By Justin Sink
People in the United States say President Obama paid too high a price for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, and largely disapprove of the administration’s handling of the swap, according to a pair of new polls.
Those findings are largely echoed by a USA Today / Pew Research poll, in which 43 percent of people said Obama should not have made the trade, with just 34 percent backing it as the right thing to do.
But a significant majority — 72 percent — said President Obama should have informed Congress before approving the deal. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have criticized the president for ignoring a legal requirement that Congress is informed 30 days before the transfer of any detainees at Guantánamo Bay. The president freed five Taliban prisoners held at the prison in exchange for Bergdahl.
A majority of those surveyed also said Obama paid too high a price for his release. Of those surveyed, 56 percent say Obama gave up too much while 28 percent said the terms were reasonable. That includes nearly two-thirds — 65 percent — of veterans who said the price was too high.
Veterans in the USA Today survey were also among the most likely to express anger with Bergdahl himself, who is accused of abandoning his post in Afghanistan before his capture by the Taliban. Some 33 percent said they were angry with Bergdahl, while just 6 percent said they sympathized with him.
The overall population was evenly split in their opinion of the soldier, who spent 5 years in Taliban captivity. Half said they were sympathetic to his plight, while the other half said they were angry over his behavior.
The White House has looked to reassure the public over the trade, with press secretary Jay Carney saying last week the administration was “fully capable of handling” the five Taliban militants freed in the deal.
“Let's be clear, A, we're winding down the war in Afghanistan, but B, should any end up back in Afghanistan, the United States military is fully capable of handling five Taliban,” Carney said in an interview with Charlie Rose.
“And these are men who have been imprisoned in the custody of the United States for more than a dozen years, and we're confident we have the tools and resources necessary to deal with them, if that becomes an issue, and it was absolutely the right thing to do.”
But more Americans seem to agree with Republicans like Sen. John McCain, who suggested the freed militants could pose a security risk to the U.S.
"These are the highest high-risk people,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told CBS News. “Others that we have released have gone back into the fight. That's been documented. So it's disturbing to me that the Taliban are the ones that named the people to be released.”
Of those surveyed, 49 percent believe the prisoner exchange will increase the threat of terrorism against the U.S., while 4 in 10 say it will have no effect. Just 3 percent say the return of Bergdahl will reduce the threat of terrorism.
Despite the public largely disapproving of the president’s handling of the Bergdahl swap, the trade does not seem to have negatively impacted the president’s overall approval rating. A Gallup survey released on Monday found the president’s numbers unchanged over the past month.