By: Mike Lupica
Seventy years later, the ceremonies honoring the heroes of D-Day play out in France, on the beaches of Normandy and in solemn, holy places like the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. But in this country, they also play out in the shadow of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Bergdahl, the POW just released in exchange for five very hard, bad guys from the Taliban who'd been held in Guantanamo, was also treated like some kind of hero by President Obama, whether the President used that word or not when he brought Bergdahl's parents to the Rose Garden the other day. Bergdahl was some kind of hero, and so was the President who brought him home, you bet.
Almost immediately after that, the President sent out one of his chief flacks, Susan Rice, one who clearly learned nothing after Benghazi, to talk about how Bergdahl had served his country with "honor and distinction."
Rice, who sometimes seems so light you think she might float away, doesn't know that, anymore than she knows whether it will eventually be determined if Bergdahl deserted or not. She doesn't know, the President doesn't know, neither does Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
It is why more and more you get the idea that no matter how honorable and distinguished it is for a President not to leave a single POW behind, he desperately wanted to look strong at a time when so many in his own country, and around the world, think he is weak.
So on a day that will celebrate and remember the very best of this country, the courage and nobility of all who died on those beaches on this day in 1944, the news here continues to be dominated by one former soldier who may have just walked away from his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.
"I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get a young man back to his parents and that the American people understand this is somebody's child," the President said Thursday.
Again: That is a noble principle of leadership in this country, in any era, for any war. But if that is the guiding principle now for Obama, then he should have been bringing troops home from Afghanistan a long time ago, since so many soldiers killed over there since he took office are somebody's children as well, ones whose parents never made it to the White House.
Now we are told that if Congress had been told of Obama's plan and that if news of the deal had somehow leaked, that the Taliban would have killed Sgt. Bergdahl. Really? In the runup to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, what is known as the "Gang of Eight" -- leaders of the two parties from the Senate and House -- were briefed on the extremely classified information on what was about to happen to Bin Laden in Pakistan.
They didn't leak the news about Bin Laden before the fact, but now the President couldn't trust the same people to keep their mouths shut on Sgt. Bergdahl?
Once the legitimate backlash on what the President had done and how he'd done it began, you heard that anybody criticizing him or his decision was engaged in a "rush" to judgment. If that's true, somebody needs to explain what the rush was to get Bergdahl's parents to the White House.
The only judgment to question here, rushed or otherwise, is the judgment of the President of the United States, who either didn't know the sketchy details of how Bergdahl stopped being a soldier, or didn't think those details were relevant in his determination to bring the only POW in Afghanistan home.
"I've never accepted the notion that (the President) didn't have the right to do what he did," Rep. Pete King, once the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said Thursday. "I just believe that what he did was wrong."
King also said that he has talked to some veterans of Afghanistan in the past week, ones who told him that they can understand if a young guy like Bergdahl finds himself in the middle of a firefight and panics. But what has enraged some is the notion that Bergdahl, whatever his reasons, might have just decided he didn't want to be a soldier anymore.
"What they don't want to hear," Pete King said, "is that a guy we had to give up this much for just might have packed up his gear and left. And that five years later, his parents get invited to the Rose Garden to meet the President."
On Friday, that same President honors the memory of those who 70 years ago did not make it past the morning of June 6. If those soldiers had doubts about their mission, they kept them to themselves on the beaches of Normandy.