Any expectations that the president would take responsibility for the still-unfolding chaos in Kabul were dashed when Joe Biden returned briefly from Camp David to address the nation. In what is becoming an almost trademark manner, the commander in chief spoke strongly on the Afghanistan situation while entirely avoiding the most critical issue. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the Big Box media gave him a pass on dodging the elephant in the room.
The president emphasized repeatedly that he would not be re-engaging in the conflict in Afghanistan and that he would not pass on the 20-year war to yet another administration. But this was not the matter that America wanted addressed. Instead, viewers tuned in looking for an explanation as to why the withdrawal was met with such chaos, with bodies falling from U.S. planes and troops needing to seize the airfield to assure safe evacuation. No explanation was forthcoming.
That Makes Two Hasty Withdrawals
As Biden concluded his carefully crafted speech – the talking points of which were earlier circulated to fellow Democrats and leaked – he bolted from the room to the shouts of reporters. Within minutes, the president was on his way back to his Camp David vacation, leaving viewers stunned at the bait and switch operation.
During his speech, Biden uttered the well-worn phrase that the “buck stops” with him just moments after blaming former President Donald Trump, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and the 300,000 Afghan soldiers trained by the U.S. military. Perhaps following the advice oft-given by old D.C. hands to not answer the question asked, but rather the question you want to answer, President Biden set up a straw man that he was easily able to overcome.
That the majority of the American people want the troops to come home was never in doubt; by suggesting that he will not buckle to pressure to keep forces perpetually on the ground, the president appeared to be creating an issue out of whole cloth. It is easy to resist pressure that does not exist.
The Real Questions
In the wake of the Afghan humiliation, the questions that Biden should have been addressing were:
- Why were soldiers pulled out before civilians (thus creating the need to send troops back as he is now doing)?
- Why was the administration so unprepared when the Taliban have been retaking territory for weeks?
- When he agreed to proceed with the troop withdrawal, did he expect that it would also involve the entire diplomatic mission collapsing in the area?
- If President Trump’s plan was so bad, why did he not change it?
- Will members of his team be fired for displaying a distinct lack of experience and analytic capabilities?
- Why was American equipment left in the hands of the Taliban?
- Why was air support withdrawn when it became apparent the Taliban was retaking provinces?
These are just some of the many questions that were left unanswered. Instead of stepping up and leading, Biden chose to battle a fiction full of media-friendly soundbites.
Setting Up the Canards
Within hours of the fall of the Afghan government, a single unified message began pumping its way through the media machines and halls of power across the Western world: Prepare for the refugees. Setting aside for a moment that there would not be a burgeoning refugee crisis if there had not been a failure of leadership, the fleeing people (who are wise to flee) are about to become the fig leaf for this foreign policy debacle.
Politicians have already begun beating the drum that their nations must do everything possible to bring in as many Afghan people as possible. This will likely become the standard measure in the Fourth Estate of how governments are performing. Are they doing enough? Are they taking enough? And it will become the loudest outcry among the permanent activist class.
But it is a distraction. It will distract the left-leaning media from being forced to ask the tough questions. It will distract the Democratic Party from seeking to deal with its leadership issue. And it will be a cudgel with which to beat those who demand that the president and the administration take responsibility for this failure.
There was only one group that could really hold the president to account over this episode: the Fourth Estate. That it has failed to do so should make one wonder just how far the nation’s press is willing to go to further the progressive agenda.
Read more from Mark Angelides.