For Joe Biden, bad is quickly turning to worse.
A day after the president tried to defend his decision to wave the white flag in Afghanistan and assure a jittery America his government could manage the fallout, the scope of the disaster came into sharper focus.
An outbreak of the blame game is erupting among federal agencies trying to duck responsibility. Intelligence and defense officials are leaking that they warned the White House that withdrawing all American forces could lead to the sudden collapse of the Afghan military, but were ignored.
Perhaps most worrisome for a Democrat in the White House is that the usual media handmaidens are aggressively poking holes in Biden’s preposterous assurances instead of defending him.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan experienced the change of the media winds when he was peppered with a score of tough questions in the briefing room. The consistent theme was serious doubt about the ability and claims of Biden and his team.
One questioner captured the spirit by saying the chaos doesn’t look like the "results of a competent administration."
When another reporter asked why Biden went to Camp David and even returned there after going to the White House for his Monday speech, Sullivan was forced to defend the president’s work habits and insisted Joe was "deeply engaged" in the situation.
Later, Sullivan admitted Biden had not talked to any foreign heads of state, which is shocking because many allies had troops working with the U.S., and most foreign nationals are presumably also desperate to get out of Afghanistan.
To be sure, the questions did not come with the tone of personal hostility that was routine during the Trump administration. But compared to the adulation Barack Obama got for his eight years and the gentle questions Biden got on the campaign trail and the early days of his presidency, this was something new.
Finally, the media were showing signs of holding a Democrat responsible for an obvious and tragic blunder.
One thing that became clear at the news conference is that the administration is banking on the largess of the Taliban to allow the U.S. to carry out tens of thousands of evacuations from the Kabul airport.
That includes many American citizens who are not yet at the airport, Sullivan conceded, and would have to get there by going through numerous Taliban checkpoints.
Sullivan tried to deflect skepticism by saying, "Ultimately, it’s going to be up to the Taliban to show who they are," then added, "The track record is not good."
At another point, he said he hoped the Taliban "was prepared to meet its obligations" on human rights and other issues to the "international community."
What nonsense. Diplomatic understatement is one thing, but to soft-pedal the savagery of the Taliban is indefensible. And to suggest that finger-wagging from the popinjays in Brussels and the United Nations would have any impact is absurd.
And yet, that’s where Biden has put America and the fate of thousands: hoping that an Islamist terrorist group will play nice.
Not incidentally, that terrorist group is now armed to the teeth with American weapons it took from the Afghan army.
As to how it all went so wrong so fast, Sullivan repeated one of Biden’s whoppers by claiming the administration "planned for all contingencies."
That doesn’t pass the smell test, given that the lives of so many Americans and Afghans who worked with our military now hang in the balance. If there was a plan to handle that, where is it?
As it stands, the Taliban have the firepower to rain down death and destruction on the crowded airport, and there is little America could do to stop it.
- Rep. Michael McCaul: Biden owns Afghanistan mess – he wasted time, ignored advice and now blames others
- Mike Pence: Biden broke our deal with the Taliban – it's a humiliation not seen since Iran hostage crisis
- Newt Gingrich: Biden's Afghanistan debacle reminds us that when the world gets tough, Joe hides from reality
While immediate life-and-death issues play out in Kabul, there are also long-term ramifications of Biden’s calamitous decision to effectively turn Afghanistan over to terrorists.
The first points to the reason America invaded 20 years ago. The Taliban played host to Usama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda monsters who plotted and directed the 9/11 attacks.
Now the Taliban are back and control the government and the entire country, are far richer and have the arms and equipment of a modern military. Their ability to host other Islamist groups is magnified, as is their capability to launch attacks across their borders and around the world.
Sullivan tried to play down those possibilities by saying America fights terrorists in numerous countries while not actually engaged in the kind of combat it was in Afghanistan.
Still, the fact is that American troops succeeded in preventing all terrorists from using Afghan territory as a safe haven for international attacks by being there, but now have to do the job from afar.
Whether the U.S. can be as effective from "over the horizon," as Biden put it, is a guess at best.
The other large ramification from Biden’s capitulation is the impact on other adversaries and allies. Will China take the surrender in Afghanistan as a sign that Biden would not contest an attack on Taiwan?
Then there’s Israel. Can it be sure a Biden White House is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, or does the Jewish state look at Afghanistan and conclude it cannot depend on America in a crisis?
Sullivan insisted in response to a question that those two countries have nothing to worry about. "Our commitments are as strong as ever," he declared.
That’s what he and Biden said about Afghanistan — until they changed their minds and abandoned the mission.