Nobody can do a backfire like Joe Biden.
The man currently presiding over the country’s worst international humiliation since Jimmy Carter held the office of president probably thought it was a good idea to limit his media interviews to ABC News’ generally reliable Democratic lapdog George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday.
But when the interview in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan actually aired, the results could not have been what the Biden White House was hoping for — because the backlash is brutal.
Outrageous optics for Biden to do a friendly interview with former Democrat staffer George Stephanopoulos but not take questions from the press.
(But reading this I guess you can see why they're keeping him locked down) https://t.co/5M5Nxdq4SD
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) August 18, 2021
On its face, the idea of using Stephanopoulos as the exclusive medium for Biden to dodge the disaster might have made sense.
The former communications director for the Bill Clinton White House in Clinton’s first term has been passing himself off as a “journalist” on ABC for more than two decades now, carrying water for Democratic causes and even inserting himself into Republican primary elections as a debate “moderator.” (An utterly pointless but inflammatory Stephanopoulos question about contraception during a 2012 GOP primary debate ended up driving media coverage for days and distracting the campaign of eventual nominee Mitt Romney.)
So when Biden apparently feared to face questions from the regular Washington press corps — despite being more coddled by the mainstream media than even his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama — Stephanopoulos must have seemed like a logical alternative.
The only problems were that, for many Americans, the tactic was a transparent attempt to get a friendly audience.
First of all, Stephanopoulos is a known political operator. For a Democratic president to turn to him and present it as some kind of journalistic reckoning is the equivalent of former President Donald Trump making his case to Fox News’ Sean Hannity and pretending the interview was objective. (To Hannity’s credit, he’s always been honest about his political leanings. Stephanopoulos et al should take a lesson.)
Reminder that George Stephanopoulos was Bill Clinton's campaign director and WH communications director who obstructed a federal investigation.
This is like Kelly Anne Conway interviewing a Republican. pic.twitter.com/WgJ1AJLCij
— Gave Up Politics For Lent (@colorblindk1d) August 16, 2021
George Stephanopoulos wants to know what he should ask President Biden when he gets back from vacation https://t.co/F0aL4tagfw
— Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) August 17, 2021
Seriously, an exclusive interview with Stephanopoulos confirms that admin. is now in damage control mode.
— BetaTesting (@downsjm) August 17, 2021
But as it turned out, Stephanopoulos’s questions, while they didn’t go as far as actual journalism, were far more pointed than Biden’s minions probably expected.
So what Americans saw in the interview that aired Thursday was a president who, even sitting with a handpicked questioner from his own political party, couldn’t avoid embarrassing himself, and disgracing the country once again.
Biden denied having been warned by his military advisers about the potential for a sudden collapse by the Afghan government. But even the bootlicking New York Times has reported Biden was put on notice by U.S. intelligence about the likelihood of that happening. (Not to mention that it could have been predicted two weeks ago by just about anyone who reads a newspaper, watches TV or has a brain.)
However, in Biden’s defense, when asked if he’d been advised to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, he said, “No one said that to me that I can recall,” according to the transcript. (Emphasis added.)
This is Joe Biden we’re talking about — a man who almost half the country suspects, with good reason, isn’t playing with four aces in his deck. Would it be a surprise, at this point, if the warnings had been shouted at Biden from dawn to dusk and he still couldn’t recall them?
Heck, during the interview, Biden even confused what branch of the service his late son, Beau, served in. (“Look … my deceased son Beau, who spent six months in Kosovo and a year in Iraq as a Navy captain and then major — I mean, as an Army major …”)
And worst of all, he callously shrugged off images that horrified viewers around the world of Afghans plunging to their deaths from airplanes they tried to use to escape Taliban control.
“That was four days — five days ago,” he said, as though relegating the memory to a pile of old news that no longer counts. And, in fact, it had happened just two days earlier.
Biden dismisses Afghans falling out of planes by saying “that was 4-5 days ago.” It was 2 days ago. pic.twitter.com/jWaxaHXsMT
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) August 18, 2021
All in all, far from reassuring to Americans of any political stripe, it was an appalling picture of a man who is clearly unfit to hold the office he now fills, even under questioning from a sympathetic interviewer.
It was a damning indictment of the political and media machine that put him there.
And it was everything the Biden White House had to be hoping to avoid by dodging even the biased White House press corps.
In short, it backfired into a bomb for the Biden White House. And no one can do a backfire like Joe Biden.