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Mitch Perry Report for 12.11.15 — Bowe Bergdahl speaks

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Since he began campaigning for president this year, one part of Donald Trump’s stump speech that has remained intact is when he attacks Bowe Bergdahl, calling him a traitor and saying he should be executed for deserting.

“We’re tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who’s a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed,’ Trump said in Las Vegas last month. Thirty years ago, he would have been shot.”

The lines always gets huge cheers, another example of the so-called lack of political correctness that his supporters love him for. And it’s certainly a reflection of what a segment of the population feels about the soldier, who left his post during his tour in Afghanistan in 2009. He was captured and held prisoner by the Taliban for five years before he was exchanged for five high-ranking Taliban commanders being held by the U.S.

A lot of negativity (hello Bill O’Reilly) has been spewed about Bergdahl on cable news over the past year and a half, but the man himself has never addressed the American public.

Until now.

On the opening episode of the second season of the acclaimed podcast, “Serial,” Bergdahl speaks to screenwriter Mark Boal, in comments that were originally never meant for broadcast. Boal penned “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” and was able to gain Bergdahl’s confidence with he came home in 2014.

In the first episode, called “DUSTWUN” (which refers to the Army radio signal for “Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown.”), Berghdal says he realized the nature of what he did about 20 minutes after walking away from his remote operating base.

“I’m going, ‘Good grief, I’m in over my head,’ ” he says. “Suddenly, it really starts to sink in that I really did something bad. Or, not bad, but I really did something serious.”

Bergdahl says he left his post because he felt there were serious leadership problems in his unit, and he wanted to tell higher-ranking military officials about it. His plan was to walk 18 miles to Forward Operating Base Sharana, to report his observations. Then he decided he might be in trouble with them, and opted to gather intelligence on the Taliban so his commanders wouldn’t treat him as a deserter.

“When I got back to the FOB (Forward Operating Base), you know, they could say, ‘You left your position. But I could say, ‘Well, I also got this information. So what are you going to do?’ ”

That’s when he compares himself to Jason Bourne of the Bourne movie franchise (and what has prompted some of the biggest headlines from the first show).

“I was trying to prove to myself. I was trying to prove to the world, to anybody who used to know me, that I was capable of being that person,” he said. “Like me doing what I did was me saying that I am, I don’t know, Jason Bourne.”

It’s riveting stuff, as are the voices of some of his fellow troop members who were there when it was discovered that Berghdal was missing. They call themselves his friends at the time (though those same voices might be changing their tune as the series progresses).

“Serial” host Sarah Koenig promises as the end of this initial podcast that we’ll be hearing from Taliban soldiers in next week’s episode, to get their perspective.

The podcast’s debut came just as a military court is considering on whether to charge Bergdahl with desertion, which could land him in prison for five years. He could also get life imprisonment for endangering the troops who searched him.

The Armed Services Committee Thursday also released its long-awaited report on how the Obama administration handled trading Berghdal for five Taliban detainees at Gitmo.

Thanks to “Serial,” Bergdahl will have a segment of the population sympathizing with him. Frankly, that can only help him in the court of public opinion, which of course, ain’t a military court.

Oh yeah: The podcast debuted the same day that the House Armed Services Committee released a report blasting the Obama administration’s decision to release five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Bergdahl.

In other news …

Alex Sink says if asked, she’d gladly serve as an ambassador or any other position that a President Hillary Clinton might offer her if elected next year.

• • •

Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman is the fourth month of his political comeback after a scandal led to his quitting politics three years ago. He’s raised more than $107,000 in his campaign to win the District 6 countywide race next year.

• • •

Tampa state House Democrat Janet Cruz will become House Minority Leader in a couple of years, and says she has no desire to run for mayor of Tampa in 2019 (or earlier).

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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