While Vice President Kamala Harris has spent much of the last seven months out of sight, it is now clear that President Joe Biden’s administration is presiding over a country that is becoming increasingly unglued and out of control.
On the domestic front:
COVID-19 cases are rising once again with the proliferation of the delta variant.
The traditional back-to-school season faces disruption and uncertainty about the need for children to wear masks.
Core inflation is rising and showing few, if any, signs of being temporary. Moreover, these inflation signals are flashing red even before the $1 trillion infrastructure bill becomes law.
Possibly accompanying, or following, this physical infrastructure package is another $3.5 trillion package of mostly social-service “infrastructure” spending.
As a result, federal spending, annual budget deficit and national debt figures are reaching unprecedented, dangerous and unsustainable levels.
Reckless monetary and fiscal policies are contributing to asset bubbles in the stock and real-estate markets.
The United States has gone from being a major energy exporter to begging OPEC to increase its supply given rising gasoline prices across America and Biden policies that have dramatically curtailed domestic energy production.
Officials along our southern border can’t halt record-breaking numbers of refugees flooding the country. Meanwhile, Afghan refugees who aided our 20-year military engagement face bewildering paperwork and potentially fatal State Department delays in processing their visa requests.
Crime is rising significantly in major American cities against a backdrop of continued efforts to demonize police.
The chairman of our military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, just a few weeks before the Afghanistan debacle, was on Capitol Hill testifying about the need to understand critical race theory (apparently a higher priority than helping our Afghan friends).
And now we turn to the international front, where the collapse of Afghanistan is signaling to the world how feckless our senior leaders have become.
Former Democratic Congressman, OMB Director, CIA Director, Defense Secretary and White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, along with Obama political operative David Axelrod, strongly advised President Biden to take responsibility for the Afghanistan mess.
Instead, Biden has done the opposite by allocating the blame everywhere else but the Oval Office. After the Bay of Pigs disaster in April 1961 (a mere four months into his presidency), President Kennedy had the courage and decency to accept responsibility for his mistakes and to do so while answering questions from the press.
President Biden should carefully review JFK’s April 20, 1961, remarks on the Bay of Pigs and his 33-minute press conference the next day.
Biden has so far limited his appearance before the White House press corps to just two relatively brief sessions on August 20 and 22. By contrast, the Taliban’s leadership held its first press conference while Biden was still vacationing at Camp David.
President Biden’s first teleprompter-assisted speech on Afghanistan doubled-down on shifting the blame while also ignoring on-the-ground reality in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan. His one-on-one interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos added more confusion and contradictions to his messaging.
We saw Biden’s weakness even before the August 15 collapse, when he begged the Taliban not to harm the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Now, we’re totally dependent on the Taliban to keep open access to the airport so that American citizens, Afghans, and allies can escape the debacle.
Not since the last year of the Jimmy Carter administration have there been so many mounting dilemmas for this country against the backdrop of weak presidential leadership.
Joe Biden reached the White House after campaigning primarily from his Wilmington, Delaware, home. He embraced the pandemic’s restrictions in order to limit his exposure to the American public. His campaign message emphasized two principal themes: “I’m not Donald Trump,” and “I have impeccable foreign-policy experience that can restore America’s global leadership.”
The first message was obvious; the second message now faces serious reconsideration.
The good news is that Biden is still relatively early in his presidency. The bad news is that if he doesn’t (or, even worse, can’t because of personal limitations) change course immediately, the country has over three years left of his presidency.
Biden cannot continue ducking and shifting responsibility for his disastrous handling of our Afghanistan departure. Today’s 24/7 media is not only faster than what JFK experienced, it can be more relentless.
An ailing President Woodrow Wilson relied on his wife and an aide, Colonel Edward House, to cover for Wilson’s declining health. Biden will face accountability. We’ll know fairly soon whether he can handle the American presidency.
Charles Kolb served as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy from 1990-1992 in the George H.W. Bush White House