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Rarely has one image more perfectly captured the moment — and totality — of a man’s presidency.
Befuddled by time, disoriented by a riot of terrible decisions, and confused by the demand for answers, President Joe Biden stood in the East Room of the White House, clutched his binder to his chest, and folded before the American people. Almost weeping, he pressed his face into his hands and closed his eyes.
Just moments earlier, he was mumbling in grief about his dead son. It had nothing to do with the matter at hand.
Age spots glimmered through his thinning white hair. His papery skin stretched translucent across his knuckles. And the tiny American flag pin on his lapel hid in the folds of his suit jacket.
Distraught Americans watched in horror as Joe Biden, 78 years old, stood before them and curled into a fetal position.
It was the best he could do after a series of terrible decisions to abandon our airbase in Afghanistan before evacuating Americans and key allies stranded in Kabul. He had already surrendered $80 billion worth of American war machinery to our enemies.
Just days before, Mr. Biden assured us everything would be okay. It would be nothing like Saigon.
Then the footage of Afghans clinging to the landing gear of a departing C-17 transport plane. And then the images of them falling to their deaths.
Indeed, it was nothing like Saigon.
These are all images that will never be erased from America’s public consciousness. And all of them were the direct results of decisions Joe Biden made.
In the grips of his dementia, Mr. Biden scrambled to clean up the public relations mess he had made. Inexplicably, he sent more American troops back into Kabul to oversee the disastrous evacuation in a war he had already surrendered. Meanwhile, the Biden administration handed the Taliban a list of Americans stuck in Kabul along with those Afghan citizens who had allied themselves with U.S. forces these past 20 years.
Outside the walls of the civilian airport, families of Afghans waded through open sewage to escape.
A child could have told you what would happen next. The soldiers Mr. Biden sent back in became cannon fodder for terrorists. Thirteen dead in what we now know was a single blast from a suicide bomb.
General Kenneth McKenzie explained the mission.
“We have to check people before they get onto the airfield,” he said. “We have to ensure they’re not carrying a bomb or any other kind of weapon that could ultimately make its way onto an aircraft.”
As if that explained anything.
The general was quick, however, to tout his success in this hopeless task.
“We have put more than 5,000 U.S. service members at risk to save as many civilians as we can,” he boasted.
Of the 104,000 people screened and evacuated by airlift, only about 5,000 were actually American citizens.
General McKenzie thus far has not shown the honor or decency to resign his post. But our commander-in-chief is at least aware enough of his surroundings to curl up and cry, clutching his leather binder like a security blanket.
A reporter asked Mr. Biden if he took responsibility for the 13 deaths. He said he did — before once again blaming Donald Trump.
In an earlier time, the press would have hidden such a demoralizing picture — just as they strained to never show F.D.R. in a wheelchair during World War II. After all, propaganda is a powerful weapon.
In these times, a partisan press might have hidden such a picture — even more zealously than they hid that laptop containing evidence of all manner of criminal behavior.
But there was no hiding this picture. And it was punctuated by what is perhaps an even worse picture.
Mr. Biden and his second wife gathered Sunday at Dover Air Force Base to watch 13 flag-draped caskets get unloaded from the back of a military transport plane from Afghanistan.
Each casket carried the remains of the most recent carnage from a war Joe Biden voted for — a war Joe Biden helped oversee as Vice President for eight years — and a war he surrendered.
And there he is, commander-in-chief, right hand on his heart — checking the time on the watch on his left wrist. He had someplace else to be, some other catastrophe to oversee.
As the warriors of Afghanistan often tell people like Joe Biden: You have all the watches. We have all the time.