Tom Cotton, an Iraq War veteran and GOP Senate candidate in Arkansas, harshly criticized the Obama administration for its handling of the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap on an Arkansas-based radio podcast Tuesday morning, calling it a “grievous error” from the president that puts American troops at risk.
“There is now a price on the head of American hostages, and Barack Obama has helped put that price there by breaking with a decadelong bipartisan consensus,” Cotton told host J.R. Davis.
“Even if Bowe Bergdahl had been captured heroically on the battlefield, it would still be bad policy, because now it increases the danger that all 32,000 American troops in Afghanistan face, or for that matter our aid workers or our diplomats there or any American traveling around the world on business or tourism,” Cotton continued.
Cotton, citing media reports that Bergdahl was a deserter, suggested that the president and National Security Adviser Susan Rice may have covered up details about the swap. “The president and his senior leadership needs to account for what they knew about the circumstances about Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance and when they knew it. And whether they tried to cover it up from the American people to sell the grievous mistake of this prisoner swap.”
Asked what he would do in Obama’s position, Cotton said: “I wouldn’t have traded five senior Taliban commanders for any POW. I would have continued to use intelligence resources and special operations units to try to retrieve Bowe Bergdahl, or any POW for that matter. But I would not release senior hardened Taliban commanders. These are not goat herders or foot soldiers. These are the equivalent of their secretary of Defense or their CIA director. They are going to go back in the battlefield. That is going to happen. And they’re going to help kill Americans in the future.”
Cotton is one of the GOP’s leading Senate recruits in 2014, with his biography playing a major part in his campaign as he challenges Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor. Cotton is a favorite among Republican hawks who advocate for a more assertive American role overseas.
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
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