Good Friday Morning, and depending on how you read it, Jen Psaki “noted that this is “the worst day of [Biden’s] presidency so far,” but then added that it’s “still early.” Maybe that’s comforting to you. Or utterly depressing.
It’s hard to make light-hearted comments when American Marines died because they were forced into an awful situation. Hopefully, we can bounce back and make everything better. But man, it is hard to be optimistic when we’ve experienced the very worst possible situation. We’ll dig more into that below, as well as talking through what should happen in Congress. Links to follow.
- Quick hit: As I was going to print on this newsletter issue, the Supreme Court issued a decision to stay the Biden administration’s national eviction moratorium. This was, in my book, an expected decision. It was a 6-3 decision, which will prevent the eviction moratorium from moving forward while litigation continues. The Court’s reasoning was pretty simple: “It is up to Congress, not the CDC, to decide whether the public interest merits further action here. If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it.” I have no disagreements with that. The liberals on the Court would have given the CDC carte blanche to declare whatever they wanted to do. All in all, a great decision.
- On a related note, politically, the Biden administration is getting what they want out of that decision too. You may recall, the only reason the CDC issued that new illegal moratorium is because the Biden administration forgot to push new legislation through Congress on that issue. Biden and his administration knew the Court would strike it down, but by forcing the Court to do that, Biden got a political scapegoat. The most telling point, the White House issued a statement about the decision immediately, saying: “In light of the Supreme Court ruling and the continued risk of COVID-19 transmission, President Biden is once again calling on all entities that can prevent evictions – from cities and states to local courts, landlords, Cabinet Agencies – to urgently act to prevent evictions.” Notice who is missing from that list? Congress. Biden isn’t calling on Congress to extend this order…
Where you can find me this week
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Joe Biden’s defiant betrayal of America – The Conservative Institute.
Post-pandemic life reveals a lack of empathy in the world – The Conservative Institute.
Congress needs to protect American and Afghan lives.
Last week I called for Biden to resign, with a caveat of a red-line that if Americans were kidnapped or died, I’d move towards impeachment. Americans are now dead as a direct result of the incompetence of the Biden administration. And yet, the way we got here is beyond what I expected, and I’m past impeachment. Congress needs to act, not on impeachment, but on saving American and Afghan lives.
I still believe Biden should resign; the difference is that I’m now concerned with Biden’s incapacity to handle this situation. I’m more concerned with events on the ground than his status in the White House. I watched his speech, and I found it shocking that he appeared impossibly frail and incoherent for most of it. The press clips and quotes from his speech after sounded much more demanding than it was and left me actively concerned he is not calling the shots in the White House. As we sit here in a crisis, I no longer have confidence that the American President is capable of discharging his duties — I believe Kamala Harris should handle things from here on out.
Here’s the opening paragraph to my upcoming Monday column. I include it because this was my immediate reaction to Biden’s speech:
Never has so little been said, by a man uttering so much, regarding a tragedy he caused, all before a nation mourning the heroes it now must bury due to a single man’s passionless disregard for life. We are supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Instead, he betrays our allies while forsaking the sacrifices of our dead, all while appearing behind a podium to answer questions from those he’s preordained. We are leaderless, and I am afraid.
I’m afraid because my background thesis of Biden, “The President who isn’t there,” has morphed into a walking, talking reality. I’m not convinced he’s entirely there, capable of doing the job. I’m angry that Americans are now dead because he can’t do that job. Congress must act to get things back under control. Afghanistan is a spiraling disaster.
A plan forward.
Here’s what I think should happen. House and Senate Republicans should form a coalition with moderate and hawkish Democrats to force Pelosi to bring the chambers back before August 31, 2021. Rep. Dan Crenshaw was already pushing this point when he tweeted at a Pelosi tweet:
WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TWEETING ABOUT!?!
CALL US BACK TO SESSION AND LETS VOTE TO DEMAND THIS ADMINISTRATION TAKES ACTION TO SAVE OUR PEOPLE IN AFGHANISTAN.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Republicans are pushing for “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call the House back before the 8/31 deadline to be briefed on the attacks and to pass a GOP bill that does not allow American troops to leave Afghanistan until every citizen is evacuated.” Pelosi is rejecting these calls, referring to them as a political stunt. She’s remarkably out to lunch on this one and showing a callous disregard for American lives.
