The most reliably pro-Biden network on cable television blasted President Joe Biden moments after he branded the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan an “extraordinary success.”
President Biden’s August 31 speech, frequently punctuated by the president’s voluble shouts and evident anger, aired just moments before Tuesday’s episode of MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House.”
Neither Biden’s overly rosy analysis nor that of National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in an interview with Nicolle Wallace moments later sat well with her panel of outspoken progressives.
“This is a very optimistic way of portraying what has been a devastatingly catastrophic couple of weeks, after a terrible 20-year experience for all of us,” said Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq veteran and president of Righteous Media. He said the Biden-Harris administration’s “deliberate reframing” of the issue “really, frankly, rubs me the wrong way.”
The administration has frequently pivoted by discussing its airlift of approximately 123,000 people, including a few thousand Americans, as the conflict sputtered to a close.
“You can’t just talk about how many you got out. We have to talk about how many you left behind,” Rieckhoff responded.
While he called the U.S. airlift “notable,” he noted that “the situation was also so bad that we had to get out that many that quickly. And we and still don’t know how many may have been left behind.”
A State Department official said the “majority” of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants were left behind during the administration’s hasty withdrawal, Politico reported on Wednesday.
Rieckhoff accused the administration and its defenders of “spiking the ball,” while ignoring “the humanitarian aspect” of the ongoing chaos.
“Especially for women and girls, the next six months could be catastrophic,” said Rieckhoff. “How will the American public feel if ISIS-K continues to grow there. How will they feel if ISIS-K continues to set up bases there? How will they feel if we see a humanitarian disaster played on our screen week, after week, after week, where the Taliban does what they do best?”
Rieckhoff said that Sullivan’s missed the point when he praised private efforts by veterans to rescue those trapped in Afghanistan, putatively without the formal involvement of the U.S. government. “We’re rallying, because our government failed,” said Rieckhoff. “And where is the accountability? That is the question for Jake Sullivan, and that is a question for the president that he continues to refuse to answer.”
Both Rieckhoff and his fellow panelist, New York Times Pentagon correspondent Helene Cooper, called out President Joe Biden for conflating his politically popular decision to end the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan with the subpar execution of the evacuation.
“The withdrawal is different from the evacuation. And the evacuation was marred with incompetence, and failure, and disorganization, and lies,” Rieckhoff told Wallace.
Cooper agreed that the Biden administration “can’t conflate criticism over the decision to withdraw, which is one thing, with criticism over how we carried out that withdrawal — and that sounded to me like what our national security adviser just did” and “to a certain extent, what President Biden sometimes does.”
“The American bureaucracy fell down” during the last waning days of the conflict, Cooper said. “The entire national security apparatus, that is run by the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan,” failed. Criticism of the fall of Kabul is “substantial,” she said.
"You can't just talk about how many you got out… There's an effort here to spike the ball, to say this is a good news story, we're moving on, and by the way, we're out of Afghanistan but we're gonna keep fighting. So how do you have both?" – @PaulRieckhoff w/ @NicolleDWallace pic.twitter.com/CgKZUqUsW5
— Deadline White House (@DeadlineWH) August 31, 2021
The scene contrasted with Nicolle Wallace’s assessment of President Biden’s equally defiant address on August 16. “Ninety-five percent of the American people will agree with everything he just said; 95% of the press covering this White House will disagree,” she said.
The Biden-Harris administration has faced uncharacteristically critical media coverage since the fall of Kabul on August 15, which has only intensified as the August 31 deadline for the removal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan approached.
The administration faced pressure on Tuesday morning, as well, when the Defense Department’s press secretary, John Kirby, appeared on the network. “What does it feel like to you from the Department of Defense to put that level of faith in the Taliban, the medieval cult that treats brutally women, and children, and anyone who is seen as working with America?” guest host Willie Geist asked Kirby on the August 31 episode of “Morning Joe.”
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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