Former York County state Senator Scott Wagner, never gentle about his politics, is getting some national attention for his latest visual haymaker: A set of highway billboards showing a gun-toting President Joe Biden dressed as an Afghan fighter, beside the slogan “Making the Taliban Great Again!”
The billboards, Wagner told WGAL News 8 and the York Daily Record this week, are his way of expressing frustration and anger at America’s rushed withdrawal from its 20-year invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, with the forces of the reactionary Islamic Taliban -whom American-led coalition forces pushed out of power in 2001 – rushing in to fill the power vacuum.
Wagner, Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee for governor in 2018, told the York newspaper he spent about $15,000 to lease a dozen billboards for two months to call attention to what he saw as Biden’s failed ending to the mission, which has been roundly criticized for leaving thousands of Afghans who supported American nation-building efforts through the last 20 years vulnerable to harsh retaliation by the new regime.
The Biden Administration has defended its work, contending that the evacuations of more than 79,000 civilians over 18 days was one of the largest airlifts ever conducted, and that it is continuing to work through diplomatic channels to help its allies that remain in the country.
The Biden billboards – dotted along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Interstate 83, and Routes 322, 11-15, and 15 – are attracting a lot of attention on social media and from passersby, and are now starting to get notice on national news outlets.
All of which was precisely Wagner’s goal.
Wagner told The York Daily Record in an interview this week he felt the need to express his opinion because he considered the pullout in Afghanistan “an absolute mess and a tragedy,” and an insult to the American troops who served there.
Wagner told the York paper he squarely blames Biden for the chaos, saying that the withdrawal had been poorly planned. While acknowledging former President Donald Trump made the decision to leave, Wagner contended that Biden, once things began going poorly, should have changed course and kept the military there.
That kind of adjustment of course when things go awry is a matter of leadership, Wagner said, and Biden failed the test..
Biden’s job approval rating has taken a big hit in the wake of the Afghan government’s sudden collapse, with a new Quinnipiac University poll released this week showing more respondents disapproving of his performance (50%) the approving (42%) for the first time since he took office in January.
Asked specifically about Afghanistan, majorities in the Quinnipiac Poll said they still support the decision to end the war and get U.S. troops out, but they disapprove of Biden’s handling of the execution of that withdrawal by a two-to-one margin.
PennLive reached out to the Biden Administration Thursday to see if the billboards have crossed the president’s radar, but had not received a response as of this writing.
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