Biden’s latest interview, insistence that he was incorrectly briefed, and low profile amid the Afghanistan crisis all raise troubling questions.
After making no public appearances for four days — during a major foreign crisis — President Biden read a 20-minute speech off a teleprompter on Monday afternoon and took no questions. He immediately returned to Camp David. He had no events on his schedule Tuesday. On Wednesday, he gave another 20-minute speech about vaccine boosters off a teleprompter from Camp David, and again took no questions. Also on Wednesday, the president sat for an on-camera interview with George Stephanopoulos that did not go well. According to the White House public records, Biden has had two phone conversations with foreign leaders in the past ten days — one with Boris Johnson and one with Angela Merkel.
As of this writing, Biden has no public events on his schedule for today. He is scheduled to receive the president’s daily briefing from the intelligence community and meet with his national-security team. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, he is scheduled to return to his house in Delaware today.
This is a highly unusual schedule for a president during a foreign-policy crisis. Yes, a president can perform his job anywhere, whether it’s Camp David or his own private residence.
Biden began the interview by insisting that the intelligence community had given him unclear and excessively optimistic answers about the state of the Afghan military and government:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Back in July, you said a Taliban takeover was highly unlikely. Was the intelligence wrong, or did you downplay it?
BIDEN: I think — there was no consensus. If you go back and look at the intelligence reports, they said that it’s more likely to be sometime by the end of the year.
The first problem is that there is no way to square what Biden said yesterday with his July 8 declaration that the intelligence community had not stated that the Afghan government would likely collapse:
Q: Mr. President, thank you very much. Your own intelligence community has assessed that the Afghan government will likely collapse.
THE PRESIDENT: That is not true.
Q: Is it — can you please clarify what they have told you about whether that will happen or not?
THE PRESIDENT: That is not true. They did not — they didn’t — did not reach that conclusion.
Then during the Stephanopoulos interview, Biden insisted that he himself had predicted that the Afghan government would collapse by the end of the year:
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you know that Senator McConnell, others say this was not only predictable, it was predicted, including by him, based on intelligence briefings he was getting.
BIDEN: What — what did he say was predicted?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator McConnell said it was predictable that the Taliban was gonna take over.
BIDEN: Well, by the end of the year, I said that’s that was — that was a real possibility. But no one said it was gonna take over then when it was bein’ asked.
The president either does not remember what he said on July 8, or he is simply trying to gaslight everyone into believing that he did warn of the Afghan government’s collapsing.
This morning, Douglas London, a former CIA counterterrorism chief and former member of Biden’s counterterrorism working group, writes that the president is lying: “Ultimately, it was assessed, Afghan forces might capitulate within days under the circumstances we witnessed, in projections highlighted to Trump officials and future Biden officials alike.”
Biden not only dodged questions — we’re used to politicians doing that — he offered a barely coherent word salad in some responses:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So when you look at what’s happened over the last week, was it a failure of intelligence, planning, execution or judgment?
BIDEN: Look, I don’t think it was a fa– look, it was a simple choice, George. When the– when the Taliban — let me back — put it another way. When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government get in a plane and taking off and going to another country, when you saw the significant collapse of the ta– of the– Afghan troops we had trained — up to 300,000 of them just leaving their equipment and taking off, that was — you know, I’m not– this — that — that’s what happened. That’s simply what happened.
Stephanopolous continued, “We’ve all seen the pictures. We’ve seen those hundreds of people packed in a C-17. We’ve seen Afghans falling-”
“That was four days ago, five days ago!” Biden interjected. It was two days ago, but that’s not really what is important; what is spectacularly odd is that Biden is reacting as if he thinks Stephanopolous was bringing up irrelevant ancient history.
Perhaps most unsettling was President Biden’s insistence that nothing could have been done any differently, and that none of the horrors we are witnessing could have been prevented.