Bowe Bergdahl’s father has become a polarizing figure in the political dust-up over the prisoner swap. On Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough and NBC News reporter Chuck Todd got into a shouting match over Robert Bergdahl’s actions in his effort to free his son from the Taliban.
“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.
Some, like Ed Morrissey, think that concentrating on the elder Bergdahl is taking our eyes off the ball:
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 Bergdahl 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.
There is no doubt that Scarborough’s idea of parenting is right and proper. Many parents would ride to their child’s rescue to prevent him from doing something he would regret later.
But Bowe Bergdahl was 23 years old. When the elder Bergdahl suggested he follow his conscience, wasn’t he correct in taking a step back and allowing his son to live his own life, make his own decisions — and then live with the consequences of those decisions? That is, after all, a large part of being an adult. The apron strings are cut, the child goes out into the world, having absorbed all the lessons and advice his parents were able to give him.
We’ve heard from the pundits and commentators. Now it’s your turn. If You Were Bowe Bergdahl’s Father, Would You Have Done What He Did to Get Your Son Back?
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