The prisoner swap that is bringing basketball player Brittney Griner home from Russia should spark invocation of a “24-hour rule.” Take a day to celebrate the good news of an innocent American’s release from captivity before rushing to condemn the terms of the exchange.
If a father can celebrate the return of a Prodigal Son, surely a nation can allow 24 hours to celebrate the return of a merely careless daughter. Brittney Griner was imprisoned and is now free; was Vladimir Putin’s victim and is now home for the holidays.
Critics can and probably should carp about the terms of the exchange, which freed a murderous Russian arms dealer in exchange for a clueless American basketball player. Still, carping can wait for a day. A daughter is being returned to her homeland. Give her and her loved ones a day to rejoice.
Moreover, whether Biden’s trade was understandable or reasonable (it probably was the former but not the latter), the immediate fact is that Griner was an American who did not deserve her foreign captivity, especially at the hands of a thuggish regime. There will be plenty of time to analyze Biden’s judgment in making the trade.
Griner essentially was a political hostage. Hostage situations are inherently fraught with moral dilemmas. Remember that even hard-nosed negotiator Ronald Reagan nearly lost his presidency by allowing his concern for hostages to cloud his judgment about where to draw the line in dealing with international criminals. This is not to excuse President Joe Biden’s judgment in releasing someone who should remain forever behind bars, but it is to say that a presidential concern for essentially innocent Americans is understandable. Griner was imprisoned in a notoriously grim facility on exceedingly thin grounds. She deserved to come home.
To say we should rejoice at Griner’s release is not to say Biden’s judgment should not to be questioned. Far from it. It is just to say that there is plenty of time for considered judgment and perhaps serious criticism, but that the first response should be to joyfully welcome Griner back, safe and sound, to the land of the free.