Damning pic of a weak leader: Devine

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What possessed the White House to tweet out a photo of Joe Biden all alone in a conference room at Camp David as Kabul fell to the Taliban Sunday?

Isolated, feeble, indecisive: that is the lasting image of the president of the United States as his nation suffered the worst self-inflicted humiliation of its history.

In a polo shirt, a hippy bracelet on his left wrist and his right hand covering his mouth, the vacationing president looked every bit his 78 years as he sat alone at a vast table set for 18 absent advisers.

He stared at a distant screen showing American officials in eight locations conducting a video conference on the unfolding catastrophe in Afghanistan. None of the people on screen seemed to address him directly.

The commander in chief was an observer, not a leader.

Everything was wrong with the photo. Even the world clocks on the wall in front of Biden were inaccurate, having not been adjusted for Daylight Saving Time, a sloppy detail unbefitting a superpower.

This official White House image projected weakness at a dangerous time, when the eyes of the world are judging the extent of America’s decline.

What they saw was an old man on his own, his botched conceit in ruins at his feet. Only seven months in office, Biden had taken to inviting historians into the White House to coach him on how to pre-burnish his legacy. The Afghanistan timetable was tailor-made for the history books, a political set piece in which he would be lauded as the first president who ended the endless war on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Instead, the Taliban’s Islamists will raise their flag at the $1 billion American embassy in Kabul on 9/11 and dance on American graves.

It took three days for the White House to blast out a photo that at least gave the appearance of presidential command.

A US soldier points his gun toward an Afghan passenger at the Kabul airport as the military struggles to evaluate thousands of Afghans trying to escape the Taliban regime.
A US soldier points his gun toward an Afghan passenger at the Kabul airport as the military struggles to evaluate thousands of Afghans trying to escape the Taliban regime.
AFP via Getty Images

It showed Biden in the Situation Room Wednesday, a black mask dangling off his ear, as he sat at the head of a table, appearing to speak to his assembled military and ­national-security team.

Vice President Kamala Harris sat to his right. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, alongside and opposite her, focussed their eyes squarely on the boss, but Harris had her head turned slightly away from Biden and her gaze fixed down at the ­table. Two fingers of her left hand were pressed to her temple, blocking any peripheral view of the president.

It was the first time she had been seen in six days, and her body language spoke volumes. Failure is an orphan and Biden stinks of it.

Harris was conspicuously absent during Biden’s mendacious teleprompter remarks about Afghanistan Monday, when he blamed everyone but himself, despite a pro forma “the buck stops with me.”

After his speech, the president — who won an election in absentia from his Delaware basement — refused to answer questions shouted by the waiting press and went back to his Camp David vacation, leaving the rest of his administration to get on with the mess he had left them.

A Taliban fighter walks past a beauty salon with posters of women vandalized in Shar-e-Naw in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 18, 2021.
AFP via Getty Images

He seemed not to comprehend that when a presidential candidate hides in a basement, that might be smart politics, but when the president of the United States does it, that is a dereliction of duty.

Harris was not at his side, either, when he returned briefly to the White House from vacation Wednesday afternoon for a bizarre performance in front of a teleprompter in the East Room, intoning for 16 minutes about his favorite topic, COVID-19, and threatening governors who oppose mask mandates.

“We’re not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children,” the president said.

This is a dishonest characterization of parental choice, as favored by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the main target of Biden’s ire. 

But the main point is that the president did not say a word about Afghanistan, where he has just returned 6,500 troops to carry out the dangerous mission of rescuing thousands of Americans he left trapped behind enemy lines.

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference today, to speak about a new Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Center in Pembroke Pines, FL. The treatment center will take up to 300 patients a day.
President Joe Biden tried to divert attention away from his disaster in Afghanistan to target Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Michele Eve Sandberg/MEGA

Then he turned on his heel and walked out, refusing to be held ­accountable by assembled journalists for any of his decisions. It was an extraordinarily cowardly ­display.

Perhaps his advisers felt that doing a prerecorded interview with trusted Democratic operative ­George Stephanopoulos for ABC News would be enough to keep the media satisfied.

But an excerpt of the interview released Wednesday did nothing to dispel the impression of a stubborn man, out of his depth, lacking in empathy and refusing to admit he was wrong to defy military ­advice.

“Was it a failure of intelligence, planning, execution or judgment?” asked Stephanopoulos.

“Look. I don’t think it was a failure,” replied Biden.

When Stephanopoulos asked about the heart-rending scenes at the Kabul airport, including Afghans falling from the sky from an American aircraft they had tried desperately to cling to, Biden ­interrupted testily: “That was four days ago, five days ago.”

No, it was Monday, two days ­before.

The interview excerpt went from bad to worse, with Biden’s voice growing more querulous, as if any criticism, even gently implied, was an outrage.

Stephanopoulos: “You don’t think it could have been handled better in any way? No mistakes?”

Biden: “No . . . the idea that somehow there’s a way to get out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens.”

Well, his generals and the intelligence agencies told him a better way. An orderly exit did not mean abandoning the secure Bagram Airfield with its two runways outside Kabul before every American and their trusted Afghan allies had a chance to get out.

This ongoing debacle will define Biden’s remaining time in office. But no one should be surprised by his incompetence or the self-aggrandizing fantasies and silly expectations he spun going in.

It’s how he’s always been — only it didn’t matter until he was in the driver’s seat.

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