Arrogance is the mask incompetence wears. And so, as President Biden’s failures become more obvious, his spine stiffens. He reportedly ignored intelligence community assessments to make his now infamous July 8 claim that a swift Taliban victory was “highly unlikely.” He did not correct course even after shaken State Department officials warned of a coming crisis on July 13.
As the human tragedy unfolds for millions of Afghanis because Biden failed to take basic steps to protect them, the president refuses to admit errors. As billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. military hardware falls into the hands of the Taliban and their pals from al-Qaeda, the White House denies a new threat is brewing from the gang that brought us 9/11.
Asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos if the withdrawal could have been handled better, Biden conjured up a cavalier new version of the passive-voice Washington copout that “mistakes were made.” “The idea that somehow there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens,” Biden said. The deeper the hole, the harder he digs.
Conservatives who attribute Biden’s miscalculations to cognitive decline miss the point. Peak Joe Biden – if such a thing ever existed – would likely have made the same choices. There’s a reason Robert Gates famously wrote in his 2014 memoir that “he’s been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
Biden has always been a political mediocrity whose primary talent is to attain positions of power. The downside of this raw ambition is that it repeatedly forced him to reveal his ignorance about a wide range of consequential issues. His go-to strategy in hiding his lack of intellectual chops has been to parrot the ideas of others – hence his penchant for plagiarism, which has haunted him since his days at Syracuse Law School, and which helped scuttle his 1988 run for the presidency.
It would be bad enough if Biden were just an empty suit, spouting other people’s ideas to hide his own lack of insight or conviction. But he has long tried to cover up this hollow core through a pose of false confidence. Usually the dumbest guy in the room, Biden has assumed the mantle of being the smartest. A telling example came in 1991 when he rambled on to then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas about “natural law.”
“Now, again that may be lost on all the people,” Biden said, suggesting his special knowledge of arcane matters. “You know and I know what we’re talking about.”
Asked about it years later, Thomas said, “I have no idea what he was talking about.”
At some point Biden came to believe in the role he was playing – which explains why he could ignore his advisers’ warnings about his ill-conceived withdrawal from Afghanistan. I know best. Only he doesn’t. Never has, never will.
America’s problem is that Biden will be president for another three-plus years. Instead of being chastened by the growing litany of failures he has assembled in just a few months – not only Afghanistan, but the ongoing crisis at the southern border, the inflation fueled by his spendthrift policies, his inability to corral COVID-19 – Biden is doubling down on his aggressive agenda.
At the same time polls show Biden’s job approval rating is in decline, he and his Democratic Party colleagues are intent on passing trillions of dollars in new spending with one of the slimmest congressional majorities in history.
Given his track record, does anybody want Joe Biden to transform the United States?
It doesn’t matter. Biden’s failures will only push him to press harder. The need to mask his incompetence will only inspire ever more aggressive actions and arrogant claims. In a way, we can’t blame Biden. That’s what he’s always done. That’s who he is. As we try to limit the damage in the years ahead, the American people must ask themselves a tough question: How did we elect such a man?
J. Peder Zane is an editor for RealClearInvestigations and a columnist for RealClearPolitics.