The best measure of whether President Obama cut a smart deal to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is what happens to the five Guantanamo Bay terrorists he traded away. Do they go (a) into retirement; (b) into battle against the United States; (c) or into five cold graves?
The rest of what you're hearing about the swap is politics "“ thinly disguised as a legal and foreign policy debate. Unless you can predict the future, the smart move on such a complex story is to avoid an absolutist position.
Here's what happen when you don't:
The White House has undermined its credibility "“ again "“by confusing governing with campaigning. It was no secret that the Taliban's capture of Bergdahl was complicated by evidence that he abandoned his unit. Many people in government long considered the soldier a deserter or traitor. Still, the United States had a moral obligation to seek Berghdal's freedom and a national security imperative to get him into the military justice system, where any complicity with the Taliban would be exposed, mitigated and punished. Little about the case was unambiguous.
All too typically, White House officials dismissed the grays and painted a black-and-white picture, one with a front-and-center pose for their hero-president.
- National Security Adviser Susan Rice declared on ABC's "This Week" that Bergdahl served with "honor and distinction," an eyebrow-raiser that evoked memories of her Benghazi talking points fiasco.
- Bergdahl's parents were summoned to a Rose Garden ceremony that only a laughably incompetent communications team wouldn't recognize as a public relations risk.
- The White House failed to notify Congress in advance of the swap, as required by law. Presidential aides called it an "oversight." Overlooking something as basic as a congressional head's up? It's hard to believe that senior presidential advisers could be that incompetent, but the only other alternative is that they're lying.