— Analysis —
3 Times Joe Biden Ignored His Advisers — And Disaster Followed
Months before Democrats cast their first 2020 primary ballot, Joe Biden began highlighting what he believed to be his best selling point: his superior decision-making. “I think my record has been good,” candidate Biden told NPR in September 2019. Even then, his campaign had to deal with Biden’s tendency to let his mind wander or lose his place while speaking, but he insisted that his verbal miscues had “nothing to do with judgment” — specifically “whether or not you send troops to war, the judgment of whether you bring someone home.” His campaign argued that his five decades in public service had uniquely equipped him to become, in the words of George W. Bush, “the decider.”
Since taking office, Biden has shown notable independence by breaking with the consensus served up to him by a coterie of Obama-era analysts, advisers, and administrators. Unfortunately, most of the times this has happened, the result has been a policy failure for him and, more importantly, a major setback for our country. Here are three such examples.
The Collapse Of Afghanistan
Perhaps the most conspicuous case in which President Biden disregarded his advisers came when he decided to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan — and the chaos and carnage that followed.
President Biden has been outspoken about his desire to end the U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan, which stretched on two decades since 9/11 and one decade after the death of Osama bin Laden (a mission that President Biden opposed at the time). “We cannot continue this cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal and expecting a different result,” he said in April. “I’m now the fourth United States president to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.”
Yet Biden has publicly denied that he struck out on his own, even after the media reported that his closest military advisers recommended leaving a U.S. military force on the ground. “Your military advisors did not tell you, ‘No, we should just keep 2,500 troops’?” ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asked the president on August 18. “No,” President Biden replied. “No one said that to me that I can recall.”
But the cat was already out of the bag. The Wall Street Journal had reported in April that “Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, Gen. Austin ‘Scott’ Miller, who leads NATO forces in Afghanistan, and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all recommended retaining the current force of 2,500 troops while stepping up diplomacy to try to cement a peace agreement, U.S. officials say.” During an April 14 meeting in Brussels, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin essentially confirmed the generals’ dissension over President Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops by September, regardless of conditions on the ground. And in a statement, the National Security Council attested, “The [p]resident, as the Commander in Chief, made the final decision based on the advice of his national security team.”
All pretense ended on Tuesday, September 28, when Generals McKenzie and Milley testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that they strongly advocated for a residual force. “I recommended that we maintained 2,500 troops in Afghanistan,” General McKenzie told Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK). “I also have a view that the withdrawal of those forces would lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces, and eventually the Afghan government. … I’m confident that the president heard all the recommendations and listened to them very thoughtfully.”
And then, the president rejected that advice — and chaos ensued, based on President Biden’s judgment. The military left hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans stranded in Taliban-controlled territory. A suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. servicemen, and desperate Afghan citizens fells to their deaths while clinging to U.S. evacuation planes in a scene reminiscent of the fall of Saigon. The new government of Afghanistan now includes numerous terrorists and extremists.
Those familiar with Biden’s history of foreign policy judgments — like his proposal to calm the waters after 9/11 by giving Iran $200 million “no strings attached” — would be less surprised by the outcome. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote of Biden in his autobiography, “He’s been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
Lifting President Trump’s ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy
Upon taking office, President Biden made it one of his top priorities to reverse nearly every decision implemented by President Donald Trump as quickly as possible. President Trump had waited years to craft and implement immigration policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which allows the U.S. to remove people claiming to be refugees from the United States until after their case is decided. The so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy aimed to curb job-seekers from gaming the system in order to work in the United States.
The Biden-Harris administration attempted to bulldoze Trump’s policies from the outset. Six of the 17 executive orders Biden signed his first day in office had to do with immigration, legal and illegal. The same day, his Department of Homeland Security announced it would scrap the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
Biden’s decision met significant opposition from officials in both the U.S. and Mexican governments, who warned the Biden administration against repealing the Trump-era immigration enforcement protections so quickly. The New York Times reported:
As officials were drawing up migration policy memos, some advisers pushed back against immediately ending the Trump policy — known as Remain in Mexico — arguing that it made more sense to unwind the program slowly, according to several people familiar with the discussions who requested anonymity to talk about the debate.
