Barney Fife, commander in chief


Those of you old enough to have loved the hapless deputy might bristle at the insult of comparing Barney Fife to President Barak Obama. An insult to Barney, that is.

The latest self-inflicted White House wound is the bumbling President Barney’s swap of five high-level enemy Taliban leaders held at Gitmo for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held by the Taliban for five years, and the clearly unsuitable White House Rose Garden press event to celebrate.

For starters, President Barney circumvented Congress, yet again, after receiving a loud and bipartisan “NO” from Congress in prior years when the same swap was proposed.

Second, granting freedom to five high-level Taliban operatives for one American soldier is not an equitable exchange in our country’s interest, especially since they will surely return to the fight against Americans.

Third, this cockeyed exchange now encourages our enemies to seek American hostages in hopes of a similar sweet deal.

Fourth, the tone-deaf White House portrayed Sgt. Bergdahl as a hero instead of the deserter he is.

Finally, at the ill-conceived Rose Garden press conference, Bergdahl’s father chanted Islamic prayers standing next to the President. How fitting.

Maybe the Rose Garden celebration was the point of it all, sort of like Obama thumping his chest when Osama bin Laden was killed, in this case a badly needed pep rally to distract from the VA scandal.

Since Army reports had long documented Bergdahl’s desertion, it is hard to believe the White House didn’t know, and astounding that they doubled down with Susan Rice asserting on Sunday talk shows that Bergdahl had served with “honor and distinction,” thereby proving yet again that Ms. Rice and the rest of the White House staff don’t have the slightest understanding what honor means in our military.

It is puzzling that the While House mitigates desertion because conditions were tough, due to Sgt. Bergdahl’s confused loyalties or his emails saying he was ashamed to be an American and was clearly having doubts about his role as a soldier.

The White House seems to put desertion in a war zone on a par with skipping class, not recognizing it is the most egregious violation of duty, severely punishable even by death.

When Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers spoke out, all six who spoke accused him of desertion and called for his prosecution. Our inept Barney Fife White House countered that these soldiers were “Swift-boating” Bergdahl, an accusation double-layered with appalling offense.

The first layer of offense is implying something dishonest about the Swift Boat veterans in 2004, teamed up with Vietnam POWs to oppose John Kerry’s presidential run because they judged him unfit for office.

Those men were a collection of the finest honor and service you would ever find, and they were right. Even if you disagreed with their conclusion, you’d have to stoop pretty low to accuse them of lying about their experience with John Kerry in Vietnam and their opinion about him as a prospective commander in chief. Just because liberals created the verb “swiftboating” doesn’t make the implication true.

The second layer of offense is the White House implying Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers are lying in their reports of desertion. These were the young men who were there, the same ones who went on many search missions looking for Bergdahl to recover him, the same men whose buddies were killed while looking for Bergdahl.

This White House crew is dumber than a Solyndra investor; they wouldn’t know honor if you spelled it for them.

To wit, while Susan Rice was sticking her foot in her mouth again, President Barney was digging the hole deeper while in Warsaw.

Clueless that veterans and current members of the armed forces would be outraged by the inequity of the trade and the celebration over a deserter, when challenged he said: “But this is what happens at the end of wars. That was true for George Washington; that was true for Abraham Lincoln; that was true for FDR; that’s been true of every combat situation — that at some point, you make sure that you try to get your folks back.”

Well, pardon the application of mere common sense, but there are a few things wrong with that excuse.

First, the war isn’t over. Second, we shouldn’t trade five enemy generals for one American deserter. Third, I think one thing our President doesn’t grasp, no matter how much he wants to compare himself to Washington, Lincoln and FDR, is that unlike him those other presidents were fighting for VICTORY.

I have never known Obama to utter that word, and to him it appears ending a war means you just leave.

Now I’ll take the gloves off. President Obama doesn’t deserve a mention in the same paragraph with those other presidents. Obama’s decisions of military strategy always seem to be dishonest at the core and intended for his own domestic political benefit. Yes, I know those are strong words.

Whether publicly dithering for weeks over a troop surge or planning withdrawal without even considering victory, blundering President Barney publicizes strategies that should be withheld from our enemies in order to please his voter base with his schedule of quitting the fight.

Just last week he publicly informed our troops in Afghanistan that America would withdraw next year, leaving in place a force of 9,800. The Taliban enemy heard it the same day while our troops continue to fight them.

Can you imagine Washington, Lincoln or FDR, in their desperate fight for victory, imposing rules of engagement (ROE) designed by lefties and lawyers to protect civilians on the battlefield at the expense of American lives?

Last year I spoke to a Marine colonel who is now a unit commander and Cobra helicopter gunship pilot, as I was in Vietnam long ago, but his experience is recent combat tours in Afghanistan.

He explained to me the ROE approval chain has become so absurd under Obama he has to make radio calls requesting authority to fire on the enemy, then wait and wait and wait while our troops are being hit on the ground, and if he ever gets radio clearance to fire, before he pulls the trigger, his radio procedure requires that he quote the regulation section that provides his authority to fire, recorded in case lawyers decide to later search for the guilty. I suppose this is the liberal way to fight a war.

Don’t get me wrong, I never felt Afghanistan was worth American blood in the first place, so I’ll be glad when all our troops come home. But it would be nice to have a commander in chief with enough sense to value security of our troops over political advantage, and even over civilians. That’s too much to expect from this clown.

There are other small signs that neither the President nor his White House advisors know anything about the military or care enough to get it right. Even when presenting the nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor, Obama makes the fundamental error of calling the recipient by his first name instead of respectfully by the rank he has earned. My guess is that is an innocent mistake, trying to be familiar and not intentionally condescending, but his advisors are supposed to make sure the President gets it right.

All this is a reminder that when just a small percentage of Americans ever serve in our military, the disconnect can be vast between those who order them into harm’s way and the realities that govern military lives. Since Obama surrounded himself with egghead lefties who never dreamed of military service, we should not be surprised at their anti-military attitude.

The Pentagon doesn’t get off the hook on this episode. You may have heard that in the aftermath of Sgt. Bergdahl’s desertion, his fellow soldiers were ordered to sign non-disclosure agreements on the matter, apparently to keep them quiet so the generals could classify Bergdahl as a captured POW, perhaps to avoid the public stain of a desertion case.

If this is true, I have two questions. One, who are the officers in the chain of command who lacked the spine to refuse that despicable order, and two, when will heads with stars on them roll in the Pentagon?

Will Sgt. Bergdahl be prosecuted for desertion? Ordinarily I would doubt it simply because public sentiment usually says, “He’s suffered enough.” In this case outrage is widespread so we’ll see if it lasts. He should be prosecuted if the facts bear out desertion to uphold military discipline.

Will President Barney poke more fingers in the eye of Congress and empty Gitmo to keep a promise to his liberal base? Is he deceptively maneuvering to let the bad guys go since he believes the real evil is not in them but in the military joint task force running Gitmo? I don’t know, but so far he is getting away with his many abuses of power.

If Gitmo is closed, it will be a shame to lose the expertise of the staff there, where our Muslim enemies received far more attentive treatment than American veterans at VA hospitals.

Where is Sheriff Andy Taylor when we need him?

[Terry Garlock of Peachtree City occasionally contributes a column to The Citizen. His email is]