The White House wanted to get the Veterans Administration mess out of the headlines in the worst way. It looks like they found it.
Eric Shinseki owes a debt of gratitude to Bowe Bergdahl.
We’ll leave to others the merits of the deal (swapping five Taliban prisoners in GITMO for U.S. soldier who had a penchant for going walkabout.) But as a PR exercise the exchange has been an unmitigated disaster.
Here are just a few of the lessons that can be learned from this classic “how not to do it” demonstration.
- They created a false narrative. Somehow the White House convinced itself that this was an unalloyed good news story — the kind of development you trot the President out in the Rose Garden to celebrate. A quick read of the classified files — or a quicker read of the open press would have told them not to oversell the swap as a great victory. Instead spin overtook sense.
- They didn’t arm their spokespeople with bulletproof talking points. Instead they allowed National Security Advisor Susan Rice to go on a couple Sunday shows and declare Bergdahl (someone whose colleagues believe was a deserter) to be someone who served with “honor and distinction.”
- Then they failed to admit a mistake. Instead of walking back those remarks they elected to essentially say that Bergdahl served with honor and distinction up until the point he might have gone AWOL so get over it, and…
- They doubled down on dumb yesterday having Rice to an interview with CNN (video below) in which she tied her comments on Bergdahl with her previous Sunday show smashup regarding the attacks in Benghazi. (Note to Rice: take Sundays off in the future).
- They introduced a negative. To make matters worse – in tying Benghazi to Bergdahl, Rice invoked her inner Nixon by unnecessarily inserting a negative into a response. Rice’s “I am not a crook” moment came when she said: “I regret that the information I was provided (regarding Benghazi) was wrong, that I delivered to the American people. That doesn’t make me a liar.”