Political fights in Washington are tediously predictable. That's true even when the issues are important considerations of law and honor, like those raised by the deal that got Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl back from the Taliban in exchange for five Taliban officials released from detention in Guantánamo Bay.
One side says bringing home the last American prisoner of war in Afghanistan trumped all considerations.
"Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity," President Barack Obama said. "Period. Full stop."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, "The President rightly recognized our solemn obligation to take every possible measure to protect and defend the men and women who serve our nation." House Minority Leader, Democrat Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), called it "a joyful day for our nation."
The view from the other side of the aisle is very different.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican with presidential aspirations, said: "Have we just put a price on other U.S. soldiers? What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a U.S. soldier you can trade that soldier for five terrorists?"
"The United states is less safe because of these actions," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Texas) has already promised hearings on whether Obama broke the law by not notifying Congress 30 days before transferring the five detainees from Guantánamo.
Such set-piece political theater is one reason some Americans simply tune Washington out.
Is it a stretch to believe the roles would have been reversed if the commander in chief were Republican? Would Democrats be decrying the deal and Republicans insisting that leaving a soldier in captivity would have been unconscionable?
Bringing Bergdahl home was the right thing to do, even though he was reportedly disillusioned with the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and may have deserted before he was captured. But that doesn't mean there aren't hard questions about the deal that secured his freedom.
Was releasing five, high-level Taliban prisoners too high a price to pay?
Did the deal violate the important U.S. policy of never negotiating with terrorists?
Did Obama break the law by keeping Congress out of the loop?
Did Obama shun Congress because it's blocked his attempts to transfer anyone out of the prison at GITMO -- frustrating his desire to shut the place down?
There's plenty to chew on that could have real consequences for Americans in uniform. But when the opposing views are so neatly partisan, it raises one more question. Is there anything more important to our elected officials than scoring partisan points?