For the first seven months of his presidency, Joe Biden governed by ignoring contradictions. He urged American citizens to limit their personal travel and assembly due to Covid-19, ignoring the millions of illegal aliens streaming across an unguarded southern border. Citing environmental concerns, he placed new restrictions on domestic oil and gas drilling and pipeline construction, yet simultaneously urged OPEC to increase its oil production. He projected a “Return to Normalcy,” but appointed many social activists to governmental positions.
That all crumbled with the botched evacuation of Afghanistan. Regardless of whether or not all American soldiers should have been evacuated, the execution was handled so badly that the President watched twenty years of American effort evaporate overnight. He has infuriated American allies who also had troops in Afghanistan yet felt blindsided by American plans, and he has made public pronouncements so blatantly false they’ve raised questions about his fitness for office.
The press has noticed. Cable news networks like CNN, which treated President Biden much more respectfully than it did Donald Trump, have turned on him completely. Even his fellow Democrats in Congress have been willing to publicly criticize him.
American presidents often fumble their first foreign test, John Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs fiasco being among the most famous. The Afghanistan pullout, however has immense implications. Will Afghanistan once again become a terrorist haven? Will our perpetually-threatened allies like Taiwan, South Korea and Israel lose confidence in American support? Will the Democrat Party, which possesses razor thin margins in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, remain united now that its leader’s vision and competence are in question?
To save his presidency, Joe Biden now must take control over his government – and his party. In doing so, he risks leaving many of his erstwhile supporters behind, but he may save his future.
First, the President must concentrate on Afghanistan. He has little time left to finish evacuating Western nationals and threatened Afghans, as he also must evacuate foreign embassies and staff. The longer this takes the less the Taliban will be willing to stand down, increasing the possibility of an armed confrontation.
Second, President Biden must gain control over the Mexican border. With the Delta variant spreading and new mask mandates, remote working, indoor gathering bans and potential school closings in the offing, the patience of the American people is over for allowing millions of foreigners without proof of Covid or vaccine status to walk across our border illegally and get bussed around the country. This issue cannot be avoided any longer. Given the Afghan debacle, any attempt by the administration at this point to look away from what’s happening will be just another example of an administration in denial of reality.
Third the President must get his bipartisan $1 Trillion infrastructure plan passed. The Progressive wing of the Democratic Party is threatening to hold this up unless their larger $3.5 Trillion spending plan gets approved by the House of Representatives also. As this is written the larger package is being debated on the floor of the House, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is threatening not to bring up the bipartisan deal until the larger one is approved.
Centrist Democrats in swing districts are threatening to vote no on the larger plan. Even if does get approved in the House, the program may fail in the Senate, which has not met since prior to the Afghan situation and is split 50-50. Looking incredibly weak internationally Biden can’t afford to be weak domestically. He must get the bipartisan bill passed, whatever happens with the larger package.
Finally, the President must reestablish relationships with America’s foreign allies and restore confidence in America’s international commitments. This may be the trickiest part of all. Having just removed sanctions to allow completion of Germany’s controversial Nord Stream 2 oil and gas pipeline directly from Russia in the Baltic Sea, Biden will face enormous pressure from Canada over that country’s oil and gas pipelines that he’s blocking or threatening. Any movement here will further infuriate his Progressive supporters at home.
In Asia, China already is blasting propaganda towards Taiwan over the lack of American resolve. Biden will have to figure out how both to calm Taiwanese fears and to limit China’s ever more aggressive actions.
And then of course there’s Iran. They may not like the Taliban (Shia vs. Sunni), but they love to see America humiliated. With Lebanon on the verge of complete collapse and with Hezbollah’s political position becoming more tenuous daily, will the Mullahs in Tehran decide this is a good time to turn Hezbollah’s arsenal on Israel?
Everywhere one turns the Afghan debacle reverberates negatively. When he was elected, I wrote that Joe Biden was elected for who he isn’t. https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/joe-biden-elected-for-who-he-is-not-now-he-must-show-what-he-is/. Now he must show what he is. There’s no better time than the present.