The Obama administration’s trade of five highly dangerous Taliban prisoners for probable Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl seems to have finally awoken parts of the American media from their six-year slumber. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews thrill is gone, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell is actually asking the White House tough questions and CNN’s Candy Crowley wants to know if the the president negotiated with terrorists.
But despite what looks like a dramatic shift in how American journalists cover this White House (at least on foreign policy), there will always be holdouts — reporters content to bury their heads in the sand and pretend all is well, even as their narrative of a competent and careful presidency crumbles around them.
Of course there’s MSNBC, which — with a few notable exceptions — has been wall-to-wall Bergdahl justification and attacks on the GOP for “swift-boating” the deserting soldier. Readers can watch the network hosts twist themselves into pretzels above the headline.
There’s also MSNBC presenter Rachel Maddow, whose truly abhorrent segment on Tuesday equating Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch’s 2003 capture in the line of duty to Bergdahl’s probable desertion merits its own piece — not to mention an apology to Lynch (RELATED: Maddow Equates Pvt. Jessica Lynch’s Wrong Turn In Iraq To Sgt. Bergdahl’s Desertion In Afghanistan).
But Obama’s print media flacks have been busy as well. Predictably, left-wing outlets may have largely shied away from covering the prisoner swap, but when forced to address the controversy, they’ve tried their hardest to rationalize the president’s decision while blasting any criticism as ginned-up right-wing talking points.
The government-funded, obviously nonpartisan PBS NewsHour published an ingratiating piece by Larisa Epatko on Monday that extolled Bergdahl’s “loving family” and all the wonderful support that will help him “reintegrate” into society.
In the slightest of nods to what was already an exploding scandal over Bergdahl’s likely desertion and the dangerous Taliban released, Epatko referenced “the national dialogue triggered” by the trade.
Bob Dreyfuss at The Nation blasted the “nonsensical furor over Bergdahl’s release” on Wednesday, adding that the trade “will have been a very, very smart thing” if it leads to a “stabilized” Afghanistan by 2016. No explanation of how mass-murdering war criminals will act as a stabilizing force.
Mother Jones ran a fawning Wednesday piece by Shane Bauer — who himself spent 28 months in an Iranian jail after being captured on a hike in 2009 — addressed directly to Bergdahl. “You’ll find that many are blaming you for your own captivity,” Bauer dutifully intones. “Some of them think you should be punished further . . . Blaming the victim is always a way to protect the powerful.”
Salon, one left-wing outlet that seems to have embraced the story, had Editor-at-Large Joan Walsh engage in her favorite past-time on Tuesday — erecting straw men she can then gleefully tear down.
“The anti-Bergdahl hysteria plays into six years of scurrilous insinuation that Obama is a secret Muslim who either supports or sympathizes with our enemies,” she wrote, adding that the Bergdahl shift “reflects growing concern that the right’s Benghazi dishonesty isn’t working with voters.” In Walsh’s world, shadowy GOP strategists — not the veritable deluge of Bergdahl’s angry former comrades — are driving the narrative.
Speaking of straw men, Vox, Ezra Klein’s sanctimonious new website, tasked Zack Beauchamp with “explaining” to us mere mortals how the conservative establishment is “utterly, totally partisan” and flip-flopping on Bergdahl. The evidence? Tweets from random right-wingers with names like “Jazzy Vajazzleds” and “Shannon//(* ~)\\.”
Now there’s some “explanatory journalism” for you.