Republicans are outraged that President Barack Obama authorized a prisoner exchange with the Taliban for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — who has been held captive since 2009 — and that they plan to use the exchange against Democrats in the upcoming election.
The news of the prisoner exchange — in which Sgt. Bergdahl was swapped for Afghan detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay — surprised many Republicans because, they claim, it violated a law Obama signed last year requiring the defense secretary to notify congressional committees 30 days before arranging for a transfer of prisoners.
When he signed the law, however, President Obama issued a signing statement in which he contended that the notification requirement was an unconstitutional infringement on his powers as commander-in-chief.
“Due to a near-term opportunity to save Sergeant Bergdahl’s life, we moved as quickly as possible,” a senior administration official toldThe Washington Post. “The administration determined that given these unique and exigent circumstances, such a transfer should go forward notwithstanding the notice requirement.”
One possible reason the president chose not to notify lawmakers is that last time he attempted to negotiate Sgt. Bergdahl’s release, Republicans both formally and informally blocked all efforts to do so.
In addition to using congressional oversight, special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman was told by Republican leadership that negotiating an exchange of Sgt. Bergdahl that involved detainees from Guantanamo Bay would be the president’s “Willie Horton moment,” a reference to the infamous “Revolving Door” advertisement that George H.W. Bush campaign used to make 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis look “soft” on crime.
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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