going to say that you knew nothing?
MCCAIN: Well, we were never told there would be an exchange here of Sergeant Bergdahl for five Taliban. We told they were considering, and we steadfastly, both Republican and Democrats, rejected the notion that they were going to release some of these Taliban in exchange for, "confidence building measures" so that negotiations could continue. What we were briefed on was an entirely different scenario from the one that took place. Look, I'm not one who believes that Congress should bind the hands of the president particularly as commander-in-chief. That's not my problem. My problem is, what we did in exchange, which could put the lives of American servicemen and women in grave danger in the future, unless you believe that this conflict is over and that the Taliban and Al Qaeda have stop wanting to destroy America and repeat of 9/11, then, fine. But they've not, and they're not, and they are growing, despite what the administration says.
From the June 3 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Fox News' Howard Kurtz cherry-picked from a Politico article on President Obama to misleadingly portray him as having "checked out" of the presidency during his second term in order to "take advantage of the perks of office" like hanging out with celebrities and playing golf.
In a June 3 article for FoxNews.com, Kurtz criticized Obama's actions during his sixth year of presidency, claiming that he had "greatly diminished clout" and that he had "lowered his expectations" in order to "ramp up the partying." As proof, Kurtz pointed to excerpts from a recent Politico article on Obama's second term:
Barack Obama's presidency seems to be drifting in its sixth year, as he is all too aware.
Obama has downsized his ambitions, tempered his expectations and is trying to take advantage of the perks of office. He is inviting celebrities for private dinners and spending more time on the golf course.
Oh, and he's thinking more about his post-White House years.
These are among the takeaways in a major Politico piece that is largely sympathetic to the stymied president, even as it reports on his greatly diminished clout.
"The portrait emerges of a president shadowed by a deepening awareness that his time and power are finite, and that two-thirds of his presidency is already in the past tense," the piece says.
But the Politico article mainly focused on Obama's recent work on racial issues and political outreach. Kurtz downplayed the outreach angle, portraying it as "too little too late," and he completely ignored Obama's work on race.
Politico stated that Obama's coordination with Congress has "never been better":
For the first time, aides said, Obama is trying to respond to almost every letter from an individual lawmaker with a handwritten note. He is doing more public bill signings at the request of members, as he did May 23, when Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) got an Oval Office ceremony for two minor pieces of legislation establishing new congressional gold medals. Almost 40 lawmakers have received invites to travel on Air Force One this year, an increase from 28 at this time last year. He's directed staff to organize another round of cocktail hours with House and Senate Democrats at the White House.
Also this year, Obama began setting aside 45 minutes in his schedule every week to call a handful of Republican and Democratic lawmakers -- more than 70 so far -- to discuss issues, from ambitious initiatives like immigration to lower-profile bills such as patent reform. Obama had a dedicated "call time" early in his first term before it dropped off during the reelection campaign, although he has made calls outside this window, as well. The White House also has worked with lawmakers ahead of major announcements.
"The coordination between the White House and the Congress has never been better," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the No. 3 Senate leader who has served as the main point of contact with the White House.
Politico also pointed to Obama's recent work to discuss and push legislation around race through programs like My Brother's Keeper, accomplishments that were deemed too "polarizing" and "distracting" to work during previous terms:
The man who broke barriers as the first African-American president is tackling race -- a subject he once shooed aside as a polarizing distraction -- in a far more personal and public way than ever.
Obama was selective about when he waded into the issue during his first term, after the controversy ignited by his off-the-cuff comment on the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, an African-American who was suspected of burglary, by a white police officer.
Instead, Obama emphasized broad economic equality as the best way to deal with lingering racial injustice and disparities, a message that blurred the lines between black and white in the same way his candidacy aimed to do. That approach -- an electoral necessity in the view of Obama's brain trust -- disappointed African-Americans, who saw it as a lost opportunity for Obama to exert his voice.
Obama no longer feels so constrained, especially as he seeks ways besides legislation to have an impact.
