In my lifetime I have been conscious of quite a few presidential administration operations. I’m a Baby Boomer born in 1953. I don’t remember Eisenhower’s presidency, but I do remember John F. Kennedy’s time in office and, of course, every president since. There has been a stinker or two in the White House. And then there’s Joe Biden.
John F. Kennedy was the recipient of the angst of the Soviet Union and the Bay of Pigs debacle in Cuba. We were literally just minutes away from a probable war that could have escalated to a nuclear war with Russia.
Lyndon B. Johnson was Kennedy’s Vice President who was thrust into the Oval Office when JFK was assassinated. Johnson was the actual designer of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He never declared war in Vietnam. Years and thousands of lives later, numerous young Americans returned from the rice paddies of Vietnam to the hatred and demonstrations of Americans who despised the war and all who participated in it. Those GI’s couldn’t understand the angst for them. They just went to do their service to the country.
There WERE big winners in the Vietnam mess: defense contractors who won multi-billion-dollar military contracts they received as handouts from their Buddy in the White House. The losers were citizens of the southeast Asian country and American GI’s who made it out and the family members of the thousands who didn’t.
Richard Nixon and his presidency were a disaster. Politics took control of the White House and Nixon went after his political opponents in a manner belonging to thugs. Who can forget the WaterGate break-in perpetrated by Nixon henchman to “get” documents and data from the headquarters of the Democrat Party? Nixon resigned in the face of certain impeachment.
Jimmy Carter was the worst president in modern history in numerous ways. On his watch, 100+ Americans were held hostage in Iran for more than a year. Inflation soared under his egregious financial policies. The prime lending rate hit 20% that destroyed numerous countries and destroyed the market for homeowners and those purchasing homes. Mortgage rates hit 18%!
Reagan struggled through the Iran Contra affair. Bush 41 invaded Iraq in the name of pushing Hussein out of Kuwait. Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky that played out literally in the Oval Office and was impeached for committing perjury in a civil trial and also for suborning perjury. Bush 43 followed his father’s lead and went to war with Hussein in Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction that weren’t there. That came after 9/11 and the Twin Towers’ toppling. Obama took spending taxpayer dollars on government give-outs to a never-before-seen level. Who can forget those “shovel-ready jobs” that he later admitted, “weren’t really “shovel-ready.”
Robert Gates served under President George H.W. Bush as CIA Director then as Secretary of Defense for George W. Bush and became the first Secretary of Defense to be asked to remain in the next President’s administration: Barack Obama.
Gates knew Joe Biden for decades as the two served in Washington during the same time periods. He knew Biden specifically from a foreign policy perspective. He years ago made what seems to many to have been a prophetic word about then-Senator Joe Biden: “Joe Biden has been wrong on every foreign policy position he has ever taken.”
Many Americans, Afghani citizens, American citizens in our southern states, and even foreign leaders agree today that Gates was right about Biden.
Joe Biden has badly, visibly bungled America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. He has compounded the problem with his sluggish and dishonest public statements. This has gone so badly that even people and institutions that are normally sympathetic to Biden and his party have noticed. American allies have been appalled, and vocal about it. What is slowly dawning on people is that Biden’s critics were right about him all along. Not since James Buchanan has America had a president who came so prepared by experience for the job, yet had so little clue how to do it. That reality will be shoved from consciousness soon enough by people with a professional stake in not acknowledging it, but a growing number of the American people are likely to remember. So will our allies and enemies around the world.
It was possible (if you did not look too closely) to construct a case on paper over the past year and a half for Joe Biden as an appropriate person to be president of the United States, commander in chief of its armed forces, and leader of the free world. Certainly, Biden did not lack experience in high, national public office, exposing him to everything a man would need in order to be prepared for the job. He was a senator for 36 years, dating back to the closing days of the Vietnam War. He chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee twice, including during the post–9/11 era when Congress authorized the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He served two terms as vice president. He traveled to war zones and met scores of foreign leaders. Biden was also a man who came up from humble means and was seasoned by personal tragedy. One could characterize his years in office as the record of a public servant who values important institutions, took many mainstream positions and showed a willingness and ability to work with people across the aisle.
Yet, longtime Biden-watchers knew better. Two sets of critiques of Biden have followed him over the course of his career, and Republicans and conservatives have hardly been the only ones to level them. First were the things people noticed about Biden before 2019. For all his time-serving in Washington, Biden was widely understood to be a lightweight, a “tale-teller,” a plagiarist, an exaggerating braggart, a walking gaffe machine, a purveyor of malarkey who covered his inch-deep grasp of everything with his Irish charm and his ability to talk fast and at length until the listener had long since lost track of the topic. Biden rarely had ideas of his own, and when he did, they were usually the subject of mockery. His capacity for filling airtime at Senate hearings without actually saying anything was legendary. Yet, as Clarence Thomas and others warned, Biden could also be two-faced, reassuring people with promises in private and breaking them in public.
He could handle the Senate because he’d been there since he was 29, and there are lots of places to hide from accountability as one of a hundred. When Obama made the biggest right decision of his career to take out Osama bin Laden, Biden was the guy in the room saying “Mr. President, my suggestion is, don’t go” because there would be nobody to pass the political buck to if it failed.
