Beyond Silly

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Steve Benen brings a setup certain to evoke an exasperated groan:

Former Sen. Bill Frist’s tenure as Senate Majority Leader is perhaps best known for an unfortunate misstep. In 2005, the Tennessee Republican weighed in on the controversy surrounding Terri Schiavo, declaring that he, as a heart surgeon, could make a reliable medical diagnosis about the brain-damaged woman by watching a brief video filmed by the patient’s family.

Yeah, we know. The punch line for that will suck regardless of what it actually says:

Coburn talked to CNN’s Dana Bash late yesterday, telling her that he’s convinced that Bergdahl “had been drugged … either with an anti-psychotic or hypnotic drug.” The Oklahoma Republican said his diagnosis is “obviously” true and was “easy” to make.

Coburn added that it’s “not at all” possible that Bergdahl was sick. The released prisoner’s “physical health,” the senator told Bash, “is fine.”

Just to drive the point home, the far-right Oklahoman, an obstetrician gynecologist by trade, went on to argue, “I’m speaking as a doctor, yeah.”

It seems the sort of plot twist that is also a bit of an extraneous twist of the knife. A prisoner of war has been released, and the president’s opponents will say all manner of ridiculous things, including the proposition that Sgt. Bergdahl ought to be convicted without trial in order to justify criticisms of securing his release. It was one thing when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) undertook his usual acrobatics and contortions, but what happened next really was rather undignified.

As various conservative complaints have fallen through, the determination to continue such oppositional truculence has brought us this latest sleight.

Despite Bergdahl’s visibly poor state, lawmakers continued to express doubts that his health justified quick action to exchange five senior-level Taliban prisoners from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) on POW Return“I don’t think from a health standpoint there was any issue that dictated the release of these five nasty killers in return for Bergdahl,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

After three years of trying to negotiate Bergdahl’s release, officials began to worry that their window was closing when they received a proof-of-life video in late 2013 that appeared to show the sergeant’s health failing.

They worried that he was approaching a medical emergency, a senior administration official separately told reporters Wednesday night. Officials also worried that, if they couldn’t spring him soon, their ability to pull off a transfer might never happen. Past efforts had fallen apart due to leaks and other problems, the official said.

(Memoli and Parsons)

And into all this wades Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D., to do what?

Sure, it’s just a diagnosis based on a short video clip, but trust him, he’s a doctor.


Benen, Steve. “Tom Coburn pulls a Bill Frist, makes a diagnosis via video”. msnbc. 6 June 2014.

—————. “McCain’s reversals on Bowe Bergdahl”. msnbc. 3 June, 2014.

Maddow, Rachel. “Senator on right’s rush to bash American POW: ‘Chill out'”. The Rachel Maddow Show. 4 June 2014.

Memoli, Michael A. and Christi Parsons. “Senators’ doubts persist as administration explains Bergdahl deal”. Los Angeles Times. 5 June, 2014.

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