“August has proved to be a brutal month for President Biden,” First Read notes.
“Rising Covid cases and deaths. The Taliban toppling Kabul and the Afghan government. Declining poll numbers. The killing of 13 U.S. service members in Afghanistan. And a hurricane pummeling Louisiana and now heading to the East Coast.”
“As we wrote two weeks ago, the next month won’t get any easier for Biden and his party — with likely congressional hearings on Afghanistan (competing for attention with those Jan. 6 hearings), with increasing progressive-vs.-centrist tensions on infrastructure/reconciliation, and with the 9/11 anniversary coming up (which will re-up the Afghanistan story).”
Politico: “Despite the mounting challenges, there’s a belief in Bidenworld that time is on their side. Midterm campaigns are still a year from heating up, giving the president room to accelerate a vaccination campaign, allay concerns about inflation and message legislative wins — should they come to fruition.”
“Some aides and allies have gone further, bristling at attempts by the media and pundits to divine the White House’s political calculus from seemingly every moment.”
In televised remarks, President Biden delivered a defiant explanation of the chaotic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan: “I was not going to extend this forever war. And I was not extending a forever exit.”
He added: “The bottom line: 90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave. And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out, if they want to come out.”
Florida’s Department of Education announced Monday it has withheld funds from two districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) order banning mask mandates in schools, Axios reports.
A Taliban spokesman claimed that the Taliban is seeking “good and diplomatic relationship with the Americans,” Bloomberg reports.
But he quickly added: “We highlight to every occupier that whoever sees Afghanistan with an evil eye will face the same fate as the Americans have faced… We’ve never given up to pressure or force, and our nation has always sought freedom.”
“The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in U.S. history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies, and Afghan allies of the United States. They have done it with unmatched courage, professionalism, and resolve. Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended.” — President Joe Biden, in a White House statement.
U.S. special operations vets carried out daring mission to save Afghan allies — 500 smuggled into Kabul Airport on Weds night in complex, heart-pounding op by Americans determined not to leave comrades behind, ABC News reports. Once summoned, passengers would hold up their smartphones with a graphic of yellow pineapples on a pink field.
Associated Press: “Across the county, the offices of members of Congress have become makeshift crisis centers, flooded with requests for help getting people onto one of the last flights leaving the Kabul airport before President Joe Biden’s Tuesday deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. military forces out of Afghanistan.”
Tucker Carlson claimed that the Biden administration is allowing Afghan refugees to enter the United States in order “to change our country. They’ll never lose another election. That’s the point, as you know.”
Jonathan Chait: “Biden campaigned on a proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy by roughly $3.5 trillion over a decade. Nobody in Washington currently believes he will sign a tax hike anywhere close to that magnitude. The current predictions floating around — Politico’s tax newsletter is one publication that has used this estimate — peg the total at around a trillion, give or take.”
“The most striking thing about the decision by moderate Democrats to scale back Biden’s plan by some three-quarters is that we have no idea what the rationale is.”
“A federal judge on Monday threw out a major Trump administration rule scaling back federal protections for streams, marshes and wetlands across the United States, reversing one of the previous administration’s most significant environmental rollbacks,” the Washington Post reports.
“A new report from Goldman Sachs released Sunday estimates that about 750,000 households could face eviction later this year unless Congress acts or rental assistance funds are more quickly distributed,” Axios reports.
CNN: “Goldman Sachs estimates that between 2.5 million and 3.5 million households are significantly behind on rent, owing a combined $12 billion to $17 billion to landlords.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) claimed that researchers won’t study the toxic animal deworming drug ivermectin as a potential COVID treatment because of their dislike for former President Donald Trump, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Said Paul: “The hatred for Trump deranged these people so much that they’re unwilling to objectively study it. So someone like me that’s in the middle on it, I can’t tell you because they will not study ivermectin. They will not study hydroxychloroquine without the taint of their hatred for Donald Trump.”
“Former President Trump wanted equity in Gettr, the new social media app launched by former Trump aide Jason Miller,” Axios reports.
“The former president has yet to join the app, although sources say that conversations about his participation are ongoing. Discussions about equity are likely part of those conversations, and everything is a negotiation point.”
Miller told the New York Times that there’s “been over $50 million that’s put in the platform so far and have somewhere in $25, $30 million range that we currently have in the bank.”
“I don’t think it serves any particular purpose to start criticizing others.” — Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), when asked why he doesn’t call out Republicans who have downplayed the vaccine or opposed masks.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released an ad encouraging Americans to get vaccinated.
Said McConnell: “As a boy, I fought polio. Today, America’s been polio-free for 40 years thanks to vaccinations. We’ll beat Covid-19 with vaccines, too. Protect yourself and your family. Get vaccinated.”
“As a new coronavirus wave accelerated by the Delta variant spreads across the United States, many Republican governors have taken sweeping action to combat what they see as an even more urgent danger posed by the pandemic: the threat to personal freedom,” the New York Times reports.
“The actions of Republican governors, some of the leading stewards of the country’s response to the virus, reveal how the politics of the party’s base have hardened when it comes to curbing Covid. As some Republican-led states, including Florida, confront their most serious outbreaks yet even rising death totals are being treated as less politically damaging than imposing coronavirus mandates of almost any stripe.”
Explained Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): “Freedom is good policy and good politics.”
Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios reports.
