Q. When it comes to the release of five of the worst of the worst Gitmo detainees, what does Eugene Robinson know that the Pentagon doesn't? A. That President Obama must be defended at all costs and in every circumstance.
How else to explain his mind-boggling claim on today's Morning Joe that the impact on the war of the release of five senior Taliban officials would likely be "negligible." Incredibly, Robinson was only willing to put "senior" in skeptical air quotes [see screengrab after jump]. The WaPo columnist's claim sparked controlled outrage from Joe Scarborough, and energetic disagreement even from former Obama car czar Steve Rattner. View the video after the jump.
Readers are urged to read the detailed description here of just who those five Taliban officials are. They include someone who was a "direct associate" of Osama bin Laden. People who are associated with al Qaeda, who are suspected in the murder of "thousands of Shiite Muslims."
Negligible, my . . . eye.
Note: Robinson earlier said "someone in the talking-points room (at the White House) must not like Susan Rice as they keep sending her out to say things that are demonstrably not true." By inference, does Robinson therefore believe that Rice's comments on the five Sunday shows about the Benghazi attack having been caused by an internet video were "demonstrably not true"? Hat tip reader Michael H.
WILLIE GEIST: Gene, I just want to ask you very quickly. I think we all agree we want all American soldiers home and we want them home safely. But the question here is, at what price? So if they asked for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in exchange for a soldier, would you make that deal? That's the question.
EUGENE ROBINSON: No. Of course you don't send Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the architect of 9/11 home under any circumstances. You do not make that trade. Do you trade five, you know, [makes air quotes] "senior" Taliban officials or people who've been in U.S. custody in Guantanamo for years and years who -- whose impact on the war, on us, and on our people going forward aside from what obviously will be a morale boost, I guess, for some part of the Taliban but whose impact is I think likely to be negligible. They've been out of this war and the command structure for a long, long time.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: I think that's ridiculous, Gene. I cannot sit back and let you say on our show that the release of five of the most important Taliban leaders is going to be negligible at this stage of the conflict. That is simply -- I don't think that's-- I don't think that's -- I'm trying to find the nicest word to use. I just don't think that that's credible. How can you say that?
ROBINSON: Well, I mean, how can you say they're going to move back into command of the Taliban?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: It's not a competition.
STEVE RATTNER: I don't think we're saying they're absolutely going to move back into command of the Taliban. As Joe said these are five senior Taliban officials. Two of them are wanted for war crimes by the United Nations for massacring thousands of Shiites and we have turned them over for a private of questionable activity. I just don't think that's a trade the United States should have made. You acknowledged a minute ago if they had asked for KSM or all 150 people in Guantanamo, we would have said no. So obviously we don't always bring our guys back. We bring them back when we can do it in a way that's in our interest.