It is always a dangerous business to base your political fortunes on a single element you believe provides the greatest short term advantage and most distinguishes you from your opponent. For when that one asset is neutralized, or even turns into a liability, you are left with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
It was 33 years ago when the Democratic nominee for president stood before his party’s convention and proclaimed that the upcoming 1988 election “isn’t about ideology; it’s about competence.” Michael Dukakis was far ahead in the polls at the time, but he has likely forever regretted basing his campaign on that single perceived advantage. It all but disappeared once he humiliated himself by famously riding around in a tank with a ridiculous helmet and dopey grin and when his self-proclaimed “Massachusetts miracle,” supposedly taking the state to great new economic heights, was revealed to be grossly exaggerated. The “competent” emperor had no clothes, and he went down to ignominious defeat.
But while that loss resulted from a flawed, single-prong strategy of trying to turn a candidate into something he was not, it pales in comparison to the trio of major political assets that the 46th president of the United States just forfeited in the space of less than a week.
Think about the basic three-prong appeal Joe Biden presented during his basement campaign for president: competence, stability, compassion. He would save the country from the bumbling, incompetent Trump, restore a stable political order, and demonstrate through his own suffering a compassionate touch of which Trump was incapable.
That campaign and his ascension to the presidency now seems like a lifetime ago, as do the early, relatively carefree days of the Biden administration before the border crisis, inflation fears, and the Delta variant flipped the political landscape – and severely threatened Biden’s carefully woven narrative. Then came Saigon 2.0.
How far has he fallen in just the last week? How bad have things gotten? Well, it’s one thing to be attacked by the conservative media over the catastrophic turn of events in Afghanistan; that’s to be expected. But when you start to lose the corporate media titans who so heavily contributed to placing you in the Oval Office, that’s an entirely different matter. So when The Boston Globe, every bit as left-wing as The New York Times, concludes its analysis of the disaster with the following statement, it should turn your head around:
“After the fall of Afghanistan, the Biden presidency will never be the same.”
Let’s examine the wreckage, the political after-action report. Few doubted that this commander-in-chief, an almost 50-year veteran of the Swamp, would have all the best advice available from the embedded intelligence, diplomatic, and defense establishments. After all, they were so grateful, we’re told, to be rid of the 45th president, and thus at the ready to do anything required to rebuild the institutions at which Donald Trump had taken aim. And no one can now credibly deny that Biden was provided ample warning of the possibility – likelihood, even – that a sudden withdrawal would lead to a swift and brutal takeover by the Taliban. Even as the politicians, diplomats, military officials, and spies point fingers of blame at each other, all would likely agree that what unfolded over these last days in Afghanistan was always a live possibility – and all but a certainty if the last of our troops were withdrawn before we evacuated the thousands of remaining Americans and Afghan allies. That yawning gap between reality and policy is textbook incompetence.
Then there is the matter of stability. Biden was supposed to take the chaos created by Donald Trump and still the waters. Early on, that façade developed a still-growing crack as the southern border (predictably, to anyone paying attention or not a member of the elite media) started coming apart at the seams. But this debacle on the other side of the world puts the clinching lie to this posture and renders the notion of Biden as a stabilizing force a bad joke.
Finally, we have Biden the man of compassion, who through the undeniable tragedies of losing a wife and two children, was presented as America’s oh-so-empathetic grandfather, a man who would replace Trump’s insults with hugs. We saw glimpses of his true character start to show through on a few occasions during the presidential campaign, when he attacked ordinary people who, unlike the sycophantic media, dared to ask questions not to his liking. But the defensive, stone-cold, passionless narratives Biden has delivered over these last days, defending his own indefensible actions while not even paying minimal lip service to the suffering of thousands of Americans and Afghans displaced and in harm’s way due to his decision, is nothing less than shocking.
Of course, it is imprudent to write off any presidency after seven months. And the type of thinking evinced in the statement that Biden’s presidency will never be the same, increasingly prevalent among the activist media in recent days, may be something of a tantrum not unlike the ones thrown by sports fans when their team is in the throes of a losing streak. They eventually return to the fold after a few victories. But the leftist media is undeniably shell shocked after the man they slavishly depicted as, if nothing else, competent, stable, and compassionate has fallen off the cliff on all three counts – in a matter of days.
Given the magnitude of this humiliating defeat, which will always be tied to his final legacy, it could be that the unthinkable has just taken place right before our eyes. Yes, it’s possible even the Trump-hating, Biden-loving media so responsible for placing him in the White House can neither spin their way out of this nor salvage his legacy – nor ultimately save his presidency.
Read more from Tim Donner.