Former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told WISN there should be no question that President Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. Said Ryan: “It was not rigged. It was not stolen. Donald Trump lost the election. Joe Biden won the election. It’s really clear.”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) was caught on video over the weekend blaming Donald Trump for losing Wisconsin in the 2020 presidential election.
Said Johnson: “There’s nothing obviously skewed about the results.”
Politico: “The statement opposing Jerome Powell by the high-profile progressive Democrats is part of a mounting effort on the left to urge Biden to reshape the Fed, though the prospect of Powell’s reappointment has split opinion among liberal advocates and lawmakers.”
“They acknowledged that the Fed under Powell ‘has made positive changes’ by steering the central bank toward a greater emphasis on reaching full employment. But they said they want to see someone at the helm who is more aggressive on financial regulation and climate change.”
New York Times: “The mysterious disappearance of the lawyer John Pierce began last Tuesday, prosecutors say, when he missed a hearing for one of the many cases where he is representing a defendant in the Capitol riot investigation. The young associate who took his place said that Mr. Pierce had a ‘conflict.’ At the time, no one seemed to give it much mind.”
“But in the days that followed, Mr. Pierce — who is defending more cases connected to the riot than any other lawyer — missed additional hearings and the reasons for his absence started changing.”
BuzzFeed News on there being tons of unseen video of the insurrection on January 6th: “These videos would paint the most complete picture of what happened inside, but the US Capitol Police, backed by federal prosecutors, have strictly controlled who can see them and how much footage can be shared with the public.”
“The full accounting of the movements of key players that this collection of footage would provide — not just of rioters, but also lawmakers and police officers — is exactly why Capitol security officials don’t want them out there.”
“The Department of Health and Human Services is preparing to launch an office that will treat climate change as a public health issue, designed to address what the White House says are health risks including those that disproportionately affect poor and minority communities,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The new office is likely to spur initiatives touching on many aspects of healthcare… It is expected to offer protections for populations most at risk—including the elderly, minorities, rural communities and children—and could eventually lead to policies compelling hospitals and other care facilities to reduce carbon emissions.”
Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe was interviewed by Salon: “One possible answer is that it’s not easy to get a conviction of a president. What appears compelling to a layperson is going to be difficult in practice. It will also be difficult to put down the riots that the very announcement of an indictment may bring. There may be a great deal of worry about fomenting civil war to no good end, because we will not succeed in holding the president accountable.”
“In the end, all I can do is make the counter-argument that if you’re worried about the consequences of going ahead with this evidence against Trump and perhaps not convicting him, then you had better start worrying about the consequences of not going ahead with this evidence — and telling presidents in the future, including this president, who undoubtedly is going to try to seize power again one way or another, that they can get away with this. If that is the message, then the rule of law has basically been thrown out the window.”
“The number of hate crimes in the United States rose in 2020 to the highest level in 12 years, propelled by increasing assaults targeting Black and Asian victims,” the Washington Post reports.
Jim Webb: “We should start with a truism. Wars have beginnings and they have ends. The ends for one and sometimes both sides are not always what the combatants initially envisioned. And in the case of Afghanistan, the war that we began was not the same war that we are finally bringing to an end.”
“When we went into Afghanistan in 2001 our national concern was to eliminate terrorist entities who desired to attack us. The common understanding at the time was that we would operate with maneuver elements capable of attacking and neutralizing terrorist entities. It was never to occupy territory with permanent bases or to attempt to change the societal and governmental structure of the Afghan people.”
This ‘mission creep’ began after a few years of successful operations and was obvious in 2004 when I was in the country as an embed journalist. The change in mission eventually increased our troop presence tenfold and sent our forces on an impossible political journey that no amount of military success could overcome.”
Wall Street Journal: “As a chaotic and deadly U.S. evacuation winds up, the U.S. has lost many of its key assets for tracking violent militants and their plots.”
“Gone are the military bases and other infrastructure that provided a platform for operatives from the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies. Gone is the U.S.-backed Afghan government and its intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security, which worked closely with American spy services. Gone, evacuated or scattered are Afghan agents and troops who fed on-the-ground information to the CIA.”
“U.S. officials acknowledge the military has lost 90% of the intelligence collection capabilities it had using drones before the drawdown of forces began in May.”
Walter Russell Mead: “Instead of freeing it to think about Afghanistan less, the messy withdrawal means that for the foreseeable future the White House will have to care more about what happens there but with fewer tools to manage the situation.”
Mike Gerson: “The United States now enters a high-stakes race between its over-the-horizon technologies and the talent of terrorists. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, may be right that ‘the relevant terrorist groups in Afghanistan do not possess advanced external plotting capabilities.’ But in that country, al-Qaeda is not a parasite feeding off the Taliban; it is an integral part of the regime. The United States’ capitulation to the Taliban is sure to encourage a new generation of young, bright and ambitious mass murderers. And when a terrorist group is hosted by a nation, capacities may be quickly gained.”
“As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, unlearning its lessons would be a dangerous way to honor it.”
Ross Douthat: “A set of moods that flourished after 9/11: a mix of cable-news-encouraged overconfidence in American military capacities, naïve World War II nostalgia and crusading humanitarianism in its liberal and neoconservative forms. Like most Americans, I shared in those moods once; after so many years of failure, I cannot imagine indulging in them now. But it’s clear from the past few weeks that they retain an intense subterranean appeal in the American elite, waiting only for the right circumstances to resurface.”