From the moment the Afghanistan debacle began to dominate the news, President Biden has steadfastly refused to distinguish between those who are opposed to the Unites States withdrawing troops from the country per se, and those who believe that the White House has badly botched the withdrawal. “How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight?” he asked last week.
This question is non-responsive to the charge at hand, which is why an American public that overwhelmingly thinks we should get out is punishing Biden in the polls nevertheless. Americans want to leave, it seems. But they don’t want to leave like this. And Biden, they believe, is firmly in charge of the this.
Has the president grasped this yet?
By all accounts, Biden hopes that, over time, the details of the withdrawal will fade in voters’ memories, while the fact of the withdrawal will pay political dividends. And maybe he’s right to think that! The thing is, though, he has to get there first — and, as of today, he is nowhere near doing that.
In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Kabul, Biden hosted two disastrous press conferences, insisted repeatedly on returning to his vacation, and embarrassed and infuriated his closest international allies by being either completely absent or unacceptably tardy. And he’s still going. Today, the White House announced that the president remains determined to remove all troops by August 31st — even if Americans are still stranded, which, if the math is to be believed, they probably will be. And, as if that weren’t bad enough, the military has already started “reducing troop presence” — slap bang in the middle of a frantic, ongoing, and artificially time-limited evacuation drive — while the U.S. Embassy issues and then rescinds last call alerts for U.S. citizens and the Taliban begins blocking Americans from reaching the airport.
In the interests of accuracy, it may be time now to update the tense. Biden hasn’t merely “botched” the withdrawal. As an active matter, he’s still botching it.