Would You Trade Bergdahl To The Taliban To Get The Gitmo Prisoners Back?

Conservative pundits and politicians are making another fuss over President Obama’s leadership, this time due to his successfully securing the freedom of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl who was a captive of the Taliban. Critics are complaining about everything from the legality of the operation, to the wisdom of releasing a few Taliban detainees, to the value of retrieving a soldier who has been accused of desertion.

All of these complaints can be resolved by requiring the critics to answer a simple question: Knowing what we know now, would you favor trading Bergdahl back to the Taliban in exchange for the former prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay?

If the answer is yes, then you have a perverse notion of patriotism. No citizen should consider the captivity of an American to be acceptable. Even if that captive is suspected of criminal behavior, it is the responsibility of our country to adjudicate his fate, not some foreign nation or military faction.

If the answer is no, then, like it or not, you agree with the actions of the President. It would be foolish and inhumane to even consider trading an American away to our enemies in exchange for some of their operatives.

In almost every commentary on this exchange, the conservative critic prefaced his remarks by saying that he was glad that Bergdahl was free and heading home. Then, just as predictably, he would say that it was unconscionable that such hardened terrorists were allowed to leave the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Of course the former would not have been possible without the latter. But what none of them are saying is that the former prisoners do not have much to look forward to. Their movements are being monitored closely by officials in Qatar and, very likely, various U.S. intelligence agencies as well. With regard to the prospect of them returning to a life of terrorism, Obama said…

“Is there a possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought it was contrary to American national security, and we have confidence that we will be in a position to go after them if in fact they are engaging in activities to threaten our defenses.”

In other words, the detainees swapped a life of leisure in the Caribbean for one of constantly looking over their shoulders for drones. Should they choose to rejoin their former comrades on the battlefield, they are most likely going to join more than two hundred of them in the place where they now call home – the graveyard.

Club Gitmo Limbaugh

It’s more than a little curious that so many right-wingers are now lambasting the release of the Gitmo Five when not so long ago they complained that the detention center was more like a luxury spa than a prison. For example:

  • Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX): Gitmo is lap of luxury for detainees. […] The accommodations had a freshness and newness about them. Some of the rooms afforded waterfront views.
  • Charles Krauthammer (Fox News): How do I get two weeks at Gitmo? Sounds really good. The weather’s good. I get eighteen channels. A lot of exercise and I don’t have to work.
  • Rush Limbaugh (Loudmouth): There’s no better place than Gitmo. Club Gitmo, the Muslim resort. […] It’s a tropical paradise down there where Muslim extremists and terrorist wannabes can get together for rest and relaxation.

You might think that these witty whiners would be happy to see some bad guys evicted from such enviable quarters. Now they are sweating in the desert, dodging bullets, and having to work for a living. Under the circumstances, the implausible hypothetical question posed above might actually offer an appealing alternative to the now “free” Taliban operatives. But all of a sudden, the wingnuts who once thought that Gitmo was coddling their guests, now think they should have remained there to suffer.

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The one common thread that runs through this affair is that conservatives, who like to fancy themselves as Constitutionalists, are all too happy to abandon that document when it suits them. That’s why they have no problem holding enemy combatants for indeterminate periods without ever charging or trying them. And they also don’t object to trying Americans like Bergdahl as a deserter (which carries a penalty of death) without ever conducting an investigation or even getting his testimony.

Charles Krauthammer Of Fox News Has Hillary Clinton Amnesia

Often portrayed as the intellectual voice of contemporary conservatism, Fox News pundit Charles Krauthammer seems more like a doddering old coot with a touch of dementia. How else to explain the whimpering challenge he issued during an interview on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show on Tuesday. It was also picked up for a segment today on Fox News.

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Krauthammer: When people talk about Hillary being a superb secretary of state, I just ask one question. Name me one thing, just one, not three, give me one thing she achieved in her four years as secretary of state. I have yet to hear an answer. … She traveled a lot. So did Marco Polo. And you want him to be president?

Obviously the rightist audience listening to Hewitt’s program wouldn’t want Marco Polo because he was an illegal immigrant pretty much everywhere he went. But as to the substance of Krauthammer’s inquiry, you would have to wonder who he was asking. Most likely it was other wingnut enemies of Hillary Clinton who wouldn’t give her credit even if they could cite something positive.

