By Joseph Lord
As the 2022 midterm elections loom nearer, Democrats in vulnerable House and Senate seats are distancing themselves from President Joe Biden over his handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
This is unsurprising: surveys since the beginning of the situation in Afghanistan have consistently shown that most American voters disapprove of the president’s handling of the situation.
One survey from Rasmussen near the beginning of the Afghanistan crisis found that a majority of likely voters—59 percent—think that Biden is not doing enough to rescue Americans trapped in the country.
Another Rasmussen survey released Monday showed these numbers holding steady. The survey found that only 32 percent of likely voters thought Biden’s handling of the situation was “good” or “excellent.” The survey also showed that about the same amount, 34 percent, thought that Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops by Aug. 31 was a good idea.
For Democrats holding onto their seats in the House and Senate by a thread, being associated with the fiasco is an untenable position. Because of this, many have criticized Biden in an effort to distance themselves from the commander-in-chief.
Criticism From Democrats
Biden has received criticism from other Democrats since Afghanistan fell to the Taliban terrorist organization.
Just days after the Taliban took full control of the country, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote that “the images from Afghanistan that we’ve seen in recent days are devastating.”
He worried that in the wake of the United States abandoning their Afghan allies, other allies would lose faith in the country’s commitments to its obligations. He said that this is unacceptable and insisted that “the world must know that the United States stands by her friends in times of need, and this is one of those times.”
Warner concluded with the promise that within his committee he would ask “tough but necessary questions about why we weren’t better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces.”
Around the same time, Rep. Crissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) also criticized the president in a public statement. She wrote: “These past few days have been difficult to process, and not because the Taliban’s progress was surprising. In fact, the opposite. We sounded the alarm, and our dire warnings fell on deaf ears.” Houlahan then promised that she is “committed to being part of those tough conversations and holding accountable those who seemingly misled the American people.”
Since then, the situation has only worsened for Biden and his party. On Thursday, thirteen U.S. soldiers lost their lives in an attack from the radical Taliban breakaway terrorist organization ISIS-K. The attack caused the highest casualties of U.S. troops in over a decade.
Only two days before, the House had met in an emergency session. Republicans urged them to suspend consideration of their ambitious policy agenda and to use the session to address the crisis, but Democrats refused.
Now, as the nation mourns the tragedy, many Democrats are trying to reposition themselves away from the White House—especially in hotly-contested and hard-won Senate seats.
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) won an incredibly volatile election to the Senate on paper-thin margins in 2016 (.14 percent). Now, as she faces a tough reelection campaign she joined her colleagues in opposing the president. She said of the looming withdrawal deadline “We must complete this mission, regardless of any arbitrary deadlines.”
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), another Democrat who won a 2020 special election on fairly narrow margins in a historically Republican seat, has also sought to distance himself from Biden. A Navy combat veteran, Kelly has said that he considers it more important to get all Americans out than to honor the Aug. 31 deadline.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) won by a similarly tight margin in 2016. No doubt thinking about the challenges that the fiasco will bring to her campaign, Masto has been among the most outspoken Democratic critics of the administration.
Masto told a Las Vegas television station that she asked both former President Donald Trump and Biden about their plan for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan but said that in both cases she “never got anything.” She continued: “And so yeah, I do have questions. What happened? It’s devastating what we’re seeing right now and we need to have answers … The American people need to have answers, and we need to be sure we can still protect our national security.”
Later, she wrote on Twitter that “Bringing the thousands of Americans and allies in Afghanistan to safety must remain our top priority, and pushing the evacuation deadline is a necessary and important step.”
Democrats Align With Republicans
In this demand, these senators echoed Republicans. When the House met on Tuesday, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) put forward a bill that would have required the White House not to leave the country until every American that wanted to leave was out of the country safely. Democrats shot the congressman’s proposal down in order to address Democratic-sponsored election legislation and Sen. Sanders’ $3.5 trillion spending bill.
Despite refusing to address Afghanistan on Tuesday, several House Democrats have also joined their Senate colleagues in distancing from the White House.
Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement to her website following the deaths of U.S. troops in Kabul.
She said that she was “devastated” by the deaths and the “horrific attacks” that led to them. She agreed with the Biden and Trump administrations’ initiatives to withdraw troops, writing, “It is clear to me that it was long past time to end the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, and that we could not continue to put American servicemembers in danger for an unwinnable war.”
But, she continued, “At the same time, it appears that the evacuation process has been egregiously mishandled.” She vowed to use her committee position “to secure answers from the Biden administration about what went wrong. Our troops deserve nothing less than a complete and unvarnished account of the truth.”
She joined Republicans and Democrats in criticizing Biden’s Aug. 31 deadlines and said that she “will continue working to ensure that we leave no one—American servicemember, American civilian, or Afghan ally—behind. That is the indefatigable spirit that drives our troops through every burden and every sacrifice, and our entire country must now strive to be worthy of that example.”
Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), and Andy Kim (D-N.J.) agreed as well that the withdrawal date must be extended.
Still, despite increasing internal pressure, the White House has stood resolutely by its commitment to the deadline.