House committee grills Hagel on Bergdahl

Posted on June 11, 2014 

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., was the chief GOP attack dog Wednesday attempting to tear holes in the Obama Administration's handling of the prisoner swap that resulted in the release of Idaho's Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after five years as a captive of the Taliban.

Miller, who represents Florida's 1st District in the Pensacola area, began the week stating "I am not a scientist" on MSNBC while denying the human race's impact on climate change. During the questioning of Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel, he should have stated that "I am not a medical doctor."

Midway through a very agitated exchange with Hagel during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Miller implied Bergdahl should have been transferred from his care situation at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, by now — ostensibly so he could be brought back to the U.S. and questioned about the circumstances surrounding his separation from his unit and capture in Afghanistan back in June 2009.

Hagel bristled at Miller's implications that Bergdahl was, perhaps, being shielded from questioning because he was still in Germany.

Miller: "Mr. Secretary, have you ever thought about going to Landstuhl and talking to him there?"

Hagel: "I don't know how much medical training you had Congressman, but I haven't had much. We are allowing the doctors. . ."

Miller interrupted: "Wait a minute, Mr. Secretary, why hasn't he been returned to the United States? We have seriously wounded soldiers who almost immediately return to the United States after they are stabilized. . .You're trying to tell me that he's being held at Landsthul because of his medical condition?"

Hagel: "Congressman, I hope you're not implying anything other than . . .

Miller: "Just answer the question, Mr. Secretary."

Hagel: "I don't like the implication. . . He's being held there because our medical professionals don't believe he is ready until they believe he is ready to take the next step in his rehabilitation."

Miller, his finger wagging throughout the questioning, then asked: "Have you ever seen a traumatically injured American serviceman brought to the United States immediately upon being stabilized at Landstuhl? We do it all the time. "

Hagel: "This isn't about a physical situation, Congressman. This guy was held for almost five years in God knows what kind of conditions. . . .this is not just about can he get on his feet and walk. . . "

Miller: "So, you're telling me he cannot be questioned because of his condition?"

Hagel: ". . .Medical professionals will make the determination when he can move to the next step — most likely San Antonio — and then we can proceed."

I get the strong feeling Miller is proud of this exchange. He posted it on his official House of Representatives websitewebsite. It should play well to segments of his large GOP military constituency in the Florida Panhandle during his re-election campaign.

The hearing and this exchange is, regrettably, characteristic of the partisan chew toy this issue has become.

I have a question for Miller, who is not a scientist, not a medical doctor — but who is Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

It looks to me like there are plenty of people working on the the Bergdahl release / prisoner swap firestorm. Rep. Miller, why don't you back off and apply all of your considerable abilities to fixing the problems of the Veterans Administration — which were happening under your watch as Chairman of the House Committee? Where was the oversight?

Just answer the question, Rep. Miller.

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