It would not be difficult, though, for Krauthammer to get an answer to his question if he really wanted one. Or maybe The Google is just too confusing to him. Here is, not one, but eight achievements for which Clinton can take at least partial credit (h/t The Week):

1. The liberation of Libya
Clinton was among a group of administration officials urging Obama in 2011 to help Libyan rebels overthrow longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, over objections from Defense Secretary Roberts Gates and others.

2. The opening-up of Myanmar
In 2012, Clinton became the first secretary of state in 50 years to make an official visit to Myanmar, part of the Obama administration’s efforts to reward the ruling military junta for taking concrete steps toward a freer society.

3. Playing peacemaker in the Middle East
In late 2012, Clinton brought all her diplomatic resources to bear during a bloody outbreak of violence between Israel and Arab militants in the Gaza Strip, performing a whirlwind tour of the region that many credited with helping prevent an all-out war.

4. Freeing a Chinese dissident
Clinton’s May 2012 visit to China, ostensibly about mutual economic and security concerns, was ensnared in a full-blown diplomatic emergency, after human-rights dissident Chen Guangcheng escaped house arrest and took refuge at the U.S. Embassy.

5. Killing Osama bin Laden
Clinton was not intimately involved in the clandestine operation to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011, but she will be indelibly linked to the moment, thanks to a photograph showing her real-time response to the operation in the White House Situation Room.

6. Tightening sanctions on Iran
Clinton announced new sanctions on Iran with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, played an important role in the U.S.’s efforts to win international support to isolate Iran economically. The sanctions have been the most severe Iran has ever dealt with.

7. Isolating Syria’s Assad
Clinton condemned atrocities committed by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and played a central role in the administration’s efforts to corral international support against the regime.

8. Fighting for women’s rights
One of Clinton’s main initiatives as secretary of state was to champion the cause of gender equality, one of the hallmarks of her political career that stretches back to her days as First Lady.

Fox News, of course, isn’t interested in having an honest discourse on this subject. The truth is that Krauthammer never expected an answer to his disingenuous inquiry. Just floating the question raises the doubts for which he is aiming. He knows that most people can’t extemporaneously recite the accomplishments of any Secretary of State, or most other government officials.

In all likelihood Krauthammer himself could not cite any of Condoleezza Rice’s accomplishments when she headed the State Department. And he would certainly have forgotten the six times American embassies were attacked on her watch. With the frothing intensity that Fox has attacked Clinton over the tragedy in Benghazi, just imagine how much more severe their rage would be if Clinton had six Benghazis like Rice did.

So F**cking What? Obama’s Clandestine Conspiracy To Go Golfing

With everything going on in the world today, much of the right-wing media has decided to make a federal case of President Obama playing golf with Tiger Woods and not permitting the media to tag along.

Fox News

How dare the White House shut the media out of Obama’s private time with a golf pro. What are they plotting? Is Woods giving the President advice on how to nail porn stars? Is Obama recruiting Woods to run the FEMA golf courses where wealthy conservatives will be incarcerated?

So F**king What?

Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry bitterly complained that “There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency.” Henry’s devotion to hard-nosed journalism is admirable. He’s just the sort of uncompromising reporter who will expose the next Kardashian scandal.

And while we’re on that subject, Henry’s Fox News colleague, Charles Krauthammer, doesn’t concur with Henry’s assessment of the important principle here. When Krauthammer was asked about this breaking news he said “If the guy wants to play golf, the guy deserves a couple of days off. He wants privacy? Big deal… This is the biggest non-story the media have created since the Kardashian weddings.” The only thing Krauthammer missed was that the media responsible for creating this non-story was the one that pays his salary.

Fox News And Right-Wing Media Lie About Military Access To Voting

Yesterday Fox News featured a story about the availability of early voting in the state of Ohio. As can be expected, Fox utterly mangled the truth in order to portray Democrats in a negative light.

The issue at hand was Ohio’s law that permits members of the military to engage in early voting up until the Monday prior to the election, while all other Ohioans have a deadline of the previous Friday. Democrats objected to this situation as it discriminates against certain voters and is almost certainly a violation of the Constitution’s “equal protection” clause. They filed suit in order to extend the early voting privilege to all citizens.

