In his New York Post column today John Podhoretz puts the revelation of the Bergdahl disgrace over the past week in the context of Obama’s carefully manicured image. “What happens,” he asks, “when the world’s greatest spin doctor commits malpractice — on himself?”
John reviews the chronicles of Obama spin, going back to the pseudo presidential seal (“Vero possumus”) and mock Greek temple of the 2008 campaign. John credits these devices as great successes that showed an instinctive feel for the electorate.
I thought they were laughable, though I can’t say they didn’t feed his audience’s will to believe. Obama served up religion for nonbelievers, presenting himself as a figure who had come to redeem the time. Thus his equally laughable St. Paul speech of June 4, 2008 (“generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal…”).
John notes the elements of Obama’s media strategy in office. In office, Obama has played to low-information voters through the use of pop culture. Employing his usual devices, Obama had reason to believe his stage management of the swap of Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban commanders would play to his advantage. Yet he has come a cropper. What happened? John argues:
He made a conscious decision to play up the emotion — having Bergdahl’s parents standing beside him in the Rose Garden, proudly declaiming his obligation as commander in chief not to leave a man behind.
He knew a firestorm would inevitably erupt over the release of the Taliban 5 from Gitmo, but as long as it was a political and policy firestorm, he could insulate himself from it by invoking the greatest of all pop-culture fantasies: a happy ending.
The importance of the storyline was so absolute that his national-security adviser, Susan Rice, found it necessary to go on a Sunday chat show and say Bowe Bergdahl had “served with distinction and honor.”
She knew that was not a true thing to say about Bergdahl’s service, but she had to say it because the pop-culture plotline called for it.
She also said reporters Bergdahl’s release had been urgent because he was near death — a detail that offered even greater emotional justification.
Alas, this proved not to be true either; at a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the director of national intelligence, John [sic] Clapper, said the administration had no intelligence to suggest this.
The bottom line is that the president settled on a controversial, high- risk strategy here in a difficult and problematic manner — and then sought to use his mastery of pop culture to change the story to a more palatable one. But some stories just can’t be gussied up.
In the Bergdahl deal Obama has sought to employ the rank dishonesty and usual straw men that have served him so well in the scandals that have nipped at his heels in office. In this case, however, the revelation of Bergdahl’s desertion — going back to Michael Hastings’s 2012 Rolling Stone article but now sworn to by the men who served with him in his platoon — has made this a deal that won’t go down. Jake Tapper even got the story out on CNN.
Susan Rice spun the lie that was necessary to support the deal. The lie never got hold. Its falsity is so obvious that she has now fabricated two even more obvious lies with which to retreat from the lie that wouldn’t hold. Who’s counting? We are lost in Obamaworld.
Obama’s continuing lies about the measures taken to prevent the five Taliban commanders from returning to the service of their cause add to the feeling of absurdity. Indeed, they rankle. Combined with the evidence of Bergdahl’s desertion, the White House storyline has fallen apart. It stands revealed as a fairy tale for fools.
Are we fools? As the great Suzy Bogguss says (quoting a childhood neighbor): “I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.” Obama certainly thinks so and, as John demonstrates in his thought-provoking column, he’s got a lot of evidence to support the proposition. For the moment, however, he seems to have come to the end of the line.