Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Mitch McConnell's Suspicion

John Berman is a fine anchor person (anchorman, anchor, whatever) who generally listens to the guests he interviews and responds accordingly, at least compared to most of his peers on our two cable news networks, MSNB and his own CNN.

Not always, however. In the video below, Berman, responding to Donald Trump's latest pro-Putin remarks, can be seen asking CNN legal analyst Gloria Borger

I want to lay Trump aside here and talk about what Mitch McConnell said. How much do you think the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan is shaping the Administration's approach here?

That would have been a good question had the Senate Minority Leader been attributing the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the "messy withdrawal from Afghanistan?"  Rather, the clip shown immediately before Berman's query depicts McConnel stating

I don't believe Vladimir Putin would have a couple hundred thousand troops on the border of Ukraine had we not precipitously withdrawn from Afghanistan last August.... It looked not only chaotic but it looks weak and so they are pushing the limits everywhere, reacting to the perception of American weakness and loss of resolve.

Weakness and loss of resolve. McConnell did note that the withdrawal looked chaotic. It was easier for television news, cable and over-the-air, to focus on the 13 USA service members (and dozens of Afghans) murdered during the withdrawal by Islamic terrorists than on the 120,000 Americans, civilian and military, and Afghans who were safely evacuated.

The media knew there were many tens of thousands brought out safely and characterized the mission as chaotic. They learned of the killings and had pictures of hundreds or thousands of Afghans desperately trying to get on the airplanes so they could get out of the country. The media were not impressed by the impact of American withdrawal- unavoidably leaving thousands of Afghans to the whims of the murderous Taliban. Instead, after 19 years of war which ended in an American defeat, the media were exorcised by our inability to rescue everyone without the appearance of a fire drill gone haywire.

Something was out of whack there and Berman, who actually believes it was the "messy withdrawal" which may have shaped President Biden's response to Putin's aggression, seems not to have noticed. While the decision to leave Afghanistan may have had no impact. the nature of the withdrawal almost certainly had none, and the Minority Leader knows it.  Otherwise, he wouldn't have cited "weakness" and "lack of resolve," which he likely believed would resonate with many voters.

Neither the war in Afghanistan, the American withdrawal, nor the manner of withdrawal probably has had any influence on Vladimir Putin's strategy or tactics in Afghanistan.  But if it did, it wasn't the hyped "messy withdrawal," whose importance the media has exaggerated ever since the exit of the US forces.  The policy decision was of far greater importance but was unexamined and largely downplayed by the media, perhaps because it was presumed to be universally popular. Not with Mitch McConnell it wasn't, and he may speak for far more people than is assumed.

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