War on VotingTo be clear, the goal of the suit was to allow every Ohio citizen to vote early up to the Monday prior to election, not to restrict the military by taking away those three extra days. It’s a position consistent with Democratic efforts to make voting as easy as possible. Republicans, on the other hand, have been conducting a War on Voting that includes curtailing early voting, placing new regulations on registration gathering, and voter ID laws that are proven to disenfranchise millions of eligible voters in order to prevent fraud that they can’t even show exists.

Nevertheless, the conservative media jumped on this story, sensing an opportunity to misrepresent the facts and smear Democrats. Breitbart News began with a wholly dishonest article that proclaimed…

“it’s unconscionable that we as a nation wouldn’t make it as easy as possible for members of the military to vote. They arguably have more right to vote than the rest of us.”

Of course, it is the Democrats who are trying to make it as easy as possible for everyone to vote. And the notion that the military (or anyone) has more right to vote than anyone else sounds like something from an autocratic dictatorship that would place powerful elites above ordinary citizens.

Fox News picked up the story from Breitbart and discussed it with a partisan panel who regurgitated the false premise that Democrats were seeking to take something away from our military. The segment began with anchor Shannon Bream saying…

“If President Obama gets his way, the special voting rights of some of America’s finest will be eliminated. The campaign is suing to keep members of the military from having extra time to cast their ballots in one key battleground state.”

Wrong again. They are suing to give everyone extra time. During the discussion Charles Krauthammer even injected the assertion that soldiers need more time because the demands of their duties in war zones like Afghanistan prevent them from going to the polls. Krauthammer is supposed to be the intellectual on Fox News, but that comment is just plain stupid. Surely he must know that early voting is only available to people who are actually in the state. There are no polling places in Afghanistan, early or otherwise. Soldiers who are out of the country vote by absentee ballot and this issue doesn’t affect them in any way.

Having climbed up the Right-Wing Noise Machine food chain, Mitt Romney chimed in with his contribution to exacerbating this phony outrage:

“Any effort to impede the right of our military members, overseas or here domestically in voting, would be an extraordinary violation of the trust we should have for those who serve so valiantly.”

He’s absolutely right. That’s why it’s absurd to be making a federal case of this since what he is implying has not occurred. Romney has simply joined the ranks of those who will shamelessly exploit fabricated controversies to advance his own self-interests. And he’s not alone. Perhaps the most painfully embarrassing example of this sort of exploitation is Florida wackadoodle congressman Allen West. Here is what West posted on his Facebook page about this matter:

“As a retired Army officer I am appalled at the Obama administration’s actions to bring a lawsuit against the State of Ohio for the early voting privileges it extends to our Men and Women serving in uniform. To have the Commander in Chief make our US Servicemen and Women the target of a political attack to benefit his reelection actions is reprehensible. The voting privilege extended to these Warriors who represent the best among us should not be a part of the collective vision of this inept President who is more concerned about his reelection than sequestration. As a Combat Veteran, for this President to unleash his campaign cronies against our Military is unconscionable…..how dare this President compare the service, sacrifice, and commitment of those who Guard our liberties not as special and seek to compare them to everyone else. Barack Obama is undeserving of the title Commander-in-Chief.”

Oh my. How dare the President compare soldiers to everyone else. It’s almost as if the President has respect for both the military and for all the citizens of this country – the teachers, factory workers, architects, firefighters, entrepreneurs, cab drivers, homemakers, etc. West is aghast that members of the military are not canonized and the rest of the American people subjugated to their superiority. Ironically, West is the last person to argue for the superiority of the military seeing as he was reprimanded, fined, and nearly discharged dishonorably for engaging in torture. He was a disgrace to his uniform and has no moral standing to question the President’s role as Commander-in-Chief.

The position of Democrats in this matter is consistent with their goal to make voting easier for every citizen. To the extent that members of the military may face difficulties in getting to the polls, the same is true for nurses, policemen, and workers struggling to hold down two or more jobs to make ends meet. And the three extra days just happen to include the weekend that makes the added convenience so significant for working people.

If the polls are to be kept open until the Monday prior to election day, why not let every voter use them? That’s the question that Republicans, and the the right-wing media, cannot answer without sinking into craven hypocrisy. What exactly do they think is so horrifying about letting everyone vote?

