Those hoping to see Republicans turn down the rhetorical volume on their complaints about a freed American POW must have been disappointed over the weekend, when several notable GOP figures apparently looked for new ways to shocking.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for example, addressed the Texas Republican Party convention. “Here’s what I’m thinking, Mr. President, you love to trade people. Why don’t we set up a trade, but this time instead of five Taliban, how about five Democrats?” Paul said. “I’m thinking John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi – couldn’t we send them to Mexico?”
The Kentucky Republican was so pleased with himself, he put his joke on Twitter.
Headlining the South Carolina GOP’s annual Silver Elephant Dinner, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) also tried out new material condemning President Obama for securing the release of an American POW.
… Jindal, a prospective 2016 presidential candidate, said he was particularly troubled by the administration’s foreign policy.“Apparently, our president has adopted a catch-and-release policy toward terrorists,” Jindal said, referencing the decision to trade five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl’s freedom.
Note, from Jindal’s perspective, it’s not just wrong to negotiate a prisoner-swap; it’s also wrong to release any detainees from Guantanamo Bay, regardless of circumstances. To do so is to adopt “a catch-and-release policy toward terrorists.”
The entire line of attack continues to be incoherent. As we talked about in April, it was this president who escalated the use of force against al Qaeda; it was this president that launched the mission that killed bin Laden; it was this president who increased the use of predator drones to strike at terrorist suspects (including killing Americans affiliated with al Qaeda living abroad); it was this president who helped assemble an international coalition to strike at the Gadhafi regime in Libya; and on and on. For the far-right to somehow believe Obama just isn’t “tough” enough when it comes to counter-terrorism is bizarre given Republican definitions of “toughness.”
But what I’m especially interested in is the extent to which Jindal was upset when the Bush/Cheney administration released 500 prisoners from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
Indeed, one of the detainees Bush released is a suspect in the 2012 Benghazi attack that left four Americans killed. (Last week, Ron Fournier, in a craven display for any mainstream journalist, said that if any of the detainees from the Bergdahl prisoner-swap act against the United States, “Obama will have blood on his hands.” As best as I can tell, the pundit has made no similarly scurrilous comments about Obama’s predecessor.)
Where were the “catch-and-release” jokes before?
It reminds me of something we talked about in February: competing standards for different presidents.
When other presidents issue executive orders, it’s fine. When Obama does it, it’s scandalous.
When other presidents rely on “czars,” it’s fine. When Obama does it, it’s scandalous.
When other presidents make recess appointments, it’s fine. When Obama does it, it’s scandalous.
When other presidents decide not to defend certain federal laws against court challenges, it’s fine. When Obama does it, it’s scandalous.
Other presidents have bowed when meeting foreign heads of state. They’ve tried terrorist suspects in federal courts. They were photographed wearing casual attire in the Oval Office. But when this president has done the exact same things, his detractors have turned the meaningless incidents into controversies.
And now we have new examples. When Bush released prisoners from Guantanamo, it’s fine. When Obama transferred prisoners from Guantanamo to secure the release of an American POW, it’s scandalous, too.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with holding presidents to high standards. It’s holding Obama to a higher standard than each of his predecessors that’s harder to understand.