Last week, the city of Kabul fell to Taliban forces, as President Joe Biden ended the United States’ 20-year-long military presence in Afghanistan. Scenes of chaos and pandemonium played out in real time, provoking the legacy media to engage in rare, honest, and scathing moments of criticism for the Biden administration.
Here are 10 of the most jarring examples of the media holding a Democratic administration accountable for its actions:
Jake Tapper: ‘A Tragic Foreign Policy Disaster’
On “State of the Union” on August 15, Jake Tapper said his viewers were “watching a tragic foreign policy disaster unfold before our eyes.”
“[T]he rapid crumbling of the country has caught the Biden White House flat-footed,” he said. “It seems shocking that President Biden could have been so wrong.”
Tapper then confronted Secretary of State Anthony Blinken directly. “This is not just about the overall idea of leaving Afghanistan. This is about leaving hastily and ineptly,” Tapper said. “Secretary Blinken, how did President Biden get this so wrong?”
“Does President Biden not bear the blame for this disastrous exit from Afghanistan?” he asked Blinken.
Tapper’s criticism continued on the following day’s episode of “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” He told Fareed Zakaria that officials in the Biden administration “want to talk about whether or not the U.S. should stay in Afghanistan for another 20 years” instead of discussing how the evacuation of U.S. citizens from Kabul “has been so ineptly and incompetently done,” and “why President Biden didn’t listen to military leaders” who “talked about … how quickly everything could collapse.”
Jim Acosta: ‘Humiliating’ Defeat That Means U.S. Soldiers Died ‘In Vain’
Jim Acosta anchored “CNN Newsroom” on the evening that scenes of chaos began unfolding in Kabul. “At this hour, the Taliban has taken over the presidential palace in Kabul,” Acosta announced. “This was something we were told wasn’t possible for at least another 30 to 90 days, if at all.”
“The U.S. embassy is shuttered, and we’re told the American flag has been lowered and removed. It will likely be replaced with a Taliban banner in the coming days — a humiliating symbol of two decades of American and coalition sacrifice that now appear to have been in vain.”
MSNBC: ‘100 Times Worse’ Than Saigon
Numerous hosts and guests of CNN and MSNBC eviscerated U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s contention that the scenes unfolding in Kabul are “manifestly not Saigon,” because the U.S. achieved its objective of killing Osama bin Laden. “One U.S. military official told me it was 100 times worse than the humiliating American pullout from Saigon,” said Richard Engel, the chief foreign correspondent for NBC News.
Chris Cuomo: A ‘Nightmare’ That May ‘Invalidate the Sacrifice’ of U.S. Soldiers
Chris Cuomo, who returned to “Cuomo Prime Time” on August 16 after a “long-planned vacation” that coincided with his brother’s sexual harassment scandal, opened by showing pictures of chaos at the Kabul airport. “This is Afghanistan, and it is a nightmare, innocent masses, begging America not to leave them to vicious extremism,” he said.
“Did it have to be this way? Was there a better alternative for America? Is this America’s problem?” he asked. “It’s a political problem. The scenes are terrible for America’s image. They’re terrible for Biden’s image.”
He continued: “Did Biden have a plan to get our allies out, to rescue those who risked their lives, for American troops? Why didn’t his plan call for leaving a small force to keep the peace, to ward off any terrorist development? Doesn’t not doing that invalidate the sacrifice of so much and so many?”
Mika Brzezinski: ‘The Burden of Shame Falls on President Joe Biden’
On the August 16 episode of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” an emotional Mika Brzezinski seemed to hold back tears when thinking of “the women who are going to be raped and tortured in the wake of U.S. troops leaving them behind,” “the Afghans who worked side-by-side with American troops,” and U.S. soldiers “over the past 20 years who lost life and limb for this mission, who feel betrayed this morning.”
“I don’t know what’s worse than this,” she said. She then quoted an article by George Packer from The Atlantic:
This betrayal will live in infamy. The burden of shame falls on President Joe Biden. … All of this was foreseeable — all of it was foreseen. … The administration’s answers were never adequate.
CNN: Biden ‘Needs to Own that Failure’
Even the president’s former Democratic colleagues had harsh words for his handling of the Kabul evacuation. On “CNN Newsroom,” former Obama adviser David Axelrod discussed how he would advise President Biden to address the issue.
“You cannot defend the execution here. This has been a disaster,” he said on August 17. “And everybody, anybody with a beating heart watching these scenes of people desperately swarming the airport trying to get out ahead of the slaughter that they anticipate from the Taliban — it is heartbreaking; it is depressing; and it’s a failure. And he needs to own that failure.”
Joe Scarborough: ‘A Political Disaster for This White House’
On the August 17 episode of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Joe Scarborough said, “The president can say that he planned for every contingency, but he knows that’s not true, the White House knows that’s not true, and the American people know that’s not true. And that’s how a 75% proposition has devolved into a political disaster for this White House.”
He concluded, “I swear I can’t find a military person who thinks this was the right thing to do.”
MSNBC: ‘Distressing’ and Wrong to Say Afghans Didn’t Fight
Even on MSNBC’s “The ReidOut,” Bloomberg op-ed board member Bobby Ghosh told Joy Reid that the Biden administration had misinformed the American people about the sacrifices made by Afghan nationals to resist Islamist theocracy on August 16:
It’s really disheartening, for instance, to hear President Biden and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan now say, well, the Afghans didn’t stand in and fight. 66,000 Afghan soldiers and policemen have died in the past 20 years. 66,000 have died fighting the Taliban. It is dishonorable to claim that they didn`t do their part. That is – to give you context, that is 20 times the American casualties in Afghanistan. These people have fought, fought bravely, fought to the best of their abilities. They were poorly trained, and by contractors who have very little oversight and very little accountability, and yet they fought. And so, it’s very distressing to hear.
CNN: ‘An Albatross Around’ Biden’s ‘Neck for the Rest of Time’
Just hours after U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken claimed that Kabul should not be compared to Saigon, CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali said the two situations were, indeed, comparable — and Kabul could be a stain on President Biden’s legacy forever.
“We beat [the first] generation of al-Qaeda. But there is another generation … of Islamists who are willing to do harm to the rest of the world. Are they going to find a home in the Taliban controlled Afghanistan? That is the great challenge,” he said.
“If that occurs, this is the Saigon moment for President Biden and that this will be a legacy, an albatross around his neck for the rest of time.”
CNN: ‘Inexcusable,’ ‘A Calamity’
On “Don Lemon Tonight,” former George W. Bush adviser Mark McKinnon said the collapse and evacuation of Afghanistan “has been a calamity.” He noted on August 17 that “the Biden [administration’s] response is that they hadn’t anticipated this particular outcome. Well, that is inexcusable. I mean, that’s what you do in military scenario planning: You plan for any outcome, any possibility. So, this should have been a possibility that was anticipated and there should have been a scenario for dealing with it. So, that is at Biden’s feet”
Honorable Mention: ABC’s Martha Raddatz, “Massive Intelligence Failure”
ABC News’ Martha Raddtaz said that the fall of Kabul after two decades of constant and pervasive analysis by U.S. military intelligence may indicate a catastrophic level of incompetence.
The training mission of those Afghan forces, $83 billion worth, clearly failed. The negotiations with the Taliban clearly failed. And you also had a really massive intelligence failure here, that the U.S. did not realize how quickly the Taliban could take over. We have been there for 20 years. We know the Taliban. We have people on the ground, and yet the U.S. was caught unaware and completely off-guard.
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