Good Friday Morning, except to the Biden administration. What a week. I’ve got a longer-than-normal issue this week. I think you’ll see why in the first few sentences below, so I’ll keep it short up top. Consider the links section to be the citations section for all my thoughts, along with all my internal links. Don’t get me wrong, there’s great stuff to read there, but it’s doing a lot of heavy lifting this week to give you the full breadth of why I’m thinking what I’m thinking. Let’s get to it…
p.s. thanks to everyone for sharing/forwarding this newsletter to grow. I’m always grateful.
Where you can find me this week
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Field of Dreams game reminds us what makes America great – The Conservative Institute.
Biden chooses disgrace and defeatism for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 – The Conservative Institute.
My journey to believing Joe Biden must resign.
I just shot my column over to my Conservative Institute editors. My Friday column calls for Joe Biden to resign as President of the United States. By implication, that means Kamala Harris would become President, and at this point, I’m willing to live with that reality. In the column, I make the argument. Here, I’ll describe to you the journey.
Last week, when I wrote to you, I was writing again about how weird the Biden administration is on every front. I still believe that. I don’t understand this administration, what they’re doing, or even why. None of it makes sense. But the past week has dramatically altered my analysis in ways I never anticipated. This view is not a hot take that I’m doing for entertainment purposes. The past week has shaken my confidence in both this Presidency and America.
I’m too young to have experienced Vietnam. Born in the late 80s, I barely knew the Cold War. By the time my memory starts, we were in the 90s, which were optimistic and new. America emerged victorious from a bipolar world, defined by the US vs. USSR, capitalism vs. communism, into the brights lights of a unipolar world ruled exclusively by the lights of American exceptionalism. We still exist in a unipolar world, where American dominance defines everything by all intents and purposes.
But for the first time in my life, I experienced what can only describe as deep depression and disheartenment for this country. I’ve been disappointed before, but this was different. After turning in last week’s columns and newsletters, I spent the weekend transfixed by the coverage of Afghanistan and the fall of Kabul. My view was about as live as you can get with the internet, following journalists and military guys who are either in or know the region.
I recorded the podcast on Sunday night; Kabul had fallen, which was profoundly sobering to watch. But that was not when I switched to the resignation path. That happened over the week.
At some point, my demoralized feeling transformed into a wave of fuming anger aimed directly at Biden and his complete mishandling of… well, everything. The starting point was his (to this point) sole speech on the matter. Early reports of the address indicated that the President would own up to things and talk about a path forward. I wanted that reassurance.
So, I pulled up a broadcast of the speech on my iPad and watched it live.
For most of the speech, I was annoyed. I expected Biden to blame all his political enemies for why everything was wrong. Biden likes blaming everyone else for this, even though the only time he’s not been a part of decision-making on Afghanistan was the four years of the Trump administration. Biden was a Senator or Vice President during the bulk of this time. But whatever, I expected that from Biden. He says the buck stops with him, and he made sure that it never did in that speech. That wasn’t the issue, though; the problem was an extra party he blamed.
My demoralization became an incandescent rage when he said the following:
I know that there are concerns about why we did not begin evacuating Afghans — civilians sooner. Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier — still hopeful for their country. And part of it was because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, “a crisis of confidence.”
That was the only part of the speech where he addressed the primary issue: his failure to evacuate people from Afghanistan. And in that passage, he explicitly blames Afghans for why they can’t evacuate from the country. No ownership at all, instead blaming the victims for what is happening.
It wasn’t just that Biden blamed his political opponents; Biden blamed the people who we had just seen fall from airplanes in an attempt to escape and said they didn’t want to leave. It’s their fault. At the end of the speech, in which Biden agreed to pre-determined questions from pre-determined journalists, Biden read the last words, turned his back to everyone, and walked out.
I’ve said that the image that could define Biden is him towering over Jimmy Carter. The defining picture of Joe Biden’s presidency right now is going to be him turning his back on everyone, taking no questions for his decisions, and walking out. Biden did it twice, first for the Afghanistan speech and then during his COVID-19 address. The arrogance and cowardice he displayed placed me on the resignation path.
Two other speeches helped push me there, too, because they so perfectly encapsulated my feelings. The first was a clip of Matt Zeller, a Democrat who leads No One Left Behind, an organization dedicated to getting Afghans out. MSNBC brought him on immediately after the speech. Zeller went scorched earth on Biden, reacting similarly to myself on the same passages.
The second speech was far more touching and somber, by Tom Tugendhat, Conservative MP of the United Kingdom. And he so thoroughly captures everything I believe that I can only tell you to please pause reading and watch his eight-minute speech to parliament. It’s a powerful encapsulation of everything Biden did wrong. When you hear his words, they contrast starkly with Biden’s defiance. I toyed with the idea of reprinting the text in total, but his delivery is better than reading can convey.
