“You’re f— kidding me.”
That was the reaction of a Republican in Bedford, N.H. learning for the first time of media reports that the Biden administration shared intelligence on Americans in Afghanistan with the Taliban.
It’s a reflection of the powerful emotions in play as President Joe Biden’s foreign policy plays out, creating a legacy of apparent ineptitude, chaos, and — most tragic of all — the loss of at least 13 American lives.
Did the Biden administration really hand over lists of names of U.S. citizens and helpful Afghans to a terrorist organization? Apparently so. “Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list,” a defense official told Politico. “It’s just appalling and shocking and makes you feel unclean.”
That’s not all Americans are feeling, particularly politically active Democrats.
When New Hampshire Democrats woke up Thursday morning, they still lived in a world where Biden’s “Get Out Now, Don’t Ask Me How” plan could have worked. A year from now, they allowed themselves to believe, the only headline voters remember will be, “Biden Brought Our Boys Home.”
Thursday morning, it was still possible for Democratic state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro to appear on WGIR radio and declare Biden’s policy a “success!”
“Have a great American day,” D’Allesandro added, his signature line.
Then two bombs blew up among the teeming throng outside the airport in Kabul — people who were being guarded, through an agreement with the Biden administration, by the Taliban — and everything changed.
The throng was only there because the Biden administration botched the withdrawal. The airport was in chaos because Biden overruled his military advisors and gave up Bagram Air Force Base — and the military power it could project — weeks before the evacuation.
“Difficult day for America,” D’Allesandro tweeted Thursday night.
It’s unlikely to get easier. The United States military is going to leave Americans behind in Afghanistan. On purpose. Biden acknowledged that fact during Thursday night’s press conference. In fact, he defended it.
“As a student of history, I know of no conflict where, when a war was ending, one side was able to guarantee that everyone that wanted to be extracted from that country would get out,” Biden said.
How many Americans accepted that argument? How many were horrified by it?
And what happens to Biden’s standing if and when an American left behind gets kidnapped or killed? Will the average American join Biden in a, “Hey, stuff happens” shrug?
Whatever happens to Biden also happens to the Democrats who have to run in 2022.
Privately, New Hampshire Democrats are downhearted. Publicly, they’re not exactly doing cartwheels, but their off-the-record conversations are filled with gallows humor. (“Maybe this will at least keep him from running again,” one said.)
They see no path to win back the legislature next year. Sununu is likely to roll over Hassan. Who knows what the governor’s race will look like?
And now Biden, who had no coattails even with Trump on the ballot, is swiftly turning into an anchor weighing down the party even more.
And, as New England College’s Dr. Wayne Lesperance notes, the Afghanistan issue could actually get worse.
“I expect we will see the Taliban revert to form where women and young girls are concerned. Party affiliation will not insulate the president from news stories describing honor killings, forced marriages, and acid burnings for improper face coverings,” Lesperance said.
In fact, there was a glimpse of that future on Thursday, when it was reported that the Taliban are likely to end up sitting on the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women. When the regime that beats women for showing up at work is holding this post, how powerless will the Biden administration look then?
One of the words heard most often Thursday was “dishonor.” Granite Staters across the political spectrum feel ashamed of how America looks right now.
Among veterans, the word was “heartbroken.”
“It’s been a brutal day for the Marine Corps,” Portsmouth Democrat and veteran Maura Sullivan said Thursday. “I’m heartsick, as I am sure Marines are all around our state. Marines are first to fight, and these Marines were serving our country with honor. They made the ultimate sacrifice saving the lives of women, children, fellow Americans, and our Afghan allies. The service and sacrifice of these American heroes will never be forgotten.”
Former Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook), a Vietnam War veteran, put it bluntly Friday morning: “This is worse than Vietnam.”
“Like all Americans, I’m devastated by the deaths of the 13 members of the armed forces” Shurtleff said. And he had a critique of Biden’s policy.
“I know that hindsight is 20/20, but I do regret that we ever gave up Bagram AFB and we should retake it. That’s where the processing and departures should have taken place. We should never have relied on the Taliban for our outer security. We now can see that the Taliban doesn’t have the will or the ability to keep other terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as their base of operations.”
Ben Hartford served two tours in Afghanistan as a member of the 82nd Airborne. “While I was with my wife who was in labor, I was told that Ghazni (the FOB we operated out of) had fallen,” he told NHJournal via email. “The Sunday we brought our new daughter home, Kabul fell. While I was in Adoration today, I was told that at least 12 Marines had perished in Afghanistan.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with simultaneous highs and lows throughout all this. I’m heartbroken. My friends’ parents and siblings were visited by the Taliban and are being intimidated. I want the Marines and the 82d to be there — kicking in Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS teeth. And I want them home.”
A lot of Granite Staters want that. They don’t want their country to look helpless and inept. They don’t want our enemies (like China) mocking our weakness, while our allies (the U.K.) questioning our strength.
Most of all, they want being an American to mean something. Like your country doesn’t leave you behind, for example. Or that your government doesn’t trust your safety to the tender mercies of Taliban terrorists.
“This was the worst day of the Joe Biden presidency,” left-leaning foreign policy expert Ian Bremmer said Thursday night.
He could have added, “so far.”