On Sunday, after a week of successful seizures of dozens of provincial capitals across the country as US forces began evacuating personnel from Kabul, Taliban militants marched into Kabul, installed themselves in the presidential palace as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the nation, and declared the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan had been established.
On Monday morning, President Joe Biden was facing a slew of criticism for his administration’s handling of the disaster. I’m sorry, that’s really quite dishonest.
Biden isn’t facing anything. Or at least, he certainly hadn’t been on Sunday. While he’s set to address the nation on Monday afternoon, his absence from the public eye has been very, very conspicuous as Kabul falls to terrorists and Americans and Afghans alike plead to be evacuated from the new Islamic state.
What’s more, the flimsy attempts the White House made over the weekend at convincing Americans that President Biden was totally working and also completely competent involved posting photos of him on Saturday and Sunday meeting with top officials to discuss the situation in Afghanistan … on video call, while sitting alone in a conference room at the presidential retreat.
This is the Saturday post:
Photo released by the WH showing Biden alone at a conference table at Camp David does not project much confidence pic.twitter.com/q2dNI92Eui
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) August 15, 2021
And this is Sunday’s:
This morning, the President and Vice President met with their national security team and senior officials to hear updates on the draw down of our civilian personnel in Afghanistan, evacuations of SIV applicants and other Afghan allies, and the ongoing security situation in Kabul. pic.twitter.com/U7IpK3Hyj8
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 15, 2021
Neither exactly gets American hearts pounding with confident pride.
There’s one more problem, however.
Even as Biden was slammed for his solo, long-distance executive leadership from Camp David, sharp-eyed netizens noticed a small detail in the photos released by the White House that raised a question about whether they were even taken this week.
As conservative commentator Kyle Becker noted on Twitter and on his website, there was a conspicuous anomaly on the clocks above the screen on which President Biden could see Vice President Kamala Harris and some of their top officials.
There was a three-hour difference between London and Moscow — which, because England observes Daylight Savings but Moscow does not, should not be the case in August.
“Either Camp David’s clocks are wrong or the photos are from before March 28, when London went ahead on Daylight Savings Time, but Moscow didn’t,” Becker wrote on Twitter. “This is *fine,*” he added, sarcastically.
Recent White House photos show a 3-hour time diff. b/w London & Moscow. There are a few good explanations for this.
Either Camp David’s clocks are wrong or the photos are from before March 28, when London went ahead on Daylight Savings Time, but Moscow didn’t. This is *fine.*? pic.twitter.com/cQzHlDk8zv
— Kyle Becker (@kylenabecker) August 16, 2021
The Twitter account Aldous Huxley’s Ghost noticed the conspicuous error as well.
“Hi, @WhiteHouse, can you please explain why the clocks above the television show Standard Time rather than Daylight Savings Time? Moscow will not be three hours different than London until November 7, 2021. This isn’t a pre-March picture that’s Photoshopped, is it?” the dystopian author’s specter mused, tagging the White House Twitter account.
“London and Moscow are currently only two hours apart because of Daylight Savings Time. The clocks in the picture the White House tweeted out today show they’re three hours apart,” he added.
Hi, @WhiteHouse, can you please explain why the clocks above the television show Standard Time rather than Daylight Savings Time? Moscow will not be three hours different than London until November 7, 2021. This isn’t a pre-March picture that’s Photoshopped, is it? https://t.co/Ykv5QVT1ca
— Aldous Huxley’s Ghost™ (@AF632) August 16, 2021
Now, the case may certainly be that Camp David’s clocks are simply wrong, to be fair. But this doesn’t exactly make things look a single mite better.
We all forget to update our clocks every six months…but this is becoming less and less common in the 21st century, when clocks that are attached to things like phones, laptops, and tablets change themselves automatically so we can focus our energy on recovering from losing an hour of sleep or adjusting to night suddenly falling at 5 p.m.
If this is the case, is there seriously so little discipline at Camp David, a secure compound where the president of the United States has long been equipped to handle sensitive and secure business while away from the White House, that someone missed this?
As noted by former President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., who has actually spent time at Camp David himself, it seems incredibly unlikely that this detail would be overlooked.
Having spent time at Camp David where everyone is a total professional I would find it hard to believe that a clock would be off by a minute let alone by an hour.
If this is a photo taken at a prior time to make it seem like Joe is working The Admin has some explaining to do. https://t.co/Ge9RCDYjnR
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) August 16, 2021
“Having spent time at Camp David where everyone is a total professional I would find it hard to believe that a clock would be off by a minute let alone by an hour,” he wrote on Twitter. “If this is a photo taken at a prior time to make it seem like Joe is working The Admin has some explaining to do.”
This is certainly the case either way. You see, if we accept that these photos were indeed taken Saturday and Sunday in a very neglected Camp David situation room, there was a separate detail in the photos that appears to confirm they may indeed be current … yet that further undermines the appearance of Biden administration competence.
You see, Vice President Harris is seen in the photo as being at the Naval Observatory, which is where she and her husband, the second gentleman, live.
They didn’t move into the Naval observatory until April, as it happens. But the fact that her location was tweeted out at all is a much bigger problem than any potentially recycled photo.
I probably don’t need to tell you that broadcasting to the world the location of the vice president, along with that of top national security officials, is a pretty serious security risk in the midst of a military crisis.
“Heck of a job, White House communications shop. I figure you would want to crop out the teleconference screens labeled ‘CIA’ and ‘Doha Station’,” National Review political correspondent Jim Geraghty tweeted. “You panicking amateur idiots.”
Heck of a job, White House communications shop. I figure you would want to crop out the teleconference screens labeled “CIA” and “Doha Station.” You panicking amateur idiots. https://t.co/ZFoICYYVwO
— Jim Geraghty (@jimgeraghty) August 15, 2021
Whatever is going on with these clocks and these screens, the appearance of incompetence, and near-total absence of POTUS from the public eye, the entire thing is a mess.
It’s hard to imagine if it could have been worse if the White House hadn’t posted these pictures at all.
UPDATE, Aug. 17, 2021: The U.K. Independent has offered the following possible explanation for why the time difference between Moscow and London was three hours instead of two: “The most plausible explanation seemed to be that the military and Nato set their clocks to a time zone system called Zulu, which doesn’t change for daylight savings.”
However, the White House does not appear to have issued a formal explanation.
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