But even after that, that wasn’t the triggering thing. The hair that broke the camel’s back is Biden’s lack of a plan to rescue American citizens trapped in Afghanistan. The Washington Post has reported that the White House has no plan on rescuing or evacuating anyone outside Kabul.
We know, for instance, that the French and British have run operations into Kabul to get their people (and others) and escort them to the airport for evacuation. The British have declared no plane is leaving empty.
None of this is true of the United States. The US is running no escort missions into Kabul or anywhere in Afghanistan. What follows is the honest-to-goodness instructions the United States is sending to Americans hiding in Afghanistan:
U.S. government-provided flights are departing Kabul and will continue until the evacuation operation is complete. U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), and their spouses and unmarried children (under age 21) should consider travelling to Hamid Karzai International Airport when you judge it is safe to do so. The U.S. government cannot ensure safe passage to the airport.
We are processing people at multiple gates. Due to large crowds and security concerns, gates may open or close without notice. Please use your best judgment and attempt to enter the airport at any gate that is open.
Be aware of the potential for violence and security threats associated with large crowds. Please also see our Travel Advisory regarding ongoing threats in Afghanistan.
We cannot guarantee the safety of our citizens. We’re doing nothing to help them. The White House has no plan. This fact is inexcusable to the extreme.
I spent some time game-planning this out to give the administration the benefit of the doubt. So, I thought that maybe this was a situation where the Taliban essentially said they’d attack any Americans hiding if the US tried to do escort missions. That would imply the Taliban have de facto hostages since they control everything in the country. It suggests the Taliban have an unwritten agreement with the US. The US military won’t leave the military zone of the airport, and the Taliban won’t harm Americans. A stalemate of sorts.
This idea made me sad because that means the US and Taliban are negotiating over American lives. We’d likely end up having to pay them cash to ensure safety. Paying money to the Taliban is bad enough. Still, suppose we’re providing the security of up to 15,000 people. In that case, I will begrudgingly live with Biden’s deal even though I hate it. Congressional investigations could fill in the holes.
I hate the idea of paying cash to the Taliban to keep Americans safe. But it at least explains the actions of the administration and military. That turns out to not be the case from the latest reporting:
NEWS: @PentagonPresSec John Kirby confirms on Special Report with @BretBaier what sources told me, and I have been asking Kirby to confirm all day — there is NO deal with the Taliban restricting the US military to the Kabul airport. But, Kirby adds “that is where the mission is.”
The US military is sitting at the Kabul airport by orders from the President and nothing else. We have no plans for evacuation, and the military is standing by, providing airport security. At the same time, the Taliban maintains a chokehold on everything else. We’re doing nothing by choice, not by constraint.
And that’s not all, dear reader. Americans are reporting they have to pay their way to get evacuated in this mess. From Politico:
EVACUATION FLIGHTS NOT GUARANTEED TO BE FREE: Even though U.S. officials tell NatSec Daily and others that evacuation flights from Kabul will be free, people trying to catch a plane in the Afghan capital say differently. One person said State Department staff were seeking large payments — up to $2,000 — from American passengers and even more from non-U.S. citizens.
When we relayed what this person told us to the State Department, a spokesperson didn’t deny that this is happening.
“U.S. law requires that evacuation assistance to private U.S. citizens or third-country nationals be provided ‘on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.’ The situation is extremely fluid, and we are working to overcome obstacles as they arise,” the spokesperson said.
In other words, the Biden administration may request payments for evacuation flights.
I found this so astonishing that I had to look it up. Politico is correct on the law, and the reports of Americans having to take out repatriation loans are true. That the Biden administration hasn’t taken an active role in removing barriers to evacuations is astonishing. All that should help explain why the Pentagon is reporting C-17 planes are leaving half-full in the middle of an evacuation.
This evacuation should be the biggest airlift in US history. We should be witnessing Dunkirk with wings. It’s not. And there’s no rational explanation for why we aren’t doing this.
All this ignores the Afghan problem too. Reporters on the ground say that the US is blocking private planes from landing and getting people out of the region. The Taliban are actively trapping thousands of Afghans before the airport, even if they have the “right” paperwork to leave with the US. Afghan soldiers who aided the US effort are being tracked and hunted by Taliban fighters.
The Wall Street Journal probably had the most brutal editorial message of all the newspapers (and none of them were kind). Their headline: “Biden to Afghanistan: Drop Dead – Biden is defiant in blaming others for his Afghan debacle.” Their intro paragraph is sizzling:
President Biden told the world on Monday that he doesn’t regret his decision to withdraw rapidly from Afghanistan, or even the chaotic, incompetent way the withdrawal has been executed. He is determined in retreat, defiant in surrender, and confident in the rightness of consigning the country to jihadist rule. We doubt the world will see it the same way in the days, months and years ahead.
