A Basket Full of Troubles
By Stephen Tuttle | Aug. 21, 2021
President Joe Biden has a basket full of troubles. Some inherited, some the responsibility of multiple people and some of his own doing. They all promise to be rich fodder for attack politics during the 2022 midterm elections.
Our military adventure in Afghanistan started as an effort to rout the controlling Taliban because, among other things, they had given aid, comfort, and shelter to Osama bin Laden and his gang of 9/11 murderers. And we did that with a handful of U.S. special operations personnel and a coalition of tribal leaders we called the Northern Alliance. Then we decided to try and force Western democracy down the throats of people who neither understood nor wanted it.
We spent two decades, our longest war in history, keeping the Taliban at bay while spending somewhere near $1 trillion. In the process, we spent at least $83 billion developing, outfitting, arming, and training a 300,000 strong Afghani military.
President George W. Bush started this mess, and President Barack Obama said he would get us out but ended his second term with 8,400 troops still in Afghanistan.
Donald Trump said he would get us out, too. He even cut a deal with the Taliban that required us to leave the country by May 2021 in exchange for which the Taliban agreed to keep al Qaida out of the country.
Now President Biden is in the Afghani quicksand, trying to leave as the Taliban have swept into control with alarming speed. The Afghan army barely fired a shot in resistance, our 20 years of effort apparently entirely wasted.
Afghanistan will now be a horror story, a nightmare for women and children for which Biden will be blamed. But there was never any chance of any other outcome; we ultimately had to leave, and the ugliness would have occurred then as it is now. There is plenty of blame to share.
Thirty-five years ago then-President Ronald Reagan offered amnesty to many of those illegally in the United States with the caveat it would be the last group of illegal immigrants to whom we would provide such an opportunity. It did not stop the constant flow across the border, which is now approaching a kind of untenable critical mass.
Joe Biden will be the sixth president since Reagan who is stuck with a border problem that has little hope of being resolved. Neither Bush presidency could fix it, Bill Clinton couldn't, Obama arrested and prosecuted more than any other president (and still couldn't fix it), Trump's proposed wall did little more than hurry those wanting to cross, and Biden is now stuck with the results of all that. That isn't his fault, but the fact he seems to have nothing close to an actual immigration policy is.
This isn't likely to get better. COVID-19 has ravaged Mexico and Central America, and the desperate folks there have started sending their children to the border unattended in hopes their kids will be mercifully admitted by a benevolent United States. Asylum requests have increased as gangs have taken over Honduras and El Salvador, which now have the highest murder rates in the world.
COVID-19 and the Delta Variant
It is borderline absurd to blame Biden for the upward arc of the pandemic. He has taken the only steps he legally can regarding vaccines and masks and has consistently followed the recommendations of the country's leading epidemiologists. But COVID denial and vaccine hesitancy, fueled first by his predecessor and now by a drumbeat of nonsense on social media, has blunted those efforts. The naked partisanship involved is even more preposterous. You'd think nearly 620,000 deaths would make us all take whatever steps were available to protect ourselves and others. You would be wrong.
The Senate, in a remarkably bipartisan effort, recently passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill for roads, bridges, rail, public transit, the power grid, clean drinking water, and a significant expansion of high-speed internet. It includes $550 billion in new spending.
Its passage in the House should have been easy given the Democrat majority. But, no. The so-called progressives insist their pet projects, included in a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation document, be passed by the Senate first. It includes such favorites as a significant expansion of the child tax credit, paid family and medical leave, free universal pre-K, free community college tuition ... lots and lots of stuff paid for by higher taxes for the rich and corporations. The Senate says pass our infrastructure legislation first, and then we'll deal with your budget.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi can't control her delegation, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can't control his delegation, and Biden, who will get the blame for all of it, appears to have no influence over either body. It's self-destruction of the sort Democrats seem to enjoy and bodes ill for them in 2022 and 2024.