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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

President Joe Biden

Photo by The White House

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

One day after the New York Times in a page-one piece implied that President Joe Biden is an incompetent who lacks empathy, the State Department announced the U.S. had successfully evacuated 30,000 people from Afghanistan since the end of July, and that 8,000 people departed on Saturday alone, as they filled 60 departing flights from Kabul airport. So much for incompetence.

A thinly veiled opinion column that ran under the banner of "news analysis," the Times piece was written by White House correspondent Peter Baker. Pounding the daily's preferred downer troop withdrawal narrative, Baker went out of his way to suggest Biden, whose administration is overseeing a massive Afghanistan airlift and troop withdrawal, is similarly incompetent to Trump, who oversaw the death of 600,000 Americans to Covid-19 last year. It was a stunning bout of failed, Both Sides journalism by Baker.

Led by the New York Times' and CNN's frenzied reporting and analysis, the media have gone all in with the narrative that Biden's presidency sits on the precipice of ruin in the wake of U.S.'s long-expected troop departure from Afghanistan. (Fact: It does not.)

Deliberately falling down a deep well of optics reporting (Biden is "defiant and defensive") and launching sweeping, and often hysterical, conclusions that are not based in fact, the press gathered up its forces days ago and set off on a one-sidedfeeding frenzy excursion, where week-old "chaotic images" are still treated as breaking news by CNN. Let's be honest, if the State Departement announced it had evacuated 100,000 people from Kabul, it wouldn't change the media's predetermined coverage.

Eager to injure Biden, Beltway scribes gleefully engage in groupthink, echo GOP talking points without pause, and set their sights on the leader of the Democratic Party.

Sound familiar? Does this conjure up disturbing images of the 2016 campaign, when the same invested journalists unleashed a feeding frenzy on the country's top Democrat, feasted on "optics" analysis, badly overplayed the facts of the story, excitedly amplified Republican lawmakers, obsessed over process, and repeatedly demanded apologies from Hillary Clinton for how she handled her private email correspondence?

It's not possible to watch much of the misguided Afghanistan coverage and not see the clear similarities between that and the media's woeful But Her Emails brand of coverage that helped elect Trump.

Reminder: ABC, CBS, and NBC's network evening newscasts in 2016 aired just 32 minutes of in-depth campaign policy coverage. That same year they devoted 100 minutes to the Clinton email stories. Virtually all of the attention was negative.

Both Afghanistan and But Her Emails coverage strictly adheres to a (fantasy) storyline of the media's making, and one that features a floundering Democrat unable to put off raging political fires.

On Sunday, CNN claimed the U.S. was inflicting "moral injury" by "abandoning" allies. This, as America continue to evacuate tens of thousands of allies. That same day CNN claimed that Biden's long-expected troop withdrawal meant the U.S. was "walking away from the world stage" and "leaving Europe exposed." Fact: Most European troops left Afghanistan seven years ago. Not sure how that now means Biden's move in Afghanistan is leaving that continent "exposed."

Despite days of wildly excited media analysis about how Afghanistan could destroy Biden's entire presidency, the press still can't find any evidence the story is registering with voters. It's also impossible to recall a week of nonstop military "crisis" coverage when not a single shot was fired at U.S. troops. But for Afghanistan, the media gladly make an exception.

A Times column recently counseled how Biden could "save his presidency" in the wake of the Afghanistan controversy. Biden's ending an extremely unpopular war and is bringing the troops home without a single U.S. casualty in the process, but he has to "save his presidency"?

That makes no sense.

On Friday, NBC's indignant Richard Engel tweeted his upset over the fact that American officials were negotiating with the Tablian in order to allow for a transfer of power that's as peaceful as possible. Keep in mind, Engel has covered the Afghanistan conflict for years, but on Friday he feigned shock that after losing a 20-year war, the U.S. would be negotiating its exit with the victors of the war. The purposeful naïveté was remarkable — but essential in order to bash Biden. For the record, it was because of those U.S.-Taliban negotiations that U.S. troops have not come under fire in the last week.

Sometimes it was just easier to make stuff up in order to attack Biden. The Times' Frank Bruni accused Biden of "arrogance" because he "thought leaving Afghanistan would be simple," even though Biden never once suggested that leaving Afghanistan would be "simple."

Also on Friday, the Wall Street Journal ran a Biden gotcha "exclusive" on page one, which was widely picked up by other news outlets: "Internal State Department Cable Warned of Kabul Collapse." The smoking gun, right? Biden's team was warned that the Taliban would quickly take over Afghanistan in early August when U.S. troops were withdrawing, but the Biden team ignored the counsel.

Wrong.

The State Department cable warned of an Afghanistan government collapse after the troops withdrawal deadline of August 31. Also, halfway through the article, the Journal conceded the cable was received by top State Department officials who welcomed the on-the-ground-analysis, and who folded the information into the contingency plans. So much for that gotcha. But all day, journalists were buzzing about a confidential cable that Biden's team supposedly ignored. "A WSJ scoop that casts perhaps the harshest light yet on the administration's performance," Politico exclaimed, completely misrepresenting the Journal story.

When the press eagerly signs off on a crisis narrative involving a Democrat, almost no new facts on the ground will change their committed view. We saw that in 2016 when the press played a key role in tearing down Clinton, and we're seeing it this month with unrestrained Afghanistan coverage.

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