After that, Congress needs to get the Biden administration to push for something along the parameters advocated by Representative Mike Waltz of Florida:
1. Communicate to the Taliban we are leaving no Americans behind. No more deadlines. The mission isn’t complete until all Americans are out.
2. Retake Bagram Airforce Base – with use of force if necessary. HKIA is no longer defendable.
3. Stop relying on terrorists to screen for other terrorists.
4. Authorize our Special Forces to go get Americans.
5. Support internal sanctuaries for at-risk Afghans we can’t get out.
The sticking point appears to be August 31 — which both the Taliban and Biden administration are saying is non-negotiable. I found it telling that Representative Seth Moulton, the Democrat who slipped over to Afghanistan with Representative Peter Meijer, said the following:
Almost every veteran in Congress wants to extend the Aug. 31 deadline, including us, and our opinion on that was changed on the ground, because we started the evacuations so late. There’s no way we can get everyone out, even by Sept. 11. So we need to have a working relationship with the Taliban after our departure. And the only way to achieve that is to leave by Aug. 31.
A working relationship with the Taliban. I’m trying to take them at their word on that, that they’ve seen something to change their minds on things. I know the quantity of people is an issue. The New York Times reported that as many as 250,000 people could be left, needing evacuation from the country:
At least 250,000 Afghans who may be eligible for expedited American visas remain in Afghanistan, far too many for American forces to rescue before their deadline to leave next week, new estimates suggest.
Even if American forces continue their current pace of roughly 20,000 evacuations per day — a tall order — the estimates suggest the effort will not come close to rescuing the full group of Afghans who may be eligible to leave before President Biden’s deadline to depart, Aug. 31.
Many Afghan interpreters, advisers and others who worked with the U.S. government or American organizations over the past 20 years and their families are eligible for special visas. And many fear retribution from the Taliban and are desperate to leave.
My gut instinct is not to take orders from the Taliban and tell our troops to find everyone and get them out. What has changed everyone’s minds? That interview doesn’t say, only that the time limit is a hard one.
Why the deadline? Blackmail.
The only thing that would make that timeline hard is if the Taliban had some threat in play that forced the US government’s hands on the issue. And the only thing that could move the government’s hands is a near unlimited supply of hostages, where you say that you’ll indiscriminately kill people if the government decides to go back in. You claim you’ll kill people the US government wants and doesn’t want to evacuate.
So, in essence, I believe at this time that the Biden administration has allowed the US government to enter a hostage/blackmail situation with the Taliban. Because of that, everyone is holding to that deadline. Further, the administration (and its defenders) appear to be preparing a defense of this, claiming that those left behind wanted to stay. Noah Rothman noted this more recently:
For weeks, the White House and its allies have been laying the groundwork to blame the predicament in which the Americans stranded behind enemy lines find themselves on these Americans’ own negligence.
“Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home,” Joe Biden promised late last week. Press Sec. Jen Psaki has adopted this curious formulation, too. The administration’s goal, she told reporters, is to ensure that “any American who wants to leave, to help them leave.” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said something similar. “We believe that we have time between now and the 31st to get out any American who wants to get out,” he insisted.
In an interview with CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell, America’s Chargé d’Affaires in Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, flirted with this pusillanimous rationale. “We put out repeated warnings every three weeks to Americans going back to, I think, March or April. Each one in stronger terms: Leave now. Leave immediately,” he said. “People chose not to leave. That’s their business. That’s their right. We regret now that many may find themselves in a position that they would rather not be in, and we will try to help them.”
There’s a palpable tension in Wilson’s remarks—as though he is aware of the cravenness of shifting the blame for this disaster onto the aid workers, NGOs, civil servants, and U.S. government employees who woke up one morning to find themselves in a failed state. But others outside the administration are bolder in their advantage seeking. As the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin insisted, “the embassy focused for months on the Americans in Afghanistan,” warning in “ominous” tones of the uncertainty ahead. “Despite all that,” she continued, thousands of Americans chose to “remain across the country.”
