When an underling is involved in a potentially career-ending fiasco, his optimal line is, “I tried to tell the boss, but he wouldn’t listen!” It appears that some White House staffers, or allies of those staffers, are now leaking this line to the press. Interestingly, it is not the Washington Post or the New York Times–the usual outlets for this kind of story–but rather The Telegraph that got this “scoop”: “Joe Biden’s aides ‘too afraid’ to tell him he was wrong on Afghanistan, say White House insiders.”
Speaking to people close to the administration, The Telegraph has managed to build a picture of a stubborn-headed and defensive president continuing to tout his foreign policy nous, and a staff too afraid to question him.
One former defence official, who is in regular contact with senior White House aides, suggested that there was not much pushback from concerned officials because they were “too afraid”.
“People are simply too afraid to tell Biden (and) Jake Sullivan (his National Security Adviser), they’re wrong. It’s one thing to crack down on leaks (as Mr Biden has done), it’s another thing to allow a mistake like this,” they told The Telegraph.
Is it plausible that White House aides are afraid of Joe Biden? Like many elderly people suffering from dementia, he can be querulous in public. We can imagine what he must be like behind closed doors. But Slow Joe is hardly a fearsome individual.
The other interesting point here is that the anonymous sources are trying to throw Jake Sullivan under the bus. Like Biden, Sullivan has a nearly perfect record on foreign affairs–he is always, or almost always, wrong.
This is potentially important:
Others told The Telegraph that they urged him, without success, to keep open Bagram Air Base, which has more runways than Hamid Karzai International Airport and has long been the beating heart of American operations in Afghanistan.
Skedaddling from Bagram in the dead of night, as I understand it, leaving valuable equipment behind and reportedly without notice to our allies, is one of the most bizarre aspects of Biden’s mishandling of the Afghan withdrawal. When Republicans take control of either the House or the Senate, they will want to investigate the origins of this awful decision as well as much else that has gone wrong in Afghanistan.
The Telegraph’s sources tell the paper that Biden doesn’t care about the press:
Insiders told The Telegraph the 78-year-old president has an unrivalled ability to “tune out the DC noise” and ignore the “media rabble”.
“The Trump administration, while pretending to hate the networks, was obsessed with getting approval from them. But Biden is very much his own man.”
Maybe. More likely, Biden feels free to disregard the press because he understands that reporters and editors are on his side, and will come around when it counts.
White House rats are not yet leaving the sinking Biden ship, but this story indicates that some, at least, are laying the groundwork for their next jobs by distancing themselves from the ongoing debacle in Kabul.