Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Questions surround prisoner release

While criticism from congressional Republicans and some Democrats escalated Tuesday over President Barack Obama's exchange of five Taliban detainees for one American soldier, the bottom line remains the same. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl spent nearly five years as a prisoner of war in Afghanistan, and this nation does everything possible to bring its soldiers home alive. The most partisan attacks are off base, and the legitimate concerns are not about what the president did but how he did it.

Contrary to claims that Obama's action was unprecedented, there is a long history of American presidents trading prisoners with the enemy in times of war. It's hypocritical to campaign on waging a war on terrorism and then complain that Obama acted as a wartime president to gain the freedom of a soldier who had been held for years in isolation and is apparently in poor health. Imagine the outrage from Obama's critics if Bergdahl had died as a prisoner of war because the president had failed to aggressively negotiate for his freedom.

It is fair to question whether this five-for-one swap was a reasonable trade. These five members of the Taliban had been held at Guantanamo Bay for years. The chances that they will return to Afghanistan and resume their involvement in attacks against the United States and its allies are unclear. Of more than 600 Guantanamo detainees who have been let go since 2002, about 17 percent have returned to some kind of terrorist activity, according to one report. The agreement calls for these five Taliban members to be monitored in Qatar for a year, but there are no guarantees about what happens after that. Five-for-one seems like a high price, but the Obama administration has little leverage as the war in Afghanistan winds down.

More concerning is Obama's failure to adequately inform Congress. There have been intermittent negotiations over Bergdahl's release for more than two years, and House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday it had been that long since key members of Congress had been briefed about a possible trade of prisoners. Federal law also requires a 30-day notice before any release of Guantanamo detainees, yet the administration did not tell Congress until after the deal was done. The administration's lawyers counter that the president's authority on such exchanges is grounded in the U.S. Constitution and that a signing statement he added to Guantanamo legislation further confirms it.

Regardless of the legal questions, the congressional leadership should have been consulted even if Obama then chose to disregard their concerns. The result of that failure to communicate will be that the president will endure more criticism in congressional hearings that could have been avoided.

There will be more to learn about who knew what when about the exchange of prisoners for Bergdahl. The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's capture by the Taliban also should be clarified. Critics accuse him of being a deserter, and some of his former fellow platoon members are bitter about risking their lives to search for him. The Army is expected to begin another inquiry.

These are all issues deserving further review. But the president saw an opportunity to win the release of America's only prisoner of war in Afghanistan, and he seized a moment that may not have come around again.

Fortunately, he was successful. Unfortunately, he could have managed it better.

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Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18