Sins of the father fair game in Bergdahl affair?
I have a hankering for some worms this morning, so let's open a can of them and dig in.
There are many Americans who believe that the actions and statements of Bowe Bergdahl's father Robert to be indefensible. Learning Pashto, growing a long beard, and making sympathetic statements about the Taliban and harsh statements about America are, some believe, beyond the pale of understanding and border on treason.
On the other hand, there are those who think we should cut Bergdahl's father some slack. Put yourself in his shoes, goes the argument, and ask yourself; how far would you go to get your son back?
This debate erupted into an angry exchange on Morning Joe, with Scarborough facing off with NBC's Chuck Todd:
“I keep holding up this image where Barack Obama has his arm around a man who is reaching out to pro-Taliban forces, talking about killing Americans,” Scarborough said.
“Joe, Joe, don’t criticize the parents,” Todd replied. “Don’t criticize the parents in here, that are missing a child? Their son is missing for five years. You know what? It is not logical. You cannot handle it. You put yourself in his shoes –”
“I have a 26-year-old son, and if my son is out on the wire and he is out there with fellow troops and he is writes me up and says he hates America and he’s thinking about deserting and he’s thinking about leaving his post, I can tell you as a father of that 26-year-old or 23-year-old son, I’d say, ‘Joey, you stay the hell right there,’” Scarborough said. “I would call his commander, I would say ‘Get my son. He is not well. Get him to a military base in Germany.’ I would not say ‘Follow your conscience, son.’ I would not reach out to the voice of jihad.”
“I’m not backseat driving how someone parents,” Todd replied.
“That is not backseat driving,” Scarborough said. “I am a father. Any good father would not tell their son to follow their conscience and leave men and women on the line.”
“So he’s a bad father?” Todd challenged.
“Yes!” Scarborough said. “Yes, he is! Oh my god, Chuck.” (HT: Hot Air)
No doubt many who agree with Scarborough would see the elder Bergdahl's actions in the context of a father who would do anything to prevent his son from making a horrible mistake. I don't think there's anything wrong with that idea of parenting at all. Perhaps most parents would react as Scarborough did.
But there is another side to parenting - allowing your adult child to make his own decisions and mistakes - even if those mistakes cost him dearly. I don't necessarily think Bergdahl was supporting his son's decision as much as he was letting him know the decision was his. Telling him to follow his conscience was a way of telling his son he would be loved regardless of his choice.
Ed Morrissey writes that we should keep our eye on the ball. The issue isn't Bergdahl's father:
For what it’s worth, there is room in between those two positions, too. It’s possible to have empathy for the Bergdahls and understand why they would present a friendly public profile in order to connect with their son’s captors and help keep him alive. That doesn’t give a carte blanche excuse for everything, though, and it certainly doesn’t make Berdgahl père immune from criticism. He made those statements and actions in the public square, but that criticism should be tempered with some compassion for a father who was desperate to save his son’s life.
Mika Brzezinski hits the nail on the head in this exchange. The elder Bergdahl isn’t really the issue — it’s the President who put him up at the Rose Garden podium and wrapped his arm around him. Did no one look into the public statements of Bergdahl before creating that photo op? In military terms, the anger at Bergdahl is collateral damage. The national question isn’t whether Bob Bergdahl is a bad father, but whether Barack Obama is a dangerously incompetent President.
Editor Lifson and I also had a debate on this subject this morning, via our Skype IM:
[9:25:03 AM] Rick Moran: I would agree with most of that [referring to Morrisey's post]
[9:27:21 AM] Tom Lifson: Quesiton: in WW II would it have been ok to grow a Hitler mustache, learn German, and express sympathy for Germans if your boy was held as POW by Nazis?
[9:32:38 AM] Rick Moran: I see this more as a hostage situation. Elder Bergdahl was doing everything he could to show he was understanding of the Taliban in order to communicate with them on their level. Parents of WW2 POW's would not negotiate with German government.
[9:34:16 AM] Tom Lifson: except admin claims he is POW
[9:34:54 AM] Tom Lifson: and it is illegal for private citizen to negotiate
[9:35:03 AM] Tom Lifson: and Taliban are as bad as Nazis
Good points by the boss, but the US government was doing very little to get his son back all those years, so the question reverts to "What would you do"?
I'm inclined to not make an issue of the elder Bergdahl's actions based mostly on Morrissey's good advice; the issue is Barack Obama and his incompetent decisions that are placing lives in danger. His pathetic expectation that everyone would swoon in euphoria over the swap shows how dangerously out of touch with the American people he is.
And putting his arm around the shoulders of Robert Bergdahl was another indication of his utter cluelessness regarding the feelings of the American people.