Noah concludes by observing, “Now that this unachievable goal is plainly out of reach, the White House and its supporters are hoping to distribute the blame for the disaster to any and all—including the American citizens and green-card holders charged with executing the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.”
I think Noah is right. The White House is developing this talking point for two reasons, first to shift immediate blame. But second, to blame these Americans when and if the White House has to pay ransom money to get people out of Afghanistan after August 31.
Estimating the various sources of Taliban income is difficult, as Lawfare has noted. Still, the U.S. providing aid to “establish” relations with the Taliban to provide safe passage out from the country could be a course of revenue. Biden could authorize that, plus other humanitarian aid programs, to pave a way out for people and then sanction the Taliban after that.
This is all, of course, rank speculation. But the reaction of Meijer and Moulton was telling in my mind. They seemed convinced the date was unmovable, and building a relationship with the Taliban was critical. I don’t believe the Taliban is a group you can trust with anything. They’ve broken all their words and agreements with America so far. Why stop now?
All in all, I don’t believe in relations with the Taliban. I don’t think they’re a reliable partner in attacking groups like ISIS-K. And I don’t trust the Taliban to protect American or Afghan lives that the U.S. wants to evacuate. And of all things I don’t trust — I do not have faith in this administration to navigate the development of a relationship with the Taliban. The Biden administration has done more to kneecap America’s relationship with longstanding allies worldwide than any Presidency in recent memory.
We’re eight months in, and this is already a disastrous Presidency. I was prepared to ride these four years out dealing with the usual incompetency, combined with Biden’s expected blunders. I did not expect we’d be in a spot, eight months in, where the safety of American and Afghan lives depended on Biden’s alliance with the Taliban. We’ve crossed a line here that I never expected we’d come to, and it’s shocking even to consider it.
I pray for wisdom and competency, but I’m only finding the worst when I watch this administration. Are we at an impeachable moment? I believe so. I also know Democrats in Congress won’t impeach Biden over this, which is why I think you have to build a coalition in Congress to change things. We’re in an unacceptable position for the American people. We needed a Saigon moment, but we’re getting something that makes Black Hawk Down look orderly.
What’s worse, the Taliban can take tall that equipment they’ve stolen and sell it to our enemies: the Russians and Chinese. This fact may be the worst disaster of all. The U.S. is exposed both militarily and defensively in ways we’ve never experienced. The Snowden leaks were mild compared to what this Afghanistan disaster is doing. Our power is weakened, the Taliban won, and the Russians and Chinese will examine all our equipment.
Meanwhile, this administration remains focused on passing the blame on everyone — including American citizens. That’s why Congress has to step in and start reining in the administration. We’re beyond impeachment; this is about protecting what’s left. I wish Democrats in the White Hosue saw this and stepped up because the threat is real.
I’m going to let John Podhoretz at Commentary Magazine have the last word:
As we mourn the losses of American servicemembers today in Kabul, please keep this in mind: They would not be dead if Joe Biden had not chosen to pull American forces out of Afghanistan.
The number of deaths today in Afghanistan is greater than the entire number of Americans who died there in 2020. They mark the first service deaths in Afghanistan since February 2020. The change here was the deliberate and conscious decision to “end a war” in which Americans were not suffering combat casualties.
The status quo held. And then Joe Biden, in between licks of his ice cream cones, heedlessly and vaingloriously smashed it to bits. He wanted to be the bringer of peace; he is instead the bringer of chaos. And we haven’t seen anything yet.
Links of the week
Biden Subcontracts U.S. Security to Terrorists: The disastrous U.S.-Taliban ‘partnership’ begins with a massacre – Matthew Continetti, The Washington Free Beacon
Deadliest Day for Troops in Afghanistan Since 2011 – Washington Free Beacon
Without the Pax Americana, there is no pax – Dan Hannan, The Washington Examiner
Has Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan made us safer? Clearly not. – Josh Rogin, Washington Post
Last Chance to Leave: The Fight to Get One Woman Out of Afghanistan: In recent weeks, some media orgs have pivoted to assisting Afghans seeking to leave their country. Diana Falzone details her efforts to get one 20-year-old journalist out. – Diana Falzone, The Daily Beast
I Commanded Afghan Troops This Year. We Were Betrayed. – Sami Sadat, NYTimes
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Thanks for reading!