Today, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post published a column, titled, Obama is a prisoner of groupthink. Hillariously, Milbank is completely oblivious to his own beltway media bubble as he pens this hitpiece filled with inaccuracies and cheap shots. In fact, a better example of beltway media groupthink rarely surfaces.
Milbank's theme centers around the Bergdahl release - as yet another example of the media-generated fiasco - and his postulation that the Obama administration's handling of it in the press and in Congress is a result of what he terms an "incestuous arrangement." He argues in it that President Obama surrounded himself by yes-men who in some cases lack the independent thinking to challenge the president, and in others, the courage.
Irony, thy name is Milbank. Not only is he completely and demonstrably wrong about his assertion (more about that in a few paragraphs), in his zeal to play whack-the-POTUS, Milbank has fallen victim to his own special kind of groupthink prison, known as the beltway media complex.
The first evidence of groupthink? Like the rest of the poor quality Bergdahl coverage, Milbank's piece only passingly mentions that the rescue of an American POW is a good thing before focusing not on the American tradition and obligation to leave no one behind, he instead drills in on the Administration's political handling.
That is exactly the problem with the part of the Bergdahl coverage that isn't out and out questioning the president's patriotism. It is focused on slicing and dicing what administration officials said rather than what they did - which was a heroic act of bringing an American POW home.
But Milbank is so deep into the media bubble that he couldn't even get the facts right in his completely bizarre focus. After flailing around about how it was such a horrible thing that the entire national security team agreed on the conditions of the rescue but also how the rescue itself wasn't the focus of his article (oy), Milbank blames supposed groupthink of a group too close to the president.
Curiously, his evidence on this is more than a little contradictory. Milbank goes straight after the president's core team and flubs:
Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Biden were all Obama’s pals from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The danger with such an arrangement is you create a bubble around yourself, and your advisers become susceptible to groupthink.
Where do you even start? Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is a Republican who supported John McCain for President, and Vice President Biden was not only one of President Obama's rivals for the Democratic nomination, he was also the most prominent member of the president's team who advised against the raid that took out Osama bin Laden. I do not think that word 'groupthink' means what you think it means, Mr. Milbank.
After the gratuitous potshot at what is a national security team without equal in modern American history - you know, the team responsible for disarming Syria without firing a shot, for fashioning a NATO response in Libya without losing American lives, and ending two wars - Milbank aims at the president himself, and also flops.
The real damage was self-inflicted: choosing to highlight the exchange with a Rose Garden ceremony featuring Bergdahl’s eccentric father, and then allowing Rice, the national security adviser, to go on television and say Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction” even though administration officials had to know this was in dispute.
You see, for Milbank, the real important part of the president's announcement in the Rose Garden that an American prisoner of war is coming home isn't the agony and finally the end of a long, long waiting period of the parents and family of a lost American soldier, but the "eccentricity" of that soldier's father. Of course, by eccentric, Milbank means guy with Muslim-looking beard who learned a foreign language to be able to communicate with his son who's been held in captivity for 5 years. How un-American!
As for Susan Rice's comment that Bergdahl having served with honor and distinction, it is the characterization for any American who goes to war when his or her country calls, whether or not this president's political opposition wants to call it "in dispute." In full context, that is actually what Rice did say.
On ABC News, Rice said:
“Certainly anybody who has been held in those conditions, in captivity for five years has paid an extraordinary price. But that is really not the point. The point is that he is back,” she said.
“He is going to be safely reunited with his family. He served the United States with honor and distinction. And we’ll have the opportunity eventually to learn what has transpired in the past years,” Rice added.
The specifics of Bergdahl's disappearance will be investigated, as Rice said, but just going to the battlefield with one's life on the line is honor and distinction enough - or should be, by most standards. But not Milbank's, apparently.
Milbank is so far into the beltway media bubble on this issue that he is not only unaware of the bubble itself but he is desperately pumping fictional junk into it. Groupthink is so embedded that for him, he seems incapable of feeling the pain of a grieving father who is finally being reunited with his long-lost son because of this father's personal grooming habits. Groupthink has clouded Milbank's judgment so much that he forgets the president's core national security team is not only supremely qualified but literally picked from his rivals. Groupthink has taken over so much of Milbank's vision that he is unable to be grateful for an American soldier.
Physician, heal thyself. Dana Milbank should be the last person schooling anyone, let alone the President of the United States, on groupthink.