Liberal columnist Michael Tomasky is concerned “the right” will try to turn President Obama’s exchange of five senior Gitmo detainees for a U.S. soldier into “a Willie Horton moment,” warning Republicans will “ride” the issue to January 2017.
Tomasky was a member of the controversial JournoList, a list-serve of progressive activists and reporters who discussed minimizing negative publicity surrounding Obama and attacking political opponents, including Sarah Palin.
“Buckle up,” Tomasky writes in a Daily Beast column Monday. “The right is going to try to turn the Taliban prisoner swap for ‘deserter’ Bowe Bergdahl into a Willie Horton moment for the president – and they’ll ride it to January 2017.”
Horton was serving a life sentence without parole for murder when he was let out on a weekend furlough program supported by Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. Horton did not return from his reprieve and committed assault, armed robbery and rape. While Dukakis did not start the furlough program, Horton’s crimes became a major issue in the 1988 presidential campaign, beginning with ads in the Democratic Party primary by opponent Al Gore. In the general election, an independent political action committee not affiliated with Republican nominee George H.W. Bush featured Horton in a TV ad that labeled Dukakis soft on crime.
Tomasky’s piece is titled “Bowe Bergdahl Is the Right’s New Benghazi.”
“Looking forward, and looking more broadly at this situation,” he writes, ‘all the ingredients are here for a classic GOP Obama-conspiracy-mongering soap opera that can be dragged out until January 2017.”
Tomasky says Bergdahl “wasn’t any Republican’s idea of a patriot.” He points to a 2012 Rolling Stone article by late journalist Michael Hastings that exposed Bergdahl’s attitude against the Afghanistan war, writing in an email to his parents: “I am sorry for everything. … The horror that is America is disgusting.”
Tomasky worries Republicans will argue Bergdahl “wasn’t worth saving, especially given what we had to give up.”
However, he believes the “right” will have a hard time selling its purported anti-Bergdahl tale since the prisoner-exchange story will likely resonate with most Americans.
“But of course, that doesn’t matter to the right,” he continues. “No one outside their base cares much about Benghazi, but that hasn’t stopped them. … The crazy never stops.”