The Corner

Politics & Policy

Ezra Klein’s Best Defense of Joe Biden: ‘It Could Be Worse!’

President Joe Biden makes a statement from the White House about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, August 24, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

In response to Ezra Klein Tries to Wonk-Absolve Joe Biden of Responsibility for Afghanistan

Charlie aptly skewers Ezra Klein’s latest folly: His attempt to “wonk-absolve” President Biden of the chaos and incompetence of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, for which he is directly responsible, while imagining that coronavirus, a problem that has been stubbornly immune to wonkery, would go away if only the right person (he thought Elizabeth Warren) were in charge.

I want to narrow in on a particularly fallacious aspect of Klein’s defense of Biden. He writes that:

A better withdrawal was possible — and our stingy, chaotic visa process was unforgivable — but so was a worse one.

Got that? Apparently, the fact that something could have been worse means that what we are actually seeing is okay. Try this excuse in your own life.

“Hey, I’m sorry I forgot to feed your pets while I was housesitting for you, but at least I didn’t burn down your house!”

“Yes, teacher, it’s true that I didn’t do my homework. But it’s also true that I didn’t murder your family.”

“I should definitely have remembered to pay that bill. But let’s take consolation in the fact that I didn’t set off a nuclear bomb in our neighborhood.”

Optimism is one thing. So is nuance. But looking at a bad situation that could, and should, have been avoided and defending it on the basis that it could have been worse — things can always be worse — is not analysis. It’s spin.

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