I don’t understand why the Biden administration is doing what it is doing. I’ve tried giving them the benefit of the doubt on having more information, intelligence, and resources. But every step of the way, they’ve acknowledged that the failure is all theirs to claim, and they have no solutions. And it’s all coming from the top.
The Biden administration is still weird. I don’t understand it, neither does Jim Geraghty, one of the top writers at National Review (and no firebrand). He wrote the following in a brief Corner article Thursday afternoon:
Three quick follow-ups on the topic of today’s Morning Jolt, the mounting evidence suggesting that something is wrong with President Biden, and that he is having some sort of difficulty executing the duties of his office…
One: Is it normal for an American president to take 36 hours to respond to an urgent call from the U.K. Prime Minister? Sure, some delay, during an ongoing foreign crisis, is to be expected. But a day and a half?
Two: As of this writing, shortly after 2 p.m. Eastern time, President Biden has no events listed on his schedule for today, tomorrow, or this coming weekend. The Federal Aviation Administration has pushed back the flight restrictions for “VIP travel” around Wilmington, Delaware from Friday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern to 9:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, August 23. Despite the severity of the current crisis, it appears Biden still plans to spend the weekend at one of his homes in Delaware. …
Three: For everyone responding with “duh, everyone could see this, Jim, everyone could see this for years, what took you so long to write about this?” I refer you to this September 12, 2019 Corner post and the August 11, 2020 Morning Jolt. People have wondered if Biden was starting to lose some of his mental acuity for a long time, and certainly since he started his 2020 presidential campaign. (As I wrote after the first debate, Biden “seems to have aged a decade since he left the vice presidency.”)
But this is different. Biden is commander-in-chief now. People’s lives depend upon his decisions. An aging president is a far more troubling problem than an aging candidate.
I concur with Jim. This situation is different. I don’t understand how or why Biden is this incompetent, but American lives are in danger. We need solutions and action right now. The military needs leadership and orders, and Americans need protection. And so I’ve arrived at the conclusion Biden needs to resign.
Impeachment vs. resignation.
You may ask, “If you’re at resigning, why not impeachment?” To that I say, I’m saving the impeachment card for American deaths. In the event Americans die in this disaster, I will likely advocate for impeachment.
I can already hear my liberal friends (who have been strangely quiet over all this), “well why not impeach Trump over 1/6??” To that I say, that impeachment was over the issue of Trump directly inciting the crowd, which was a weak argument. The impeachment argument should have examined whether or not Trump delayed police response, which directly endangered people’s lives. But Democrats never investigated that and weren’t interested. A potential case was there, but we got a political poop-fest instead of an investigation.
And that’s the past—Trump’s actions had already occurred. Afghanistan and the evacuation is an active event that requires dynamic leadership now. Resignation or impeachment is about taking Biden out and putting Harris in because we need immediate leadership. I’m fully conscious this places Kamala Harris into the Presidency, a person I’ve long attacked as one of the most incompetent politicians in her generation. That all still holds. But at least Harris would be primed to act if placed in that seat. Biden is showing a callous disregard for American lives that is not acceptable.
He should resign as things stand. If Americans die, impeach. The 25th Amendment argument remains a longshot that I don’t see worth pursuing. That is for instances of medical incapacitation of the President, like a coma or something similar. It’s not for circumstances like this.
I hope this is all overreaction on my part. Biden starts acting, we get Americans out, and we move into dealing with withdrawal in Afghanistan. If he turns the corner, I’ll recant. But I don’t get the sense he will. I thought Biden would be a general disaster as President but within the confines of regular politics. His Afghanistan failure is beyond the pale and will take decades to clean up.
Links of the week
Biden’s Betrayal of Afghans Will Live in Infamy: Our abandonment of the Afghans who helped us, counted on us, and staked their lives on us is a final, gratuitous shame that we could have avoided. – George Packer, The Atlantic
All Biden Had to Do Was…Nothing – John Podhoretz, Commentary Magazine
The Worst Presidential Dereliction in Memory – Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine
Does Joe Biden Think the Taliban Lost? – Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine
The Week the Left Stopped Caring About Human Rights: It’s remarkable how quickly liberals abandoned the women of Afghanistan. – Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic
Biden’s Long Trail of Betrayals: Why is the president so consistently wrong on major foreign-policy matters? – Peter Wehner, The Atlantic
Hunted by the Taliban, U.S.-Allied Afghan Forces Are in Hiding: The Afghan forces disintegrated ahead of the Taliban’s rapid advance. Now, the militants are searching for thousands of Afghan soldiers and security officials. – NYTimes
The debacle in Afghanistan is the worst kind: Avoidable – The Washington Post Editorial Board
With Afghan Collapse, Moscow Takes Charge in Central Asia: Along with Pakistan and China, Russia has gained broad influence in security matters at the expense of the United States and India. – NYTimes
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Thanks for reading!