Kurtz's analysis of Obama not only ignored his administration's recent political accomplishments such as the groundbreaking proposed EPA regulations to reduce carbon emissions, but also echoes the right-wing media's false narrative that Obama is lazy for playing golf or taking vacations.
With the outsized vitriol Barack Obama's presidency has inspired among conservatives, it's seemed inevitable that the right would try to find some reason to impeach him. For more than five years, fringe activists, conservative media, and various Republican politicians have invoked the specter of impeachment over any number of manufactured scandals and supposed outrages. In a new book out today, National Review writer and former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy tries to kickstart the movement in earnest, laying out the "political case" for impeaching the president.
Writing in the New Republic in 2010, liberal journalist Jonathan Chait predicted that if Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and Obama won a second term, "the House will vote to impeach him before he leaves office." He continued, "Wait, you say. What will they impeach him over? You can always find something." Indeed, for much of Obama's presidency, the prospect of impeachment has been a hammer in search of a nail.
While fringe activists have been agitating for impeachment for years, more mainstream conservatives have been considerably more reluctant.
In Faithless Execution: Building The Political Case For Obama's Impeachment, McCarthy tries to bridge the gap and build support for impeachment as a serious idea. The crux of McCarthy's argument is that despite what he sees as the rock-solid legal justification for impeaching Obama, Republicans cannot move forward with the effort without first convincing the public that removing the president from office is the right course of action. To do so without public backing would "look like partisan hackery. It would be worse than futile."
Slate's David Weigel explained in a piece last month about Republicans' recent push to impeach Obama "without looking crazy" that many of the supposed impeachable offenses highlighted in McCarthy's book have already "faded under the klieg lights of big media." (Though Weigel points out that McCarthy "puts some of the blame for that on Republicans" and their timidity over the issue of impeachment.)
While he's ostensibly trying to jumpstart popular support for removing Obama from office, McCarthy's book seems unlikely to win any new converts -- it's just more preaching to people already in the conservative media bubble (the first reference to frequent right-wing boogeyman Saul Alinsky comes in the third paragraph and the first invocation of "ACORN" follows shortly thereafter).
Half of Faithless Execution is comprised of McCarthy's draft Articles of Impeachment. The supposed outrages in the book are a mix of ongoing focuses of conservative ire -- "The Benghazi Fraud," and "The Obamacare Fraud," for example -- and long-forgotten Scandals of the Month like the "racially discriminatory" Justice Department's treatment of the New Black Panther Party. If all of these pseudo-scandals that conservatives flogged relentlessly weren't enough to keep Obama from winning a second term, it's hard to envision the public deciding they constitute justification for impeachment thanks to a reinvigorated push from Republicans.
Update: Faithless Execution's release comes amid a new wave of conservative calls for impeachment. This morning, Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said Obama "may very well have committed a federal crime" with the release of Bowe Bergdahl. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy responded by plugging McCarthy's book, and Napolitano highlighted McCarthy's comments to the Mail Online suggesting potential impeachment over Bergdahl. Napolitano added, "it's a very, very valid argument that people are going to start talking about." A few hours later, Fox News program Outnumbered returned to the impeachment subject, with host Sandra Smith asking, "does this become an impeachable offense?" Fellow Fox contributor Allen West was more forceful, posting on his website, "the U.S. House of Representatives should file articles of impeachment against Barack Hussein Obama."*
McCarthy concedes in the book, "As things currently stand, the public does not support impeachment -- no surprise, given that no substantial argument for impeachment has been attempted."
Whether or not McCarthy sees any of the other arguments as "substantial," the prospect of impeaching Obama has been a regular source of discussion for conservatives since shortly after the president took office. McCarthy's isn't even the first book to try to lay out the argument in serious fashion -- last year WND writer Aaron Klein and co-author Brenda Elliott released Impeachable Offenses: The Case for Removing Barack Obama from Office.
Media Matters looks back at some -- but far from all -- of conservatives' incessant calls for impeachment below.
From the June 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Right-wing media greeted news of the release of the only U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan with claims that his freedom was timed to distract from the controversy plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).