Biden's bad Afghan pullout dwarfed only by his struggles to explain his decisions along the way
By Gary Abernathy
And a reminder of the perils of presidents wearing watches
President Biden’s mishandling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is dwarfed only by the surprising ineptitude of his communication skills. And his meeting this week with relatives of fallen service members again reminded us of the perils of presidents wearing wrist watches.
There may well be a case to be made that there was no way to pull out of Afghanistan without the messy and even deadly consequences witnessed over the past few weeks. But neither Biden nor anyone else in his administration has been able to effectively make that case. Biden’s remarks to the American people on Tuesday were horribly delivered. He seemed angry and defensive, and he shouted his way through the whole speech. (He also continued the annoying habit of wearing a mask for his long walk to the podium, despite being fully vaccinated and walking completely by himself with no one else near him. It looked silly.)
His meeting this week with family members of 13 U.S. service members killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan also apparently showed that Biden’s communication skills are pretty terrible these days — and it’s not just conservative media saying so.
In its story about the meeting, the Washington Post began by focusing on Mark Schmitz, whose 20-year-old son, Jared, was among those killed. Like others, Schmitz complained that Biden seemed more interested in talking about his own experience with loss, including his son, Beau, who died of cancer. The Post story elaborated:
In what may be a sign of the country’s deep divide, Schmitz was not the only family member who wrestled long and hard with whether he even wanted to meet with Biden and who did not hesitate to offer criticism of the commander in chief. The family of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, too, had mixed emotions when it came time to decide whether to talk with the president. McCollum’s sisters and father joined his widow, Jiennah McCollum, on the trip to Dover — but when it came time to meet Biden, only Jiennah went in. Afterward, one of the sisters, Roice McCollum, said Jiennah felt the president’s words were scripted and shallow, a conversation that lasted only a couple minutes in “total disregard to the loss of our Marine — our brother, son, husband and father.” The White House declined to comment on Biden’s conversations with the grieving families, saying those exchanges should remain private.
The story added:
“Gigi wanted to look him in the eye and hear him,” McCollum’s sister Roice said in a text message to The Washington Post, using Jiennah’s nickname. Roice recounted that Jiennah left disappointed. The president, she said, kept checking his watch and bringing up Beau… “My dad and I did not want to speak to him. You cannot kneel on our flag and pretend you care about our troops. You can’t f--- up as bad as he did and say you’re sorry. This did not need to happen, and every life is on his hands. The thousands of Afghans who will suffer and be tortured is a direct result of his incompetence.”
In 1992, one of the main lines of attack against incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush was that he glanced at his watch during a debate with challengers Bill Clinton, Democratic governor of Arkansas, and independent candidate H. Ross Perot. It was a silly issue — who cared if Bush looked at his watch? — but it was used to claim that Bush was either, a, preoccupied with something else, b, anxious for the debate to be over or, c, an elitest who was upset about talking to the “common people” who had been rounded up for the town hall-style event. Either way, it may well have cost Bush in the realm of public perception, especially after political spin framed the subject.
Ever since then, it’s been risky for presidents to wear wrist watches. Biden actually checked his watch during a debate with Donald Trump last year, without nearly the media hysteria that accompanied the Bush time check in ‘92. But this week, Biden apparently glanced at his watch several times during his meeting with family members at Dover Air Force Base.
When it first became clear that the Taliban was going to take over Afghanistan much quicker than anyone had predicted, and that the withdrawal was going to be a mess, I still didn’t think the fallout was going to hurt Biden too much in the long run. There are many more things that will happen between now and 2024, and even between now and the midterm elections next year.
But that was assuming that Biden and his team were eventually going to form a cohesive and somewhat convincing message. Instead, Biden’s complete and sustained ineptitude on Afghanistan — and especially his horrible communication skills both publicly and, apparently, privately — tempt me to change my mind. Biden is doing more by himself to burn into everyone’s mind the image of a shameful defeat directed by an incompetent president than any political adversary could do. This could stick.
The abortion fight is about to get very interesting
So, the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to block the Texas law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The vote was 5-4. No surprise that John Roberts sided with the liberals on the court. He’s been a disappointment to conservatives who were excited when he was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2005 — and a balm for liberals on key votes like this, overturning Obamacare and others.
Nevertheless, with the other five conservatives comprising the majority in this case, the abortion fight is about to get very interesting.
Coming soon: A new definition of the ‘youth vote’
And now, for something truly frightening we bring to your attention a New York Times essay by Lyman Stone headlined, “The minimum voting age should be zero.”
It’s not a parody. It’s written in all seriousness by an author mostly known as a conservative. Here’s an excerpt:
All citizens should be allowed to vote, regardless of their age. The minimum voting age should be zero, with parents and guardians casting the vote for their small children. As those children grow older, parents can include the vote in the gradual increase in independence and responsibility given to young people, until finally their children vote for themselves, likely in their early teen years. Such a policy is not only imperative on the basis of nondiscrimination, but it would also improve our political system. This idea may sound strange, but it may be just the political corrective our society needs.
Yes, the world has gone crazy. But try to have an enjoyable long weekend anyway.
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