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Douglas Andrews / August 31, 2021

Joe Biden Has Failed the Families

At a solemn ceremony at Dover Air Force Base on Sunday, the president kept looking at his watch.

“I actually leaned into my son’s mother’s ear and I said, ‘I swear to God if he checks his watch one more time’ — and that was only probably four times in. I couldn’t look at him anymore after that, just considering especially … why we were there. It was, I found it to be the most disrespectful thing I’d ever seen.”

So said Mark Schmitz, the father of Missouri’s Jared Schmitz, a 20-year-old Marine Corps Lance Corporal who was one of 13 warriors killed in last Thursday’s terrorist bombings at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

Perhaps the toughest role taken on by every American president is as consoler-in-chief. In times of national mourning — whether the disaster is natural or man-caused — it’s the solemn duty of the president to console the nation, the friends, the family members. Here, according to the grieving families themselves, Joe Biden has failed miserably and utterly.

Schmitz was joined on Sean Hannity’s show yesterday by another Gold Star father, Darin Hoover, whose son Darin Taylor Hoover Jr. was a 31-year-old Marine staff sergeant from Utah. While Schmitz chose to meet with the president — “I felt I owed it to my son to at least have some words with him about how I felt,” he said — Hoover and his family chose not to. “We said, ‘Absolutely not.’ We didn’t want to deal with him, we didn’t want him anywhere near us. We as a family decided that that was the way it was going to be.”

Hoover, though, noticed that same thing Schmitz did as the fallen warriors’ caskets were being offloaded: “That didn’t happen just once. It happened on every single one that came out of that airplane. It happened on every single one of them. They would release the salute, and he would look down at his watch on every last one, all 13, he looked down at his watch.”

It’s impossible to defend such conduct, especially from a commander-in-chief. Was it simply a nervous tic? Or was it an unmistakable non-verbal betrayal of Biden’s desire to be anywhere in the world but precisely where he was at that moment?

Perhaps just as bad was Biden’s behavior among the individual families, when the president seemed to want to talk more about his own deceased son, Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015. As The Washington Post reports:

Schmitz did not want to hear about Beau, he wanted to talk about Jared. Eventually, the parents took out a photo to show to Biden. “I said, ‘Don’t you ever forget that name. Don’t you ever forget that face. Don’t you ever forget the names of the other 12,' ” Schmitz said. “ 'And take some time to learn their stories.' ”

Schmitz and Hoover weren’t alone in their anger toward Joe Biden. The sister of Marine Corps Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum, from Wyoming, reported that her sister-in-law, Rylee’s wife, Jiennah, who is due to give birth to their child next month, felt the president’s words were “scripted and shallow, a conversation that lasted only a couple minutes in 'total disregard to the loss of our Marine — our brother, son, husband, and father.’”

Here, we can’t help but think of the difference between this president and past presidents, especially George W. Bush, who spent more time with the families of the fallen and the grievously wounded than any commander-in-chief since Vietnam. And we’re reminded of a specific article we read a few years back, an article excerpted from a book written by his press secretary, Dana Perino, which told us more about the role of consoler-in-chief than anything we’d ever read before or since.

Getting back to Joe Biden: All of this sorrow, this wrenching grief, is compounded by word that his Pentagon had specific advanced knowledge of the attack, including its likely timing and location. As Politico reports:

During the meeting [last Wednesday at 8 a.m. at the Pentagon], Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of “significant” intelligence indicating that the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate, ISIS-K, was planning a “complex attack,” the notes quoted him as saying.

Commanders calling in from Kabul relayed that the Abbey Gate, where American citizens had been told to gather in order to gain entrance to the airport, was “highest risk,” and detailed their plans to protect the airport.

The bombing that one day later killed the 13 Americans did, of course, occur at the Abbey Gate. Whether we could’ve stopped it, or somehow limited its lethality, is wholly unknowable. But it seems fair to say that we could’ve done more than we did.

And so, we’re left to wonder: Where are the resignations, Mr. President? Where’s that of Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley? Where’s that of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin? Where’s yours, for that matter?

Isn’t anyone in this administration man enough to be held accountable?

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