Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Biden goes after GOP Governors on COVID

Jennifer Rubin/WaPo:

Biden goes after MAGA governors. It”;s about time.

He all but called these governors child killers as he vowed to take the side of the victims of Republicans”; reckless conduct (e.g., kids, parents, health-care workers). Biden should not shy away from declaring that no self-described “;pro-life”; governor should be willing to endanger the lives of children to avoid mild inconveniences (e.g., wearing a mask).

Biden and other Democrats should stick with the underlying message: Republican crackpots courting the MAGA base are willing to do anything to further their careers. In keeping with a necessary effort to identify Republicans as extreme, radical, dangerous and anti-American (in their support of insurrectionists), Biden should not be hesitate to hammer this message when it comes to covid-19 –; or a host of other issues.

same press corps that said DeSantis “;won”; the pandemic is now sure Biden “;lost”; Afghanistan

–; Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) August 19, 2021

Jim Wright/Stonekettle Station:

Bitter Pill

Trump raged and threw tantrum after tantrum, usually on Twitter, like a child who doesn’t get his way.

I know more than the generals! I do! I do!

But he didn’t have the guts.

Trump couldn’t get us out of Afghanistan because it would have ended just exactly like it’s ending right now and Trump never had the kind of moral courage it takes for that buck to stop at his desk.

And that’s the thing, you see, it was always going to end this way.

That’s how America’s war in Vietnam ended.

“Alexandra Datig, former fiancee and radio producer for California GOP gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder, says she broke off an 18-month engagement with the conservative talk show host in 2015 after he waved a gun at her while high on marijuana.”

–; Christian Vanderbrouk (@UrbanAchievr) August 19, 2021

Judd Legum, Tesnim Zekeria, and Rebecca Crosby/Popular Information:

Where are the anti-war voices?

Yesterday’s newsletter detailed how the media is largely overlooking voices that supported Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. Instead media reports are almost exclusively highlighting criticism of the withdrawal –; often from people complicit in two decades of failed policy in Afghanistan.

We have reason to believe that this is not an accident. On Wednesday, Popular Information spoke to a veteran communications professional who has been trying to place prominent voices supportive of the withdrawal on television and in print. The source said that it has been next to impossible:

I”;ve been in political media for over two decades, and I have never experienced something like this before. Not only can I not get people booked on shows, but I can”;t even get TV bookers who frequently book my guests to give me a call back…;

I”;ve fed sources to reporters, who end up not quoting the sources, but do quote multiple voices who are critical of the president and/or put the withdrawal in a negative light.

I turn on TV and watch CNN and, frankly, a lot of MSNBC shows, and they”;re presenting it as if there”;s not a voice out there willing to defend the president and his decision to withdraw. But I offered those very shows those voices, and the shows purposely decided to shut them out.

In so many ways this feels like Iraq and 2003 all over again. The media has coalesced around a narrative, and any threat to that narrative needs to be shut out.

Who is on TV? As Media Matters has documented, there are plenty of former Bush administration officials criticizing the withdrawal.

For Iraq War era bloggers an all too familiar feel …; no bookings unless you are for freedom fries, and if not, no fries for you.

“The US grossly misjudged what it could actually accomplish with the huge effort it eventually made, and thus became more and more wound up in a war it couldn’t “;win”; the way it fought it.”

–; Mike Mazarr (@MMazarr) August 19, 2021

They are all from Robert Komer’s 1972 masterpiece, “Bureaucracy Does Its Thing: Institutional Constraints on U.S.-GVN Performance in Vietnam.” All I did was trade out every use of “Vietnam” with “Afghanistan.” I could have included hundreds of other quotes

–; Mike Mazarr (@MMazarr) August 19, 2021


Afghanistan war unpopular amid chaotic pullout: AP-NORC poll

A significant majority of Americans doubt that the war in Afghanistan was worthwhile, even as the United States is more divided over President Joe Biden”;s handling of foreign policy and national security, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Roughly two-thirds said they did not think America”;s longest war was worth fighting, the poll shows. Meanwhile, 47% approve of Biden”;s management of international affairs, while 52% approve of Biden on national security.

The poll was conducted Aug. 12-16 as the two-decade war in Afghanistan ended with the Taliban returning to power and capturing the capital of Kabul. Biden has faced bipartisan condemnation in Washington for sparking a humanitarian crisis by being ill-prepared for the speed of the Taliban”;s advance.

NEW POLL: A majority of voters support the White House’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. Voters support the decision by a 14-point margin. A majority (55% – 33%) also support Biden expediting the special visa process for Afghan interpreters.

–; Data for Progress (@DataProgress) August 18, 2021

Bill Scher/Washington Monthly:

Nobody Cares Who Lost Afghanistan

The fall of Kabul is a tragedy. It”;s not a political liability for Joe Biden.

