- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2022

In the wake of the badly planned and poorly executed U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Gens. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Frank McKenzie, head of the Central Command who oversaw the withdrawal and abandonment of hundreds of Americans, testified before an incredulous Senate Armed Services Committee that wanted to know why things had gone so badly.

Both testified under oath that President Biden had been warned that we needed to leave 2,500 troops on the ground to cover the withdrawal, but that their advice had been ignored. Gen. McKenzie told the committee that he had advised the president personally.

Asked about their testimony, Mr. Biden claimed such advice had never been offered. When ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asked the president if his “top military advisers warned against withdrawing on this timeline.” Mr. Biden responded flatly, “No, they didn’t.”

Taken aback, Mr. Stephanopoulos followed up by asking, “So no one told — your military advisers did not tell you, ‘No, we should just keep 2,500 troops. It’s been a stable situation for the last several years. We can do that. We can continue to do that’?” Mr. Biden answered, “No one said that to me that I can recall.”

One commentator suggested there were two possible explanations for Mr. Biden’s claim if one assumed the two generals were telling the truth. Either the president was lying, which is bad, or Mr. Biden honestly doesn’t recall the advice he got from his top military advisers, which is far worse.

That observation should haunt everyone in the aftermath of the president’s remarks about the war in Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin over the last week. Wandering off-script in Poland, Mr. Biden told members of the 82nd Airborne, “You’re going to see when you’re there — some of you have been there — you’re going to see women, young people, standing in the middle, in front of a damn tank, saying, ‘I’m not leaving,’” implying, if not declaring, that these American troops would soon be sent into Ukraine. 

Within hours, the White House “walked back” the president’s words, assuring reporters and the public that the U.S. has no plans to send U.S. troops into battle against the Russians.

Walking back the president’s off-the-cuff remarks has become a regular and incredibly important part of what the White House communications shop and top foreign policy and national security advisers do as part of their job.

As if that wasn’t enough, Mr. Biden seemed to warn Mr. Putin the U.S. would respond “in kind” to the potential Russian use of chemical weapons in Ukraine. National security adviser Jake Sullivan almost ran to the microphones to assure everyone that Mr. Biden didn’t mean what he said. Mr. Sullivan walked back Mr. Biden’s remarks by declaring, “The United States has no intention of using chemical weapons, period, under any circumstances.” 

Then there was Mr. Biden’s insistence that he never believed nor said that the sanctions he had slapped on Russia were intended to actually deter the invasion and the president’s call for regime change that shocked friend and foe alike and was walked back even as Mr. Biden was leaving the stage.

Alarmingly, an exchange with a reporter at the conclusion of Mr. Biden’s remarks on his new tax proposal last Thursday raised questions about either the president’s motives or his understanding of his own words. 

The reporter asked the president what the world must think when so much has had to be walked back by his staff. 

“What’s getting walked back?” asked Mr. Biden.

The reporter helpfully listed a few: “Just in the last couple of days — it sounded like you told U.S. troops they were going to Ukraine. It sounded like you said it was possible the U.S. would use a chemical weapon. And it sounded like you were calling for regime change in Russia. And we know …” The president interrupted to say, “None of that happened.”

Clearly taken aback by the denial, the reporter pressed: “None of the three occurred?”

As if the reporter hadn’t heard the first time, Mr. Biden doubled down: “None of the three.”

President Gerald Ford’s reelection campaign collapsed in 1976 when he foolishly claimed Poland was not part of the Soviet Empire and then doubled down on the claim even as his staff tried to walk it back. 

That the current president of the United States can stand before a microphone and deny so much he has clearly said on the record is being ignored neither by our allies and enemies worldwide or by a public increasingly unimpressed by how well he is handling his job, trying to decide whether he’s lying or just can’t remember anything he said the day before yesterday and wondering which is worse.

• David Keene is editor-at-large at The Washington Times.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide