Gross CNN Historian: Afghan Airport Disaster to Become Future ‘Symbol of Hope’?

Plenty have people have compared the current situation in Kabul to Saigon in 1975, but on Tuesday, CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley became probably the first to suggest that may not be all bad. For Brinkley, the fact that people are scrambling to get onboard or hanging off the exteriors of C-17 cargo planes might, one day, lead to them being seen as “symbols of hope.”

Inside Politics host John King wondered that given “Today it’s messy, it looks like they didn’t have a good plan, there are competence and credibility questions. What will we say ten years from now?”

It is hard to see how this could be looked at as anything other than a complete disaster, but Brinkley held out for the possibility that things could get better, “It’s all going to be dependent on how many of our Afghan allies, friends, people that worked with humanitarian groups, translators, how many we can bring into the United States and other Western countries.”  

As the Biden Administration deals with the consequences of not evacuating those people earlier, Brinkley suggested that, “If we can get 30,000 Afghan friends in, we try to show this as a moment of freedom that we went 20 years, we tried to promote democracy, we did the best we could.”

At this point, Brinkley tried to analogize the current situation with Saigon:

I say this John because Gerald Ford that ladder in Saigon embassy was seen as a symbol of failure. But a guy named, the guy who ran a grocery chain in Michigan ended up bringing that ladder back to the United States and today it’s in Gerald Ford’s presidential library and Vietnamese from Houston and New Orleans, ones that were evacuated out go to that ladder and see that ladder as a symbol of hope. Maybe someday the C-17 cargo plane will be a symbol that America doesn’t leave its friends behind and we did the best to we could promoting democracy there. 

In Ford’s remarks on the opening of the ladder exhibit, he refences unnamed members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that had to be shamed by public opinion into supporting his South Vietnamese refugee plan. Presumably, Joe Biden was one of those senators.

More to the point, Ford says, “The passage of time has not dulled the ache of those days, the saddest of my public life. I pray that no future American president is ever faced with the grim options that confronted me as the military situation on the ground deteriorated.”

Unlike Ford, who had his hands tied by Congress, the Biden Administration’s own incompetence led to the current situation in Kabul. Brinkley, the historian, omitted all of this.

This segment was sponsored by Consumer Cellular. Click “expand” to read more. 

Here is a transcript of the August 17 show. Click “expand” to read more. 

CNN

Inside Politics with John King

12:51 PM ET

JOHN KING: CNN historian Doug Brinkley is with us. Doug, the President said he made the right call. Today, today it’s messy, it looks like they didn’t have a good plan, there are competence and credibility questions. What will we say ten years from now? 

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: It’s all going to be dependent on how many of our Afghan allies, friends, people that worked with humanitarian groups, translators, how many we can bring into the United States and other Western countries. I mean, right now it’s looking like we might be trying to bring 30,000 in. If we can get 30,000 Afghan friends in, we try to show this as a moment of freedom that we went 20 years, we tried to promote democracy, we did the best we could. I say this John because Gerald Ford that ladder in Saigon embassy was seen as a symbol of failure. But a guy named, the guy who ran a grocery chain in Michigan ended up bringing that ladder back to the United States and today it’s in Gerald Ford’s presidential library and Vietnamese from Houston and New Orleans, ones that were evacuated out go to that ladder and see that ladder as a symbol of hope. Maybe someday the C-17 cargo plane will be a symbol that America doesn’t leave its friends behind and we did the best to we could promoting democracy there. 

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