- - Thursday, June 5, 2014

Still reeling from the Bergdahl-Taliban swap, Americans now watch, gobsmacked, as the White House doubles down on crazy.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers speaking publicly about witnessing him desert his unit has sent the White House spinning. Instead of gracefully pulling back from their lionizing of the retrieved soldier, the White House is instead calling his squad mates liars, impugning the motives and character of the men who served with Sgt. Bergdahl.

If there is anyone who knows the facts and can be relied upon to tell the truth about what happened the night Sgt. Bergdahl “disappeared,” it’s his squad mates. They are the witnesses any official investigation will count on as they re-create what happened that day in Afghanistan.

Yet, according to NBC’s Chuck Todd, it appears the White House thinks its next really good move is to brand the troops liars. On NBC’s “Today” show, Mr. Todd said White House aides are accusing the soldiers of “swift-boating” Sgt. Bergdahl:


“They did not expect this backlash on Bergdahl himself. I’ve had a few aides describe it to me as ‘we didn’t know that they were going to swift-boat Bergdahl … .” When asked on Twitter if “swift-boating” was the actual phrase used by the aide, Mr. Todd replied, “I didn’t make it up.”

Following the 2004 election, the complaints about John F. Kerry by his fellow swift-boat veterans was turned into a derogatory verb, “swift-boating,” used by Democrats to accuse someone of lying. This was said to a reporter, meaning they intended the smear of these young men to become part of the public discussion.

The initial reaction to the recovery of Sgt. Bergdahl by his former platoon mates came in comments about their concern and distress on Twitter and Facebook, clearly an early indication of a situation growing beyond the Obama team’s control.

The fellow soldiers were taken aback by the efforts to glorify a man whose situation they attest put scores of troops at risk, and whose rescue operations reportedly took the lives of six soldiers.

They are the troops who lived and worked with Sgt. Bergdahl. They also were the first impacted by what they describe as his desertion and their acquiring audio evidence of his efforts to reach the Taliban.

After difficulty in getting journalists to listen to them, they turned to Twitter asking for help getting the word out. Richard Grenell, a conservative communications consultant, offered his firm’s pro-bono assistance connecting the soldiers with journalists.

In a desperate effort to turn this into a partisan story and to shield President Obama, Internet site Buzzfeed jumped on Mr. Grenell’s assistance as proof the soldiers were part of a GOP plot against Sgt. Bergdahl. The evidence? In the past, Mr. Grenell’s company has worked for Republican politicians and candidates. The New York Times felt it important to say “Republican strategists” had arranged the interview they conducted with the men, thereby implying it was a Republican-led scheme.

Ron Fournier of the National Journal jumped on board by declaring Mr. Grenell’s assistance of the soldiers part of a political GOP “news whisper” campaign.

Mr. Fournier made no attempt to contact Mr. Grenell before publishing his story. Had he done so, he would have found the person in Mr. Grenell’s office helping the soldiers pro-bono, Brad Chase, is not a Republican. In fact, according to his Twitter account, he voted for Mr. Kerry in 2004.

So much for a GOP “news whisper” campaign.

I spoke with Mr. Chase, and asked him why he thought the soldiers are coming forward. He told me, “They never wanted it to be political. They wanted the world to know the facts, and are calling for this man to be held accountable.”

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