Live from Saigon: Kamala Harris?

Live from Saigon: Kamala Harris?
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

This item from the schedule of our secluded VP prompts me to recall Casey Stengel’s lament about the 1962 New York Mets: Can’t anyone here play this game? Having Kamala Harris visit Vietnam (and Singapore) might make for a good way to distract the media. But how much of a distraction will it be from the collapse in Afghanistan that everyone‘s comparing to the fall of Saigon in 1975?

Olivier Knox and Mariana Alfaro noted the trip Tuesday at the Washington Post, and offered some skepticism on the timing:

Vice President Harris heads to Singapore and Vietnam this week on her second foreign trip since taking office, looking to strengthen relations with partners in China’s darkening shadow and help prepare the region to fight future pandemics.

But while Harris brings a message that the United States is committed to the Indo-Pacific, the humiliating debacle in Afghanistan has America’s friends and foes alike questioning Washington’s ability and will to sustain those kinds of engagements.

Yeah, so even absent the historical parallel, it’s not going to be much of a distraction. The White House responded to an inquiry that they see this as an opportunity to show the administration can walk and chew gum at the same time:

A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the trip was proceeding as planned and Harris would be continually briefed on the situation in Afghanistan while abroad and join deliberations on next steps.

“Given our global leadership role, we can and we must manage developments in one region while simultaneously advancing our strategic interests in other regions on other issues,” the official said. “The United States has many interests around the world, and we are well-equipped to pursue them all at the same time.”

They can’t even pursue it in one arena, as the Biden administration has made painfully clear to everyone around the world. To wit: we have over 10,000 American citizens in and around Kabul and no firm plan to securely exfiltrate them from Talibanistan. Why would anyone — especially Vietnam and Singapore, living in China’s shadow — conclude that we can look after their interests competently? That’s especially true when sending the equally incompetent Harris to deliver that message.

But to get back to the optics, why send Harris to Vietnam this week, of all places? The White House has tried to parry the “Saigon Redux” narrative for the last week, hoping to evade the historical parallel of collapse of American power through incompetence and neglect. Harris’ trip almost begs the media to frame the trip to Hanoi with that narrative as Harris attempts to make a case for American influence.

Not surprisingly, Fox News took them up on it:

The timing probably couldn’t be worse for the Biden administration. On Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to embark on a trip across the Pacific that will include a stop in Vietnam.

The trip – which will be Harris’ second outside the U.S. since taking office – comes as the current crisis in Afghanistan has drawn many comparisons to the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in the 1970s.

This week’s scenes of crowds gathering at Kabul’s airport and U.S. military helicopters arriving to pick up passengers at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan’s capital revived grim memories of desperate Vietnamese people trying to board U.S. helicopters as they left the embassy in Saigon more than four decades ago.

Over in the United Kingdom, where anger over Biden’s incompetence and disastrous leadership is still rising, The Sun laughs at the prospect:

KAMALA Harris has been taunted over her planned visit to Vietnam after the crisis in Afghanistan was compared to the fall of Saigon. …

Following news of Harris’ trip to the country former White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted: “The VEEP writers could not have scripted this better.”

Political commentator Beverly Hallberg said: “The WH comms team stealing @TheBabylonBee headlines.”

The Biden administration is making a very strong effort to win the title of most inept White House ever. They’re even managing to make Jimmy Carter look better, and historians might have to give Millard Fillmore a second look. In fact, even the comparison to the 1962 Mets might be a little harsh … to the Mets. At least they managed to win 40 games that season.

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