They argued that such an abrupt move, which would open the door to asylum seekers pursuing their claims in the United States, could overwhelm the capacity of U.S. officials. That concern was shared by Mexican officials, who also believed that quickly ending the program could send the wrong message to Central Americans considering the journey north.
Conn Carroll of The Washington Examiner pointed out that this nugget came “buried 30 paragraphs” into the story.
The announcement of lax border protection, coupled with Biden’s apparent campaign promise of “free” healthcare for anyone who can reach the U.S. border, touched off an exodus of illegal immigration that refuses to relent. A total of 1,541,651 million illegal immigrants have entered the United States so far this fiscal year — the highest in decades. The number of unaccompanied minors skyrocketed from 16,000 in 2011 — the year before the Obama-Biden administration promised not to deport those who registered under the new DACA policy — to more than 130,000 this year. That has led to the resumption of children being huddled together in crowded conditions, something considered intolerable and morally offensive during the Trump administration.
Despite the Biden administration’s indefatigable message discipline, even most Democrats believe the southern border is in “crisis.” Most voters across the board agree that President “Biden should have left in place the Trump administration’s immigration policies,” reported The Hill in June. A total of 55% of voters said Biden should have retained President Trump’s immigration practices all along, and 67% say anyone apprehended entering the U.S. illegally should be sent back to Mexico, according to a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll.
The policy proved so disastrous that Biden administration officials privately admitted they felt “relieved” in August when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the president to reinstate the MPP. “Concern had already been building inside the Biden administration that the speed of its immigration changes may have encouraged migrants to stream toward the United States, current and former officials,” said.
Promising COVID-19 Booster Shots For All By September 20
President Biden has made vaccinating the American people against COVID-19 a defining issue of his presidency. After failing to meet his self-imposed goal of vaccinating 70% of Americans by the Fourth of July, Biden increasingly advocated harsher measures for “the unvaccinated” and required more of those who were fully vaccinated.
Biden became one of the foremost global leaders calling on Americans to receive a booster shot. “The plan is for every adult to get a booster shot eight months after you got your second shot,” Biden said on August 18.
“The decision of which booster shots to give, when to start them, and who will give them, will be left completely to the scientists at the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control,” Biden promised on September 9. As The Daily Wire’s Eric Quintanar reported, “The president … anticipated that boosters could be made available to the general public as soon as September 20.”
But Biden suffered two setbacks. First, the World Health Organization asked WHO members to extend a COVID-19 booster shot “moratorium until at least the end of the year.” Then on September 17, three days before his deadline, an FDA panel voted 16-2 to reject Biden’s plan to authorize booster shots for most Americans who had received the Pfizer vaccine. But on September 23 Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), authorized booster shots for a far wider group of people than her panel’s narrow, non-binding recommendation.
Her action led to calls that the Biden administration imposed its predetermined decision in lieu of the science. “CDC Director Rochelle Walensky overruled her agency advisory panel,” reported The Washington Post. President Trump’s coronavirus testing czar, Admiral Brett Giroir, said the administration’s move gave off the “smell of politics” and “is going to lead to more hesitancy.” City Journal said, “No one should be surprised that the Biden administration recommended boosters at the height of the Delta surge even though scientific evidence was lacking. The administration has a history of politicizing the pandemic.”
Although the consequences of this announcement are less immediate or visible than in Afghanistan or the Rio Grande, Biden’s loose talk has had significant and deleterious effects. First, the appearance of politicizing the pandemic may cause Americans to question all the government’s pronouncements on COVID-19 and, perhaps, on the efficacy of other vaccinations. Second, confusion leads to hesitancy, which will reduce the overall rate of vaccinations, a self-defeating outcome for the president. And third, giving the impression that the government will impose President Biden’s views on decisions best left to the hard sciences will drive a wedge of mistrust between citizens and their own government, further estranging American citizens from the politicians who are supposed to represent, serve, and protect them.
“The details are irrelevant”
In what was perhaps an unintentionally revealing moment during his September 2019 NPR interview, Joe Biden brushed off questions about his habit of flubbing or embellishing a number of stories. “The details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making,” he said. President Biden seems to believe a superior intellect can follow the inherent logic of a situation without firmly grasping many of the relevant details. In another such moment in 1987, Biden helped sink his first presidential campaign by telling a voter, “I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect.” That attitude appears to guide all his actions as the 46th “decider.”
It is not clear America is better off for it.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.