“;We did train–;and there was no attention paid to this–;our army had a unit in there training,”; the president said, “;and made a very capable military.”; But “;some units of the army refused to take up arms against some of their same ethnic background, or religious background.”; And so “;it was agreed that there was no longer any point…; and we withdrew.”;

That isn”;t President Joe Biden in his Monday address about the Afghanistan withdrawal. It”;s President Ronald Reagan in his April 1984 press conference after the U.S. military withdrawal from Lebanon. Seven months later, Reagan was re-elected in a landslide.

The only difference between what Reagan said in April 1984 and what Biden said Monday is that Biden put it even more straightforwardly than the president remembered as the Great Communicator. “;The Afghan military collapsed,”; Biden said

.@NoahRFeldman on what his dad said after living in Afghanistan: My parents had encountered tribesmen who were so unaware of the affairs of the country as a whole that they expressed no interest in the word “;Afghanistan.”

–; *The* Editorial Board (@johnastoehr) August 18, 2021

Nicholas Grossman/Arc Digital:

Every Option in Afghanistan Was Bad

How it’s ending, what happens next, and what the U.S. should do

There are two ways to interpret this:

The Afghan government couldn”;t stand on its own, and the security forces couldn”;t hold the country, despite 20 years of international support. They”;d never be able to –; so something like this collapse would”;ve happened whenever the U.S. pulled out.

American and allied efforts clearly made a difference, keeping the Taliban at bay and a better government in power (which, despite many problems, let girls go to school, didn”;t host al Qaeda terrorists, etc.)

Both interpretations are right. The Afghan government couldn”;t stand on its own, but was standing with American support. The Afghan military couldn”;t handle the Taliban without U.S. airpower, intelligence, and equipment maintenance, but they had it. For many Americans, including President Joe Biden, recognizing that the United States would not be able to hand over full responsibility to Afghans for the foreseeable future meant staying there was pointless.

It wasn”;t. America was achieving its original goal of preventing Afghanistan from becoming a base to launch terrorist attacks against the U.S. and American allies. It was helping millions of Afghans, especially women, girls, and LGBT people, live free of fundamentalist repression. It”;s reasonable to argue that those achievements weren”;t worth the ongoing costs, but withdrawal was not without downsides.


Much as 20 years seems like a long time to be fighting in a foreign country, it was a long time for Afghans to be free of Taliban rule. Some of Afghanistan”;s 38 million people will leave, creating refugee flows that could strain other countries. It probably won”;t be as large a migration as Syria –; where a brutal, decade-long civil war has led 6.8 million to flee, impacting Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, and Europe –; but it probably won”;t be small either.

The United States should accept a lot of asylum-seekers, as should any of the 42 countries that participated in the International Security Assistance Force. Canada, for example, has promised to accept 20,000 Afghan refugees, prioritizing the most vulnerable. That”;s a start, but there will be many more.

It”;s a moral obligation, especially regarding Afghans who worked with the U.S., and strategically beneficial, both in the signal it sends to the world and in the skills many will bring. The U.S. military should get as many as possible out immediately, taking them to Guam or another safe location if they can”;t be fully processed in Afghanistan, much as the U.S. did with Vietnamese refugees in 1975.

It’s so fascinating to me that the immediate collapse of the Afghan government is reported by braying horserace journalists as a terrible blunder by Biden, when then alternative was a slow collapse, which is to say a bloody civil war.

–; Rick Perlstein (@rickperlstein) August 17, 2021


Macy”;s CEO Jeff Gennette says shoppers”; reaction to delta variant leads to urban-suburban divide in store traffic

Macy”;s CEO said Thursday that consumers across the country are shopping differently dependent upon where they live and their attitudes toward Covid.
“;There is definitely the different psychology with suburban and the urban customers right now,”; CEO Jeff Gennette said.
Many of Macy”;s stores in suburbs are performing ahead of 2019 levels, he explained, as consumers in those areas feel more comfortable with more space to roam around.

It”;s interesting we”;ve seen more public questioning of Afghanistan policy/strategy in the last three days than we”;ve seen in the last several years.

–; Mark Hertling (@MarkHertling) August 18, 2021


Idled Planes, Wrong Camouflage: How the U.S. Blew Billions in Afghanistan

While most of that money went to the U.S. military, billions of dollars got wasted along the way, in some cases aggravating efforts to build ties with the Afghan people Americans meant to be helping.

A special watchdog set up by Congress spent the past 13 years documenting the successes and failures of America”;s efforts in Afghanistan. While wars are always wasteful, the misspent American funds stand out because the U.S. had 20 years to shift course.

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