Then, after a briefing in which the administration tried to sell lawmakers on the wisdom of the deal, other Democrats emerged with doubts undiminished. “That did not sell me at all,” said Sen. Joe Manchin. “I still have concerns,” said Sen. Mark Pryor. And Sen. Mark Begich — like Pryor facing a tough re-election battle this year — said some of his concerns had been allayed, but “there are still some questions.”
Maybe Democrats will eventually fall in line. After all, in this case, the U.S. got something in return for freeing the five Taliban commanders. Democratic lawmakers can go to voters and make the case that even if Bergdahl deserted, he was still an American soldier and the United States had an obligation to get him back.
Certainly Bergdahl was the key to the White House argument in its “explanation” to Congress. “The administration determined that the notification requirement should be construed not to apply to this unique set of circumstances,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden wrote in a defense of the decision, “in which the transfer would secure the release of a captive U.S. soldier and the Secretary of Defense, acting on behalf of the President, has determined that providing notice as specified in the statute could endanger the soldier’s life.”
But what about Obama’s next release? It’s no secret the president wants to close the detention center. What if he wins nothing in return for giving more hardened terrorists their freedom?
There’s no question how Republicans will react -- GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham is already threatening impeachment if there are more releases. But what about the president’s party?
Having relied on the U.S. obligation to take care of its troops as an explanation for the Bergdahl case, Democrats might have a difficult time falling in line the next time if there’s no American to be saved.