It is in the grand tradition of American politics for presidents to cast blame on their predecessors. And most incoming chief executives, at least those not named Trump, are granted a few months to air out their grievances (wow, we had no idea things were this bad …) during a honeymoon period. But there comes a time in the life of every president when he can no longer pass the buck of responsibility. That time most often arrives with his first crisis.
And so, that bell now tolls for Joe Biden in his withdrawal from, or surrender of, Afghanistan. The unnecessary humiliation and blight on American honor arising from this capitulation has undoubtedly soiled his presidency. Adding fuel to the tire fire on Pennsylvania Avenue is Wednesday’s report by Reuters that Biden asked the now-deposed Afghan president to join him in essentially lying about conditions on the ground as the withdrawal approached, telling him “there is a need to project a different picture.”
This first crisis has been shockingly revelatory about Joe Biden’s ability to, first, function in disaster and, second, hold himself accountable before the American people. His response to widespread criticism has been to essentially throw up his hands angrily and say don’t blame me, Trump signed the deal. But then he tries to play both sides against the middle. As the New York Post headlined it, “An angry Biden blames Trump for Afghan pullout — then takes credit for it.”
Indeed, this 46th president has turned blaming Trump into an art form.
But whether it is the many signature Trump policies he has reversed (foremost immigration), or the only one that he chose to keep (Afghanistan), it is all blowing up in his face. The disgraceful conclusion to America’s longest-running war may well come to define his presidency, for he demonstrated little more than bumbling incompetence followed by rage against the machine that dragged him into office and dared to criticize him, and outright defiance in the face of bipartisan and worldwide condemnation – like a Keystone Cop with an attitude.
Joe Biden has reversed every key border enforcement policy tortuously put in place by Donald Trump, which had slowed crossings to a crawl, but somehow he blames Trump when the situation explodes and illegals flood across the border in record numbers. He shamelessly fingers Trump for the death toll from COVID even as Trump hands him a cost-free pearl of great price, a trio of vaccines in record time. He inherits an economy booming for years under Trump, devastated by the pandemic but well into recovery, and yet claims that he inherited “the worst crisis since the Great Depression.” It’s as if we are supposed to feel sorry for him and his bad luck … after he was the beneficiary of arguably the greatest stroke of political good fortune in our lifetime, an election year pandemic that snapped the stars into perfect alignment for the aging career politician.
In contrast, the man who salvaged Biden from the political ash heap, Barack Obama, was handed an ongoing economic meltdown substantially worse than what Biden inherited, along with damned-if-you-stay-or-go quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet dutifully, if unenthusiastically, he played the seven-high hand he was dealt without publicly fixating on his misfortune. The man who served as Obama’s vice president now tries to spin an obvious disaster into a triumph, blame his predecessor, and shout at the American people, as if raising his voice will change the reality of a shameful episode almost universally condemned across the political spectrum, and for which he bears full responsibility.
We were told that this man is who the American people wanted to be their president, that this Delaware careerist would return a sense of normalcy, and decency, and competence, by his mere presence. We were assured that his evident cognitive decline was unworthy of serious scrutiny. We were promised that he would “build back better.” What we were not told is that the first time he was faced with a crisis – a self-imposed crisis – he would melt into an alternate reality in which, like a Pavlovian dog, all he seems able to say is that it was Trump’s fault.