America's reaction to the conservative/liberal debate over the Bergdahl exchange seems to be "both sides kind of have a point." A majority of Americans think the exchange was "the wrong thing to do," according to a new Pew Research/USA Today poll. A larger majority of Americans also think it's the U.S.'s responsibility to secure the release of captives "no matter the circumstances." In other words, Americans like what Obama did, but not how he did it.
Last Thursday Politico reported that the administration has been surprised by the focus on whether Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured after leaving his base in Afghanistan in 2009, deserted his post, as many have alleged. Aides called the backlash "proxy for the hatred toward the president," but the Pew/USA poll show that those allegations haven't turned most American against Bergdahl.
The majority of Americans (59 percent) aren't sympathetic towards or angry with Bergdahl, while 15 percent are sympathetic and 15 percent are angry. Households with veterans, on the other hand, were more likely to disapprove of the exchange, be angry with Bergdahl, and argue that Obama had no obligation to rescue him after he left his post.
One criticism that has stuck is that a majority of Americans think Obama should have told Congress about his plan to release five members of the Taliban from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl. Eighty-seven percent of Republicans, 67 percent of independents and even 44 percent of Democrats believed the president should have informed Congress. Overall, only 30 percent of Americans thought he “should have the flexibility to make decisions like these without informing Congress in advance.” That plays into a different conservative talking point on the trade — once again Obama thought he had the "flexibility" to break the law.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.