The answer is that they assume that more military voters will swing right (an assumption they may regret), and that the working people who would benefit from the additional time are Democratic voters. So the equation is simple: Republicans want to stack the deck for the GOP and suppress their opponents. That’s where the real voter fraud is in America.

[Update:] Romney camp can’t substantiate their lie. Politico reports that: Romney’s spokesman, Ryan Williams, in an interview Saturday could point to no place in Obama’s lawsuit that seeks to restrict the rights of military voters.

Krauthammer: Fox News Created An Alternate Reality

The Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism is a creation of Rupert Murdoch, who endowed the foundation that administers it. How convenient then, that this year’s honoree is Fox News favorite, Charles Krauthammer.

Krauthammer is an unrepentant defender of torture, war, and the conservative economic model dedicated to excusing the rich and fleecing the poor. Thus, he is an obvious choice for an award bestowed by News Corporation to one of their own. I wonder what Sean Hannity would have to say about an award created by General Electric that was presented to Keith Olbermann.

In his acceptance speech, Krauthammer graciously praised the heads of News Corp. and Fox News who are, of course, also his bosses:

“I said some years ago that the genius of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes was to have discovered a niche market in American broadcasting — half the American people.”

There is little doubt that Murdoch and Ailes are adept at marketing (i.e. propaganda) and that their enterprise serves a niche market (i.e. dittoheads). However, to say that it is half of the American people is evidence that Krauthammer must have failed remedial math. There are about 360 million Americans and Fox’s audience rarely exceeds 3 or 4 million. Krauthammer seems to regard 1% and 50% as essentially the same. But that isn’t even the point at which he truly sails over the edge of his flat earth. For that he had to exhibit a bit more honesty:

“What Fox did is not just create a venue for alternative opinion. It created an alternate reality.”

Can’t argue with that. Fox News creates an alternate reality on a daily basis. They misrepresent the statements of Democrats and progressives. They edit videos to produce false and negative impressions. Studies show that Fox viewers rank lower with regard to knowledge of current events and, even worse, are far more likely to believe things that are demonstrably false.

It’s a good thing that Fox invents their own awards because they aren’t going to be winning any from reputable institutions.

Media Bias According to Fox News

On the New Year’s Eve edition of Special Report on Fox News, the matter of media bias was raised by anchor Jim Angle, sitting in for the retiring Brit Hume. It was a simple question, really. He merely remarked that it was “a big year for the media” and tossed it to panel member Bill Sammon, Deputy Managing Editor of Fox News. Sammon replied

“The year that journalism died, to borrow a phrase I first heard from Roger Ailes. I never thought the press could become more biased until I saw what happened during the coverage of the Obama campaign.”

“Unbelievable that The Washington Post ombudsman admitted afterwards that they were basically in the tank for him. We had people talking about thrill up my leg when they heard Obama’s speech.”

What’s unbelievable is listening to a senior Fox News reporter quoting Roger Ailes, the most partisan news executive in history, and complaining about the existence of bias in the news. As his example of bias, Sammon cites the allegedly favorable press treatment of Barack Obama, whom Fox and other news organizations relentlessly smeared as a radical, Socialist, Muslim-raised, inexperienced, unpatriotic, elitist, who palled around with terrorists. Just because Sammon could recall a notably stupid comment about Chris Matthews’ leg, doesn’t undo all the vile character assassination directed at Obama for months.

What’s more, Sammon’s commitment to objectivity was somewhat diminished by his company. He was sitting on a panel that displayed a diversity of political views that spanned from Jeff Birnbaum of the Moonie-Con Washington Times to conservative icon Charles Krauthammer. Sammon specifically singled out the Washington Post for criticism as biased, which is interesting because that’s the deplorable liberal rag that employs and syndicates his panel pal Krauthammer.

Sammon’s obtuse obliviousness is a rather typical Fox characteristic. They assert press bias without even a hint of ironic recognition that they are a prominent part of the mainstream media. All that matters is that they cast aspersions on anyone who is not them. Yet by the end of the program, Sammon said something that was impossible to deny:

The media really had a bad year in 2008. It will take a long time to recover.

I couldn’t agree more. And it was mostly due to the sort of dishonesty and disinformation propagated by people like Sammon and Fox News.