For those among us who dread the very idea of Donald Trump returning to the White House, or for that matter anyone remotely like him, the last week of Joe Biden’s presidency has been as scary as sad. For once there is blood in the water sharks linger.
Setting aside the decision to leave Afghanistan and setting aside even the way in which Afghanistan was left, is the issue of timing. I get it: Biden was bound and determined to get out. This though raises the question not just of how, but of when. Assuming the implementation of his decision was certain to be at least a little bit messy, maybe even a lot messy, the question of when to act was key.
Yes, there were timetables. And yes, promises had been made. But the administration could have stalled for time while focusing its energies on a few all-important items on its immediate domestic agenda. These included among others proposed but infinitely complex legislation on infrastructure and proposed but infinitely fraught legislation on voting rights. All Biden’s energy and political clout should have been spent this summer on these two key initiatives. But, as it stands now, they like other items on his to-do list are bound to be more difficult to realize first because there are only so many hours even in a president’s day. And second because those other than the president’s staunchest allies will be less likely to follow him now than they would have been a month ago.
A leader’s reputation is a fragile thing. It always was, at least in the modern age. And now it is more so. The culture is such that we as soon tear leaders down as build them up, and the technology is such that denigrating them is as easy as fast.
Moreover, fairly, or not, incompetence in one area suggests incompetence in another. Which is why, at least for the time being, maybe longer, the whole of Biden’s presidency has been contaminated by the perception of his incompetence as it pertains to Afghanistan.
Could he not have waited to do what he did until at least two years into his presidency? Where was it written that he had to withdraw when his administration was still young? Did he not realize that leadership leaks? That good leadership makes followers more likely to follow. And that bad leadership make followers less likely to follow. It’s really very simple.