Biden’s approval ratings were still above 50% on August 1, 2021. After the extraordinary wave of negative coverage the withdrawal of from Afghanistan — which revealed the claims of war advocates that a strong state capable of standing up to the Taliban were total lies, and in fact 20 years of occupation had accomplished nothing — his popularity had entered a downward decline which has never stopped. What’s interesting is how open the national press is about acknowleding this:
The second week of August began as a time for vacation for President Biden and some of his team. Then Afghanistan imploded. The reports out of Kabul were harrowing: images of desperate Afghan nationals clinging to U.S. military airplanes leaving the country and, days later, a suicide bombing at a gate to the airport that killed 13 U.S. troops.
Addressing the nation on Aug. 16, Biden defended his decision to leave Afghanistan but acknowledged that the Taliban takeover of the country “did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.” Administration officials and allies publicly argued there was no good way to exit a war that had been lost years ago, and they privately said that within a few weeks, most Americans — who largely supported the decision to bring U.S. troops home from the 20-year conflict — would forget about the messy process.
But, across the river in Arlington, aides working for Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s gubernatorial campaign in Virginia were picking up on troubling trends. Their race was tightening amid what they would later describe in a memo as “a negative national climate” — collateral damage from the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal, among other issues. The memo found that voters also viewed the coronavirus pandemic and the economy as two of their three most important issues.
In post-election briefings with Democrats after McAuliffe lost, campaign aides argued that the crises the Biden administration faced in August undercut the president and his party’s message of competence and a return to normalcy.
Biden presented himself as an antidote to his predecessor, offering the promise of what his own campaign ads called “strong, steady, stable leadership” after four years of bedlam under President Donald Trump. But the tumult surrounding the administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan offered an early glimpse of the cascade of crises that have badly eroded Biden’s image of restoring calm.
It’s now an axiomatic truth among most of the national press that the “chaos” of the Afghanistan withdrawal reflects badly on Biden, rather than the architects of the war and defenders of the perpetual occupation, even though the latter spent years knowingly lying about the progress in Afghanistan and their nation-building project was revealed to be a failure of historic magnitude. The assumption that there was some non-“chaotic” way the war could have been ended is critical to most of this coverage, and the problem with it is that its is obviously and howlingly false:
Alternative strategies for withdrawal are awesome because none of those things happen. However, there is almost never any explanation of how those things could have been prevented; only “you must admit it was a fiasco!”— Robert Farley (@drfarls) January 20, 2022
The Blob are remarkably inept at achieving and of their nation-building objectives, but their ability to get the media to blame the people who were right for their own massive failures is extraordinary.
…so I don’t have to keep addressing this common but obviously specious argument that is being made repeatedly in comments, the idea that Biden’s popularity cratering while he was getting savaged by the press for weeks is ACTUALLY just pure coincidence because people don’t have strong ex ante preferences about the war is silly. What matters is not the substantive merits of the war, but the press spending weeks calling Biden incompetent, which obviously colors the public’s understanding of his handling of other issues as well. You know an issue absolutely nobody has ever cared about? Compliance with email server management best practices! But it made Trump president.