President Biden’s address to the nation concerning his surrender of Afghanistan to the Taliban was obviously a desperate attempt to convince the public that it wasn’t the disaster we watched in real time. The actual effect of his weirdly belligerent speech was to confirm that he is unable to grasp the military and foreign policy complexities associated with his role as Commander in Chief. This has sent his approval numbers into a nosedive from which it will be difficult to recover. A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, for example, shows his approval rating at an all time low of 44 percent and that only a third of Americans believe he handled Afghanistan properly.
A new ABC/Washington Post survey shows Biden with a comparably dismal overall rating and even worse numbers on Afghanistan. According to that poll, only 26 percent of U.S. adults approve of his management of the withdrawal. The most significant overall damage has been among Independents, whose disapproval of Biden has risen from 43 to 57 percent. Several other recent polls, including NPR/PBS/Marist and Rasmussen, also show the bottom falling out of his approval ratings. This is about more than the Afghanistan debacle itself. It is clearly connected to ludicrous claims Biden made about it during last week’s speech. As Alex Thompson and Christopher Cadelago phrase it at Politico,
Biden’s remarks served as the latest instance of the president digging his heels in on Afghanistan in the face of an unprecedented wave of criticism from traditional allies in the Democratic Party and the media. In fact, Biden has appeared more resolute and defensive the louder his critics became, appearing convinced that voters and history will ultimately reward him for ending the war despite the chaotic withdrawal.… The drawdown of the war in Afghanistan represents the most significant failure Biden has confronted in his presidency — one where he repeatedly failed to meet his lofty promises and flawed predictions.
Yet Biden’s Tuesday address acknowledged none of this. It was an unnerving admixture of delusion and defiance. Where everyone else saw incompetence and chaos, he saw “extraordinary success.” Where everyone else saw betrayal and dishonor, he saw “a mission of mercy.” Where everyone else saw an arbitrary deadline, he saw a courageous decision “designed to save American lives.” Where everyone else saw surrender and shame, he saw an “honored commitment.” His only acknowledgment of failure involved a misrepresentation of his predecessor’s conditional withdrawal plan. As to his critics, he summarily dismissed them as “those asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan.”
To grasp how strange and truculent this oration was, it is necessary to watch it. Only the most rabid partisans will be able to do so and conclude that this man is “normal.” Stop for a moment and consider what that really means. Biden is the President of the United States. He wields more power than any Roman emperor ever possessed and he is protected by a huge staff, a weaponized federal bureaucracy and a Fourth Estate dominated by social activists. And there is essentially no way to neutralize him unless the voters deprive the Democrats of their thin congressional majorities in next year’s midterms. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told a gathering of Kentucky voters last week,
The president is not going to be removed from office. With a Democratic House, a narrowly Democratic Senate, that’s not going to happen.… We’re trying to hold down the damage until next year and I do think we’re likely to see a typical midterm reaction to a new administration.… Only twice in American history — only twice — has the president gained seats in Congress two years into the first term. Typically, there is some buyer’s remorse two years in.… So, look, there isn’t going to be any impeachment, but I think they [the Democrats] have a very good chance of having a very bad election next year.
McConnell bases this prediction not only on history but also on Biden’s plunging job approval ratings. As Sean Trende points out at RealClearPolitics, “The most important predictor of a party’s performance in a midterm is the president’s job approval rating.” The RCP average as this is being written shows his approve/disapprove percentages at 45.2/49.3, essentially the reverse of what they were three weeks ago. If his numbers remain that bad, and they probably will as dismal news continues to come in regarding the pandemic, the border, and inflation, the Democrats probably can’t save their House and Senate majorities. Even Chris Cillizza at CNN admits that the Democrats should be very worried.
All of which means that Biden’s Afghanistan disaster, combined with an address to the nation that suggests he is either out of touch with reality or profoundly dishonest, will probably transform him into a lame duck for the final two years of his presidency. That won’t render him completely powerless, but it will make it far more difficult for him to perpetrate further legislative atrocities like the $3.5 trillion “infrastructure” bill. It will also stop phony investigations such as the farce that will be acted out by the House select committee investigating the January 6 “insurrection.” But will the voters remain angry enough to reinstate Republican congressional majorities in 2022?
According to the same ABC/Washington Post poll noted above, 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the Afghanistan pullout and 53 percent blame his bungling for the deaths that occurred during the August 26 terrorist attack. Combined with Biden’s disgraceful abandonment of Americans to the tender mercies of the Taliban, this is unlikely to fade in voter memories as readily as some arcane Beltway debate over the debt ceiling. Even before the withdrawal fiasco, millions were unhappy with the outcome of the 2020 election and anxious for another crack at the Democrats. Biden’s deadly Afghanistan blunders have provided them with infinitely greater motivation.
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