The contrast between the Obama administration’s handling of the cases of suspected deserter (and possible enemy collaborator) Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and unfortunate traveler Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who inadvertently crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with guns that are legal here but not there, is curious.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Bergdahl served “with honor and distinction.” In response, I must ask, “Right sentiment, wrong service member?” That sentiment usually is not applied to people about whom so many questions regarding their conduct and their loyalties abound. Conversely, no such questions exist about Sgt. Tahmooressi, but no such praise seems forthcoming.
Further, Obama has set not just one, but two bad precedents. One, he has parted with longstanding U.S. policy to not negotiate with terrorists; two, he has traded terrorists for a “hostage” (applying that term loosely to Bergdahl, given the questions that yet surround him).
There is a reason the five former inmates who resided at Guantanamo Bay were incarcerated there. There is no evidence that the danger they pose has been eliminated or that they have been rehabilitated from terrorists into peaceable human beings.
Here’s a better trade: Why not select someone who is guilty of crimes on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, for whom even the Mexican government has lost no love, and offer to allow him to serve the remainder of his sentence in Mexico in exchange for Tahmooressi?
Contrasting President Obama’s campaign tactics with how he governs also is a curious exercise. Obama has run two of the best presidential campaigns ever waged. “No Drama” Obama, the candidate, is famous for staying “on message” and for controlling the image he wished to project.
Why he has been unable or unwilling to transfer that same messaging discipline to governing is a mystery. Part of the answer, perhaps, lies in a fact that the Obama team, for all its skill at campaigning, has failed to grasp this key point: Winning elections is easy; actually governing is hard.
For an operation seemingly so concerned with image and polish, it simply doesn’t look good that the Obama administration seems so willing to go to such great lengths to “leave no service member behind” when it comes to Bergdahl, yet seems so unwilling to lift even a finger to help Tahmooressi.
Granted, it’s quite possible (even likely, one would hope) that back-channel negotiations are ongoing between the U.S. and Mexican governments, respectively, regarding Tahmooressi’s status. Perhaps the Obama administration’s silence about such negotiations stems from a desire to not jeopardize them. If so, that’s well and good.
One wonders, however, about the administration’s unwillingness even to say so much as, “We’re negotiating” regarding Tahmooressi’s status, on the one hand, when it was, on the other hand, so willing to call Bergdahl a hero and to label his service with such superlatives as “honor and distinction.”
If the Obama administration exercised the level of discipline with respect to messaging in governing that it exercised with respect to campaigning, perhaps it would be less necessary to “walk back” statements coming from administration officials — if not to pretend that no such statements ever were made in the first place.
Ken K. Gourdin, Tooele, is a certified paralegal.