Alan Zendell, September 8, 2021
Did anyone else hear the alarm bells going off on all the cable hype networks? Catastrophe! Afghanistan was a debacle, COVID-Delta is killing people faster than its parent virus, and Republican Governors and legislatures are passing extreme right-wing laws as fast as they can be typed. All this in less than eight months, and President Biden’s favorability ratings in poll after poll started tumbling. Finally, last week, they dipped below 50%, and the not-so-loyal opposition is crowing, rooting out loud for him to fail.
A few days ago, Biden’s rating hit rock bottom, at 46% or 48%, depending which poll you read. That sounds terrible for a president whose main campaign promise was to re-unite the country, until we provide some context. Biden’s attackers, almost exclusively Trump supporters, fail to note that Biden’s rock bottom low is around the highest rating his predecessor ever had. Trump’s final recorded approval rating as president was 34%.
Our withdrawal from Afghanistan was an embarrassing mess that bespoke diplomatic and intelligence failures, and inept planning. The chaos wasn’t Biden’s fault any more than it was Trump’s, yet there was a distinct difference in Biden’s presidential stature. Where Trump was incapable of admitting responsibility for failures and constantly engaged in scapegoating, Biden acknowledged that the buck stopped with him. Instead of publicly humiliating his generals and intelligence agents, he had nothing but praise for everyone involved in the operation.
And why not? After all the sniping and criticism, and Monday morning quarterbacks explaining how it should have been done with the benefit of hindsight, 130,000 people, among them, 6,000 Americans were airlifted from a place where they would surely have been arrested or killed and brought to safety. The only flaw in that ointment was a breach in the Taliban security line that was supposed to protect evacuees from harm, which allowed ISIS-K fanatics to pass a suicide bomber through the airport gate.
That attack, which killed thirteen U. S. Marines, horrific as it was, was a necessary reminder of why we were leaving that place. The British, Russians, and three American presidents all learned the harsh lesson that Afghanistan is unmanageable. It’s a collection of warring extremist factions that no one has ever successfully united into something that looked like a civilized nation. It’s a place that would require an occupation force of over a million to maintain law and order. The fact that ISIS-K was able to pull off that attack during a negotiated withdrawal truce underlines how impossible our mission was.
But while Afghanistan was a windfall for cable sponsors and Nielsen ratings, our friend COVID-Delta was spreading at a frightening rate wherever it found concentrations of unvaccinated, unmasked people. That’s not a political statement. It’s an incontrovertible fact. In states or localities where people had been encouraged to reject the vaccines and right-wing extremists turned mask-wearing into a human rights battle, hospitals were filling, non-COVID patients were being turned away, and thousands were dying, this time including children.
It seems to have been inevitable that craven politicians who care more about power than human life would work as hard as they have to undermine the recommendations of every responsible health professional in the country. If I tried to incorporate all this into a novel, every editor in the country would reject it as too unimaginable to publish. Yet, here we are, with pro-Trump politicians all over the country legislating against masks and vaccination and declaring war on teachers and school children, all in opposition to President Biden’s attempts to eradicate the virus. They’d love to somehow convince voters in red states that scenes of friends and loved ones sickening and dying are Biden’s fault, but voters, Americans in general, are too smart for that. Anyone with eyes and ears can reach the right conclusion on his or her own.
That’s why Biden’s numbers will bounce back before long, and why Trump’s kept falling in 2020. The difference last year was that the majority of Americans concluded Trump was willing to sacrifice their health and lives to win re-election. Simply put, that’s why Biden beat him by eight million votes, and that’s why, when the smoke settles, Americans will wake up to the scams Trump supporters have been running on them.
It should be interesting to watch the political fortunes of Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, when it becomes clear they have bet their future political ambitions on Trump’s base, with the same attendant disregard for the lives of the people they swore to protect. It’s already hurting DeSantis, who must run for re-election in 2022 and who has clear presidential ambitions. Virtually a shoo-in for re-election last spring, he now trails former governor Charlie Crist. Do you think the spiraling COVID numbers in Florida are just a coincidence?