Media pummeling Biden from left and right as Afghanistan crisis deepens

Washington Post White accountability groups ‘downright insulting’: Kurtz

‘Media Buzz’ host Howard Kurtz discusses the publication’s approach to shaming White people.

We see it in the aggressive questioning at the briefings, where rosy assessments are challenged because they clash with the facts on the ground.

We see it in the punditry about President Biden having lost the aura of competence that propelled him during the campaign.

We see it in the fact-checking of the president and others who say they are doing a fine job of dealing with the inevitable consequences of withdrawal.

In short, the debacle in Afghanistan has spawned the most confrontational coverage of Biden’s young administration.

The change in tone and approach is so dramatic that National Review Editor Rich Lowry is calling it “The Media’s Finest Hour.”

My assessment is a bit more modest: The press is just doing its job.

But I can understand how conservatives, after a four-year war between the press and Donald Trump, would be gobsmacked to see journalists and commentators coming down hard on Biden and his team.

On Afghanistan, Lowry writes, “Joe Biden in effect set out to test how much shameless incompetence and dishonesty the media would accept. The answer? Not nearly enough.

“The press is blatantly biased and has become even more so over time, repeatedly propagating false narratives that have shredded its credibility. Still, there are limits beyond which even it can’t be pushed.”

In other words, some disasters just defy political spin.

While the administration has had some success in ramping up the evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies — more than 21,000 on Monday — the situation remains an absolute mess. And Biden’s decision Tuesday to accept the Taliban’s demand that he stick to his Aug. 31 deadline makes it virtually certain that some, at least among our Afghan friends, will be left behind.

What has struck me is how the president has repeatedly been out there with upbeat assessments that are contradicted by reality. He said last Friday he knew of no problems with U.S. citizens getting to the Kabul airport; the next day, the embassy told Americans not to come and suspended the flights for a day. When top officials at the White House, State and Defense have said there have been no incidents of violence, new reports would emerge of threats and beatings.

I don’t think Biden has been particularly convincing in saying the chaos was inevitable, rather than acknowledging the obvious miscalculations by his national security people. After all, and we’ve all seen the videotape, Biden assured the country early last month that a quick Taliban takeover was “highly unlikely.”

Jen Psaki got into a scrap with Fox News’ Peter Doocy, who asked Monday whether Biden understood the criticism of his “pulling the troops before getting these Americans who are now stranded.” The press secretary called that an “irresponsible” statement, adding: “I’m just calling you out for saying that we are stranding Americans in Afghanistan when we have been very clear that we are not leaving Americans who want to return home.”

Of course, this was basically semantics. Any American who hasn’t yet gotten out of a country run by extremist rebels may well feel abandoned. The New York Times used “stranded” in a headline the next morning. And those fears will undoubtedly intensify after Biden’s decision Tuesday not to extend the Aug. 31 deadline for military withdrawal — which the Taliban warned would be crossing a “red line.” Now those who have been unable to get to the airport and flee the country face a ticking clock.

No one is suggesting the administration doesn’t want to rescue them. But for the moment, they are indeed stranded.

Equally worrisome is the Taliban’s declaration that Afghans are no longer allowed to leave the country and that airport access for them will be blocked.

On Monday, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked the State Department spokesman about Afghan staffers at our Kabul embassy who feel “betrayed” by the failure to rescue them.

Some White House officials have been grumbling about the coverage, believing that the press is piling on, given the limited options that Biden faced when he inherited the Trump withdrawal deal. Even if that’s true — the Beltway media has more than its share of hawks who favor indefinite wars — it comes with the territory.

Biden and his inner circle may have grown too comfortable with the usually sympathetic coverage of his first seven months. He had a pretty good debut, except for the fiasco at the border, as the economy rebounded and the vaccine program ramped up. He granted almost no interviews to anyone likely to be tough on him, and at his infrequent news conferences, questions were often just invitations for him to pursue a more liberal agenda or push to abolish the filibuster. And then there were the shouted questions about ice cream.

That was never going to last. But the contrast with the Trump years was inescapable.

Over the years, there has been a stark divide between media people on the left who favor Democratic presidents and those on the right who favor Republican presidents (though anti-Trump conservatives came to be overrepresented on op-ed pages and cable news shows). But the collapse in Afghanistan has transcended the usual partisanship, with mainstream and liberal journalists trying to hold the 46th president accountable for this undeniable failure on the world stage.

Maybe that will prove to be an aberration. But for now, even one of the most prominent conservative magazines is cheering the fourth estate.

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