It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a controversy with as many layers and questions marks as that of the prisoner swap for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who can generously be called a reluctant patriot.
One thing that seems to stand out in this episode, however — as well as in the government’s announcement of new carbon-emission limits — is that President Barack Obama has decided he’s going to spend the last two-plus years of his presidency doing what he believes is right.
He’s apparently not concerned what Republican or Democratic lawmakers think, and he doesn’t seem to be worried about what his actions portend for the November elections, where it’s looking more and more likely that the Republicans will take control of the Senate.
No, he’s just given his ship captains the “full speed ahead” order…and away we go!
As I’ve said, I do like the proposed carbon-emission regulations, which call for carbon pollution from power plants to be reduced by 30 percent from the 2005 levels by the year 2030. That makes all the sense in the world, not only from an environmental but also a public health perspective.
An article in Tuesday’s New York Times paraphrased health experts as saying that the carbon-pollution reduction plan — aimed primarily at coal-fired plants — would prevent up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks in the first year the rules take effect.
The article quoted Dr. George D. Thurston of the New York University School of Medicine as saying that the best course for public health would be for the United States to phase out coal burning as soon as possible.
Yes, the changes would put people out of jobs, particularly in the Rust Belt states, but what is needed are programs to train coal miners and others on the grunt side of the business to develop other skills. Keeping them down in the coal mines when there are much safer and cleaner methods of extracting energy from the earth — fracking for natural gas, for example — makes no sense to me.
(You might wonder how I, a die-hard liberal, came around to the “beauty,” if you will, of fracking. Well, for the last year or so, our 24-year-old son Charlie has been doing computer work for a small, fracking-related business in Tulsa, and he has educated me and Patty about the field. He’s probably leaving the fracking business in the fall, to attend graduate school, but it’s been a good, learning experience for our family.)
Now, on to the reluctant patriot…
It’s pretty clear that Bergdahl deserted in Afghanistan. And CNN is reporting that six soldiers died looking for him, over a period of at least several months, after he wandered away from his base in June 2009.
The Daily Beast published an essay by Nathan Bradley Bethea, a former member of Bergdahl’s battalion, who contends that eight soldiers — not six — died looking for Bergdahl.
“He has finally returned,” Bethea wrote, referring to Bergdahl, “Those men will never have the opportunity.”
Makes you wince, doesn’t it?
And then there’s Obama’s defiance of a law that requires Congress to be notified at least 30 days before any prisoner exchanges. Obama contends that “unique circumstances” gave him the authority to bypass the law, but he’s just making excuses. The reason he didn’t apprise Congress is that he knew the shit would hit the fan and that it might kill the swap.
What happens from here on out with Bergdahl could get pretty ugly for him and his family, but you can’t help but be happy for his parents right now.
Overall, however, this deal has a bad odor to it, and I think some Democratic House and Senate candidates are going to pay the price in November.
But the commander in chief appears to be unconcerned about political repercussions. It’s full speed ahead with his convictions. For better or worse, he’s tired of being in political paralysis.
So, what’s next?