The PJ Tatler

Polls: Will the Bergdahl Swap Impact the Mid-Term Elections?

There are a couple of new polls out on what Americans think about President Obama’s decision to trade five Taliban commanders for Army SGT Bowe Bergdahl, the only American POW in Afghanistan.

The decision to trade the five Taliban for Bergdahl has been greeted with more anger than praise in Washington, as Democrats and Republicans in Congress criticize the Obama administration because it did not consult with them or notify them of the release of the five detainees from Gitmo. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has gone on the record saying that if Obama does that again, there will be calls for his impeachment. There are no more POWs for the administration to trade away, though there are dozens of captured terrorists remaining at the facility on Cuba. Anger with the president’s decision has been bipartisan, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) stating that she doesn’t believe the Obama administration’s rationale for doing the trade.

The American people are divided over the swap, but the division cuts along party lines, suggesting that however dangerous the decision proves to be, Obama’s base will stick with him.

A CBS News Poll finds that 45% of Americans disapprove of the deal, while 37% approve of it. A majority of Americans — 56% — say the US paid too high a price for Bergdahl. Fully 65% of veterans believe the US paid too high a price for the soldier, who his squad mates accuse of desertion prior to his capture. A majority of Democrats approve the deal, while a majority of Republicans oppose it. A large majority — 58% — of independents also believe that the US paid too high a price for Bergdahl. Independents split against the deal overall, 47% to 33%.

A Pew poll gets similar results — 43% of Americans reject the swap, while 34% say it was the right thing to do. Most Republicans disapprove; most Democrats approve. A heavy majority of veterans — 68% — say Obama made the wrong decision in trading the Taliban commanders for Bergdahl. Overall, 64% of Americans say that the president must inform Congress in advance of decisions like the Bergdahl trade, while 30% believe that he should not be required to do so. 44% of independents in the Pew poll say they believe that the deal was the wrong thing to do, versus 32% who believe it was the right thing to do. The current National Defense Authorization Act law requires the president to notify Congress 30 days before releasing any prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. President Obama knowingly broke that law.

The bottom line is, Republicans seem to be adding the Bergdahl swap to the pile of actions taken by Obama that anger them and are driving them to the polls this fall. Democrats by and large are sticking with the president, who broke the law and set the precedent of negotiating with terrorists. Independents have broken against the Obama administration on a number of issues going back into his first term, and they are breaking against him on this issue too.

The Taliban gave its answer to the swap, and the question of whether the deal made peace in Afghanistan more or less likely, by assaulting an airport in Pakistan and killing dozens of people. The Taliban’s attacks on Pakistan’s busiest airport continue.

Overall, the Bergdahl swap probably weakens Obama’s already weak position on foreign policy, but is unlikely to be a decisive issue this fall. The economy and Obamacare remain the top issues. The Bergdahl swap might give more vulnerable Democrats an anti-Obama talking point, and it also might have stopped Obama’s plan to empty Gitmo of its remaining terrorists, at least until after the mid-terms.