June 4, 2014

Bergdahl and the American right

I avoided this story for the first few days, but decided to do a little reading.  I have been a little amazed at how quickly the right has already jumped to "impeachment" for Obama over this.  As Sullivan notes,

The contradictions are, of course, bleeding obvious. Obama is to be excoriated for abandoning Americans in the line of fire in Benghazi and then excoriated for rescuing a service member in enemy captivity in the matter of Bowe Bergdahl. You’ll see that, not for the first time, the president cannot win. 
The details are still a little hazy.  Perhaps Bergdahl deserted, and if so, he will be prosecuted for that.  I think Sullivan is correct as well to note that if we decide about retrieving American soldiers based on their political beliefs, we head down a pretty dark and un American path.  From the other side, the right jumps on the swap for Taliban soldiers, but again, Sully points to a glaring contradiction:
You’ll also note that one of the American right’s heroes, Bibi Netanyahu, released more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, some of whom had actually murdered Israeli civilians, in order to retrieve Gilad Shalit. Somehow Netanyahu is not regarded as a terrorist-sympathizer by the Tea Party.
I have long since lost my ability to be surprised at how people like Palin respond to this President.  Their patriotism is really only reserved for people they like.  But I am also thinking about how consumed the right has become with conspiracy, yet they don't seem to think it through.  Conspiracies usually involve some kind of up-side for the conspirators.  I struggled to find that for Benghazi, or the IRS scandal, and failed.  I understand that cover-ups can be the upside, but am not sure that is what happened in either of those cases.  Fast-forward to Bergdahl, and I am still wondering what possible conspiracy up-side there is for Obama?  I think Sully is right here as well--it only works as conspiracy if you are convinced that this President is not really American.  Sure, he got bin Laden when Bush had failed.  And he killed al-Awlaki as well.   His use of drones is of great concern, but those drones have been used to kill suspected muslim terrorists.  Yet, for the right, he is actually still on the side of the terrorists and trying to undermine our country.  You know, by getting people health insurance.



Noah Smith said...

I've been trying to figure out how to articulate what's wrong with these conspiracies the FOX crowd loves so much. You hit it: there's no upside. So let's say Benghazi was a cover-up. For....what? Profit? A new car?


So what if Bergdhal turns out to be a deserter. As you note, he'll be prosecuted for it. And even for deserters, we will try to rescue them. They're one of us; an American. We'll spend capital and lives on Americans, regardless of creed. And who's to say he *is* a deserter? Obviously, people knew enough about his packing up and leaving, but nobody stopped him? Nobody said anything?

This is a totally weird situation in which it is far, far too early to judge behavior and make a call as to worth or guilt.

Streak said...

I just noted on a FB thread that this issue has three separate questions--in my opinion, only one of them is really legitimate.

1), should we trade captured terrorists for American soldiers? I think we have ample historical evidence of this kind of exchange to know that it is a legitimate action. Not saying that this particular exchange should have happened, but it isn't automatically wrong.

2) should we exchange Taliban fighters for this particular soldier? As we discussed his political leanings or quality as a soldier shouldn't matter. Would we be having this conversation if he was a right wing poster boy? Doubtful.

3) Did Obama follow the letter of the law. This is the only legitimate question, at least in my mind. And I really don't know the answer. I suspect we will find reasonable people on both sides. I do know that if the republicans decide to impeach, they will cement in my mind that they don't mind torture and illegal war--they just don't like Democrats. Actually, they hate Democrats.

leighton said...

It seems like there are two distinct branches of Obama conspiracy theories for each issue.

The first branch claims that Obama is completely incompetent, and is trying and failing to cover up evidence of this. For instance, Benghazi was a manifest failure to adequately defend a US embassy, followed by a failed coverup. The IRS scandal was a ham-handed attempt to silence political opponents, followed by a failed coverup that couldn't stop word from getting out.

The second branch claims that Obama is an arch-villain the likes of which the world has never seen before. Benghazi was a false flag operation to assassinate a US ambassador for (insert your favorite reasons here), and the IRS scandal was an unprecedented* attempt to leverage the might of the tax collection agency against political opponents.

I agree that conspirators don't think these things through, in the sense that an advocate of presidential idiocy will tend to view an advocate of presidential evil genius as an ally, and vice versa. They're not just claiming different things, they're claiming opposite things.

But then, conspiracy theories have never been about explaining reality.

* Nixon actually did do it decades ago, but who needs facts?

Streak said...

I think that is pretty accurate, Leighton. As many have noted, the right can't figure out if their narrative is that Obama is the evil archvillain or incompetent, just as they can't figure out if he is a fascist or a communist.