AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
One of the biggest turning points of the Virginia governor’s race was the publication of a memo by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland which instructed the FBI to target parents for alleged intimidation of school administrators after months of outrage at school board meetings over mask mandates, school closures, and far-left ideologies being taught in classrooms. As if that weren’t enough to irk Virginia voters, the country soon learned that the Department of Justice had composed the memo in response to a letter from the National School Boards Association that labeled angry parents “domestic terrorists” – a letter which the Biden administration appears to have encouraged them to write. In other words, it looks as if the Biden administration manufactured “safety concerns” in order to justify using the FBI to quell pushback against their increasingly unpopular political agenda.
For Democrat nominee Terry McAuliffe, who was at the time under fire for saying that parents shouldn’t be able to tell schools what to teach, the release of the memo was a disaster. McAuliffe was already being weighed down by Biden’s unpopularity nationally, and now he looked to be in league with Biden’s war on parents. For Biden, the episode was the latest in a series of embarrassing and unforced errors that has him spiraling in the polls just 10 months into his term.
These events in Virginia also further underscored a concerning trend that has in large part defined Biden’s presidency: instead of focusing on good policy and letting the headlines write themselves, the Biden administration seems to care only about trying to dictate the narrative of the next news cycle to their minions in the media, making decisions based on how they want the headlines to read – and the country and the world are paying for it.
While the bungled attempt to flip the narrative on public backlash to far-left policies in schools is the most recent example of the Biden administration’s headline addiction, it is far from the most consequential. That title belongs to Biden’s disastrous evacuation from Afghanistan, a humiliation that undermined American power on the global stage and set U.S. foreign policy back decades.
Soon after taking office, Biden declared that the United States would be completely out of Afghanistan by September 11, just in time for the 20th anniversary of the attacks that sparked U.S. involvement in the country. With high-profile memorials planned for the day, September 11 would be the perfect chance for Biden to take a victory lap. He had gotten the country out of Afghanistan, doing what Trump and even Obama had failed to do. It would be a neat end to America’s longest war– straight out of a West Wing episode.
The only problem is that what plays well in the minds of White House media planners doesn’t always comport with the realities of military logistics, geopolitics, and national security concerns. Instead of a cathartic end to the conflict, Americans witnessed the Taliban sweep through the country in a matter of weeks. Harrowing stories emerged of Afghan interpreters and their families being beaten and murdered in their own homes. 13 American servicemembers needlessly lost their lives. Biden’s assurances of victory rang hollow in the wake of what could only be viewed as a catastrophic defeat. Top military leaders then openly confirmed what now seemed obvious – Biden had rejected their advice, too obsessed with the image of himself as the leader who ended the endless war just in time for 9/11 commemorations.
Ironically, this grand attempt to sweep the media off their feet backfired, and the Biden administration received the full brunt of media and public criticism. Even then, however, they couldn’t quit their incessant need to control headlines, desperately searching for some way to shift the narrative from one of failure to one of success. Quickly they seized upon an answer, launching a drone strike on what they determined was a suicide bomber preparing for an attack. Biden immediately touted the strike as a vindication of his “over-the-horizon” strategy. However, it soon became clear that the strike actually killed a longtime U.S. aid worker and 9 other innocents, including 7 children. Again, the need for a positive headline in the American media had deadly consequences for people halfway around the world.
The same story has played out in Biden’s domestic policy as well. Biden promised during the campaign that he would be the “most progressive” president in American history. Once in office, that promise translated into the massive multi-trillion-dollar spending bill currently before Congress. For the Biden administration, it didn’t matter that their proposal to dramatically increase spending came at a time when inflation was already eating into the savings of ordinary Americans. When moderate Democrats raised concerns about the price tag, Biden’s team simply insisted that the plan actually cost nothing, apparently oblivious to the absurdity of the claim. All that mattered was the media narrative that the bill was a “historic investment” – even if that “investment” had little chance of any return.
Biden also promised to take dramatic action on climate change and appeared to do so during his first week in office, canceling the Keystone XL pipeline, pledging to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, and ending oil and gas exploration on public lands. All of these actions were undoubtedly aimed at appeasing climate activists and drawing headlines contrasting Biden with Trump, and sure enough the media gobbled it up. However, Biden was soon forced to beg OPEC to increase production as the end of American energy independence has sent prices soaring. Again, the desire to govern by headline ran up against reality, and Americans are on the hook for it, paying more at the pump and facing higher heating bills this winter.
It may well be that Biden’s handlers have forgotten that they are now in office and are no longer campaigning. In the world of electoral politics, headlines are everything. You can say whatever you want with little responsibility, especially when your party controls the media. Once a candidate is in office, however, a good headline won’t erase the disastrous results of bad policy. Reality doesn’t conform to the latest CNN chyron, and nice sentiments do not put food on the table. Americans have already sent that message to Democrats once this month, and they will have another chance to do so again next November.
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