Now that the worst is over Afghanistan (in terms of optics, not reality) we can expect the mainstream media to (1) move away from the subject and (2) revise the narrative that emerged when the debacle was happening before our eyes.
According to my friend who dutifully reads the New York Times every day, this is where that organ seems headed:
NYT returns to form today. The paper does its best to position Biden to political advantage, attack his foes, and suppress unfavorable news. We are back on home ground.
Afghanistan still makes the front page, but only as one of a raft of other stories. The focus is reduced, but there is still a very substantial amount of Afghanistan news inside. The coverage itself, however, is far more supportive of Biden than we’ve seen in recent days.
A key article is headlined, “In Pulling Troops Out, A President Becomes An Unlikely Insurgent.” This piece portrays Biden as a courageous dove standing up to the hawkish bipartisan national security establishment in ways that resonate with average Americans. This very much follows the president’s own line in trying to fudge the question of his handling of the withdrawal, while focusing instead on the decision to withdraw itself.
The piece does note that there is a danger of over-correcting for past hawkishness by moving to an era of “under-reach.” Overall, however, the author, Mark Landler, makes Biden out to be something of a hero for doing what neither Obama nor Trump, for all their desire to get out, actually managed to pull off.
Another piece is a classic case of an Op-Ed disguised as “news analysis.” This article by Reid J. Epstein and Catie Edmondson, is an all-out attack on Republican critics of Biden’s withdrawal. It indicts them for hypocrisy in supporting Trump’s pull-out then turning on a dime to attack Biden for doing the same thing.
Again, all effort is focused on turning an argument over the handling of the withdrawal into an issue of the policy choice itself. According to Epstein and Edmondson, “…those who praised Mr. Trump’s plan but assailed Mr. Biden’s withdrawal have volunteered few substantive suggestions for what the president should have done differently.”
Really? I hear critics constantly complaining about Biden’s decision to withdraw during the fighting season for political reasons, as well as his decision to abandon Bagram Air Base. At any rate, this article is hardly “news analysis.” It truly is a thinly disguised partisan opinion piece.
A real “news analysis” would have at least considered the bombshell Reuters report on Biden’s call with Ghani. The clear implication of that report is that Biden knew the pull-out was going badly and did nothing to change his plans. The transcript also makes clear the president’s willingness to misrepresent the conditions on the ground. The president’s critics have pointed to this story for two days now. The Times has not a word to say about it, nor do most other mainstream sources. So we would appear to be back to our usual corners.
The Times is still trying to make up its mind on how to treat the stranded American citizens. It buries a mention of them near the end of a long article on the challenges of governing Afghanistan. Clever. To its credit, however, the editorial page includes an Op-Ed warning of the continuing danger of international terrorism emanating from Afghanistan. Overall, however, the Times has returned to its usual partisan posture.
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