On Friday, National Security Adviser Susan Rice hit back at her Republican critics who have tried to make it appear that she said something misleading when she stated that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was recently freed from five years of captivity as a prisoner of war, served his country with “honor and distinction” during an interview on ABC’s This Week last Sunday. Apparently, that statement has Republicans tittering, as they feel that she made a major mistake in saying anything positive about Bergdahl and that this is a moment highly comparable to her Sunday show interviews after the attacks on Benghazi, when she was the US Ambassador to the United Nations.
The fallout from that Republican-created debacle, even though Rice did absolutely nothing wrong , led to Rice basically withdrawing her name from consideration as Secretary of State, a post that ended up going to John Kerry. Rice was later named the President’s National Security Adviser. It was in that role that she went ahead and appeared on This Week to discuss Bergdahl’s release from captivity. Sadly, for Republican’s, she didn’t defecate all over Bergdahl and call him a traitor. Instead, she talked about him in respectable terms and pointed out that we don’t leave our soldiers behind.
Because the right sees her as an easy target and will do anything to discredit anyone associated with the current administration, pundits and politicians alike pulled out the knives and started carving her up almost immediately after that interview. With a concerted Republican effort already underway to malign and besmirch Bergdahl’s character and military service record, conservatives took to all forms of media to complain about Rice, stating that she was being deceitful by having the audacity to say that Bergdahl served honorably.
The National Review’s Rich Lowry wrote an article for Politico on Wednesday where he painted Rice as a “sock puppet” who basically parrots what is put in front of her by more powerful people. Fox News’ Ed Henry said that Susan Rice has a “credibility problem” and is “pushing a false narrative.” Bill O’Reilly called her a moron. Yes, he actually said that. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has called for her to resign because he just can’t believe a word she tells him. Of course, this isn’t the first time he’s called on her to resign. Heck, it hasn’t even been a month since the last time he said she should quit or be fired.
Even so-called impartial media figures have been overly critical of Rice. Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski got all flustered earlier this week when discussing Rice’s statements. During a segment on Tuesday’s show, Mika said the following:
I want to put this into context with John Heilemann, and ask you a question. I think it’s three tough questions. The question about his health, it’s a controversy. Why, then, also given his background and everything that we are finding from people who served with him and people who have covered this story and letters that he’s written home — why would Susan Rice be sent out, Susan Rice, be sent out repeatedly to say he served honorably and really push that as one the fundamental reasons behind this swap? And thirdly, with the White House contending they consulted Congress — am I correct, that happened, right? Yes? Yes? They said they consulted Congress. And members of Congress saying they weren’t consulted. What’s going on here? What is going on here? Seriously, I don’t understand it.
Finally, on Friday, Rice struck back. During an interview with CNN’s Jim Acosta, Rice clarified her position. At the same time, she didn’t back away from her statements and iterated that the soldier and his family have already suffered quite a bit, and yet, they are now being “tried in the court of public opinion.”
RICE: I realize there has been a lot of discussion and controversy around this. What I was referring to is the fact that this was a young man who volunteered to serve his country in uniform at a time of war. That in itself is a very honorable thing.
ACOSTA: But ‘honor and distinction?
RICE: Jim, really. This is a young man whose circumstances we are still going to learn about…. He is, as all Americans, innocent until proven guilty. He is now being tried in the court of public opinion after having gone through enormously traumatic five years of captivity. His parents, the same.
Rice also made the following statement in the interview:
“But in the meantime, let’s remember this is a young man who volunteered to serve his country. He was taken as a prisoner of war. He suffered in captivity. He’s now trying to begin the process of recovery. Let’s let that happen. And then let’s know the facts including his side of the story, and then we can make a judgment.”
The thing is, nothing Rice said about him serving with “honor and distinction” is incorrect or something she needs to apologize for. Yes, there are questions surrounding his disappearance. There have been fellow soldiers who have done interviews stating that they feel he deserted and that soldiers died looking for him (a claim that has been refuted.) However, the facts are that, at this time, he is still an active member of the military who does not have any notable blemishes on his service record. Perhaps he’ll be charged with AWOL or desertion down the road, but that is up to military justice. However, there is absolutely no need for Rice to apologize for anything.
Thankfully, the White House is standing by her. Outgoing White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has already vouched for her statement. Meanwhile, a senior White House official told Time the following:
“She sort of brings out this craziness in a certain crowd. If something is taken a half-notch out of context, it calls for her resignation and vicious ad hominem attacks against her.”
Let’s face it. Republicans just hate President Obama with a passion. Everything he does, they have to oppose, regardless of how hypocritical or unseemly their actions may appear. They hold nearly as much disdain for Rice as they do Obama. Any opportunity to bully her and make her cower, they will take. It is despicable, but they don’t care. They will continue down this road us long as it appeals to their base of angry old white men.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).