Revised 5 Times, NYT's 'Rush to Demonize Bergdahl' Editorial Attacking GOP 'Operatives' and His Unit Is What Was Rushed

The seething anger at seeing the Obama administration being raked over the coals by critics of the Bowe Bergdahl exchange of five hardened terrorists for a soldier who left his post, including many Democrats and most prominently his fellow unit members, was apparently too much for the editorial board at the New York Times. On Thursday, they let loose with a poorly sourced and hastily drafted editorial originally entitled "The Politics of the Bergdahl Case." Tim Graham at NewsBusters alluded to this editorial on Friday in covering fake conservative David Brooks's completely predictable defense of President Obama's decision.

Several revisions later — five in all, tracked by an impressive site called NewsDiffs.org — there is a more pointed title ("The Rush to Demonize Sgt. Bergdahl"). The Times has also had to make two corrections, including an important qualification to a statement made by Arizona Senator John McCain which negated the Times's attempt to go after him (of course, the Times pretended that it didn't). The editorial went on to outrageously impugn the motives, integrity and basic decency of Bergdahl's comrades in Afghanistan and sympathizers who have had the unmitigated gall to help them tell their story to the press.


Let's look at the editorial's first paragraph as it originally appeared, followed a revision containing the corrected quote of McCain:

BoweBergdahlWide

(first revision, where the editorial's title was also changed; also note the redundancy in the first sentence)

Four months ago, Senator John McCain said he would support the exchange of five hard-core Taliban leaders in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. “I would support ways of bringing him home,” he told CNN, “and if exchange was one of them I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider.”

(corrected; bold is mine)

Four months ago, Senator John McCain said he would support the exchange of five hard-core Taliban leaders for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. “I would support,” he told CNN. “Obviously I’d have to know the details, but I would support ways of bringing him home,” he told CNN, “ and if exchange was one of them I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider.”

In other words, McCain wasn't committing to anything without "know(ing) the details."

This was the second time McCain made this point in the February 18 CNN interview. A short time earlier, he said: "I would be inclined to support such a thing depending on a lot of the details."

So McCain didn't "switch positions," because he wisely didn't take a firm one without having more details in February. That should have caused the Times to say "never mind" and to either delete the McCain-related verbiage or withdraw the editorial entirely. Nope. The Times still insists that McCain "switched positions for maximum political advantage." Sorrr, folks, he did no such thing. The Times can contend otherwise from here to eternity and it won't change the fact that McCain's position on the Bergdahl isn't any kind of switch.

But the McCain maneuvering is minor compared to the editorial's smears of Bergdahl's comrades and those who have helped them get their story out (links are in original; HT Twitchy; bolds and numbered tags are mine):

This duck-and-cover response is the result of the outrageous demonization of Sergeant Bergdahl in the absence of actual facts. Republican operatives have arranged for soldiers in his unit to tell reporters that he was a deserter who cost the lives of several soldiers searching for him. [1] In fact, a review of casualty reports by Charlie Savage and Andrew Lehren of The Times showed there is no clear link between any military deaths and the search. [2]

And a classified military report shows that Sergeant Bergdahl had walked away from assigned areas at least twice before and had returned, according to a report in The Times on Thursday. It describes him as a free-spirited young man who asked many questions but gave no indication of being a deserter, [3] let alone the turncoat that Mr. Obama’s opponents are now trying to create.

If anything, the report suggests that the army unit’s lack of security and discipline was as much to blame for the disappearance, given the sergeant’s history. [4]

Notes:

[1] — Imagine that. Bergdahl's fellow soldiers wanted to talk about what really happened. Were they supposed to call New York Times reporters and the Democratic National Committee (though I repeat myself) to get clearance? Would CNN or MSNBC have been receptive? Uh, doubtful. Even the Associated Press is airing the soldiers' concerns. But somehow it's the fault of "Republican operatives," who helped some of the soldiers find media venues to air their side. Two final items on this point: First, this charge implies a trumped-up message, a contention which is rubbish. And second, I don't recall anyone at the Times having a problem with, or even mentioning, the coordinated left-driven PR campaign which managed Iraq War protester Cindy Sheehan's every move for several months after she strangely "burst" into the national spotlight in 2005.

[2] — The link between the deaths of those whose sole mission for quite some time was to retrieve Bowe Bergdahl is obvious. The ignorant Times report linked above about the the claim of six (per most reports) to eight (per Michelle Malkin's excellent syndicated column earlier this week) soldiers lost basically says, "Nyah, nyah, you can't 100 percent prove it, so you really shouldn't be allowed to say it." If you don't mind, I'll trust the contentions of military personnel over those of agenda-driven Times reporters.

[3] — The Times, in asserting that Bergdahl "no indication of being deserter," apparently thinks that wandering off in a dangerous war zone repeatedly is completely understandable behavior, and that Bergdahl's anti-American and anti-Army statements, not "questions," before he walked off count for nothing.

[4] — Okay, that does it. If the Times was attempting to argue that unit commanders could have considered calling higher-ups for the purpose of removing Bergdahl, that would be one thing. But that's clearly not where they're going with the claim that their "lack of security and discipline was as much to blame for the disappearance." No, it's somehow their fault that they didn't get along with him, so they're to blame for the poor baby running off looking to hook up with the Taliban. This sentence could only be written by people who don't have the first clue about the military or war. In a sense, it's a worse insult than the unhinged "psychopaths" tweet sent out by Obama administration flak Brandon Friedman late Wednesday night, as it basically says that every person there was a failure as a soldier — except Bergdahl.

I would contend that folks who need to make five revisions and two corrections to a flippin' editiorial are the ones who are the failures at their chosen profession.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.