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Ramesh Ponnuru

No, the Press Hasn’t Turned Hawkish on Afghanistan

Widespread criticism of Biden’s predicament has at least eight better explanations.

Afghanistan is not a positive story.

Afghanistan is not a positive story.

Photographer: Ting Shen/Bloomberg

President Joe Biden’s handling of Afghanistan has few vocal defenders. What they lack in numbers, though, they make up for in unity of message: The press is being too hard on Biden. The president is a victim of “a press corps desperate to show they do not have a liberal bias.” It’s the “overt editorializing” from the press that has made Biden’s Afghan record unpopular — editorializing that reflects the media’s alliance with national-security hawks. On Aug. 22 and 23, White House chief of staff Ron Klain used his Twitter feed to publicize five critiques of the media’s coverage of Afghanistan.

Bad press stings more for Democratic politicians than for Republican ones. The Democrats generally have friendlier relations with reporters, who generally have views more in alignment with theirs. Harshly negative stories can feel like a disturbance in the natural order, and Democrats in politics can react to them with a sense of betrayal. What makes it worse is that Democratic politicians cannot even get much benefit from attacking the press, the way Republicans can; Democratic voters don’t think of reporters as foes the way Republican voters do.