It wasn’t just the bin Laden raid. Biden was also known for being wrong on just about every significant foreign-policy issue in Washington for half a century, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. In 1973-75, after the United States had signed the Paris Peace Accords that were supposed to end the Vietnam War without the collapse of South Vietnam, Biden was a loud voice in the Senate for cutting off any further U.S. assistance to prevent the North from overrunning the South. He didn’t care about America’s moral obligations:
“I may be the most immoral son of a gun in this room,” Biden said at a Democratic caucus in early 1975 as he argued against aid to Cambodia. “I’m getting sick and tired of hearing about morality, our moral obligation. There’s a point where you are incapable of meeting moral obligations that exist worldwide.”
He didn’t care what happened to the people we abandoned, either:
“I do not believe the United States has an obligation, moral or otherwise, to evacuate foreign nationals. . . . The United States has no obligation to evacuate one, or 100,001, South Vietnamese.”
Barack Obama was in high school in Hawaii in the years that led up to the fall of Saigon. Donald Trump was still just another no-name real estate developer from Queens. George W. Bush was packing off to Harvard Business School. Bill Clinton was fresh out of law school and teaching in Arkansas. Jimmy Carter was winding down his single term as governor of Georgia, still unknown on the national stage. Ronald Reagan was leaving behind his governorship of California and gearing up for his first serious national campaign. But Joe Biden was already in D.C. helping shape the congressional policy that tied the hands of Gerald Ford while Saigon was overrun.
Hawks and doves alike blasted Biden for opposing the Gulf War in 1990-91, supporting the Iraq War in 2002-03, opposing the surge in 2007, and supporting the 2009-11 withdrawal (a move that was seconded by Tony Blinken and Lloyd Austin, now his secretaries of state and defense). In 2010, Biden boasted of the U.S. departure from Iraq: “Some said that our drawdown would bring about more violence. Well, they were wrong, because the Iraqis are ready to take charge.” Instead, ISIS took over nearly half the country, and the United States had to go back to war.
Biden never actually ran anything bigger than a Senate committee (which runs on its staff) until he was vice president. The things he ran as vice president (such as overseeing the stimulus) were notable disasters. Politico reported that Biden’s own boss, Barack Obama, warned another Democrat in 2016, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f*** things up.” It has not been hard to notice how much Obama has kept his distance from his former veep as Biden does just that. You might prefer partying on Martha’s Vineyard with George Clooney and John Legend, too, if the alternative was making your political legacy a hostage to fortune in the hands of Joe Biden.
The façade of Biden’s charm was also prone to cracking when he was actually pushed to do more than just run his mouth. His infamous meltdowns on the campaign trail in 1987 happened when reporters were hot on his trail for stealing another man’s speeches and biography. Biden told one voter, “I have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect,” and tried to shout down the press with a series of lies about his academic attainments. “I exaggerate when I’m angry,” Biden conceded later. Yes, we noticed. When he debated Paul Ryan in 2012, he went full Joe Biden, shouting over Ryan repeatedly to prevent any sort of engagement with his ideas.
With Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign came a second set of newer critiques. He was visibly not the same man in his late seventies, no longer able to talk his way around trouble. That was widely noticed by progressives in the primaries until it became inconvenient to mention. The quick-tongued gaffes turned to confusion and sentences that were abandoned midstream after Biden lost his way. Without the old gift of BS, Biden’s fuse when confronted was shorter — he called one voter a “lying, dog-faced pony soldier,” and berated another with “look, fat” and challenged the guy to a push-up contest. The man who once would talk to anyone about anything for any amount of time retreated to taking questions only from pre-scripted lists of friendly reporters. Biden was always a man without courage, but now he was discarding long-held positions overnight, allowing himself to be bullied by his own party’s extremists. Generational changes in Congress had also robbed him of his feel for how the Hill works.
The pandemic was a godsend, allowing him to hide in his basement for months and avoid unscripted questions. He won the election by making himself as small and low-profile as he needed to be. Opinion polls for much of this year have shown him enjoying a honeymoon period with voters tired of Trump who are happy to have an absentee president for a while. But Afghanistan, the Taliban, ISIS, and REAL foreign policy were certain to expose Joe Biden. And it has.
Leon Panetta, the defense secretary under Obama from 2011 to 2013 and a man who has served alongside Biden for decades, looked at the inept execution of the withdrawal and commented, “It just struck me that they were crossing their fingers and hoping chaos would not result.” Panetta suggested that Biden just isn’t the same man anymore: “It’s not the Joe Biden that I often saw in the National Security Council raising questions about the planning involved in any decision that the president had to face.”
Three different Senate committees, all led by Democrats, have now promised to launch probes of what went wrong — a highly unusual display, given the longstanding refusal of Democrats on Capitol Hill to investigate their own administrations. New Jersey’s Bob Menendez: “I am disappointed that the Biden administration clearly did not accurately assess the implications of a rapid U.S. withdrawal. We are now witnessing the horrifying results of many years of policy and intelligence failures.”
It is long past time for people to notice who Joe Biden always was, and who he has become in his advanced and obvious cognitive decline. He is a hollow man, incapable of managing a picnic, let alone a war. His credibility, always unearned, is shot. His only real skill is his quick tongue, and it has deserted him. Even his onetime virtues — his old-timey patriotism, his faith in institutions, his empathy for others — are easily discarded as the old man reverts to his base instincts when cornered. Biden must hobble through the remainder of his presidency, if only because the alternative is Kamala Harris, his inexplicable choice — or threat — of an heir. But nobody should, any longer, pretend that Joe Biden is fit to lead this nation.
Joe’s gotta go…period.
Hats off to Jimmy Carter. In just six months, Joe Biden snatched the “Forever Worst President” trophy from Jimmy Carter. No doubt, Joe owns that trophy…by a LOT!
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