Morning Wire: Biden Faces Backlash Over Afghanistan Speech, Tropical Storm Hits Haiti Following Massive Earthquake, Biden Administration Expands Food Stamp Program

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It’s Wednesday, August 18th, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast here.

1) Biden Faces Backlash After Afghanistan Speech

The Topline: On Monday afternoon, President Biden briefly returned to the White House from Camp David to address the nation in a speech defending his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The address drew widespread backlash from both sides of the political spectrum on Tuesday. 

Quote Of The Day: 

“The president said that the buck stopped with him but, in fact, this speech was full of finger pointing and blame.”  -Jake Tapper, CNN

Media Blowback 

Jake Tapper took issue with President Biden’s claim that he took full responsibility. The CNN host noted that the president’s ownership of the situation was undermined by his repeated attempts to blame both former President Donald Trump as well as the Afghan forces for the debacle in Afghanistan. 

On MSNBC, Brian Williams interviewed Matt Zeller, a U.S. Army Veteran and CIA analyst. In a clip that went viral on social media, Williams praised President Biden, saying he “didn’t run” from responsibility, and that he “owned” the decision to withdraw. Zeller strongly disagreed.

“I was appalled,” Keller said. “There was such a profound bold-faced lie in that speech. The idea we planned for every contingency? I have been personally trying to tell this administration since it took office. I have been trying to tell our government for years this was coming. We sent them plan after plan on how to evacuate these people. Nobody listened to us.”

DEH AFGHAN, AFGHANISTAN - JUNE 22: American soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division deploy to fight Taliban fighters as part of Operation Mountain Thrust to a U.S. base near the village of Deh Afghan on June 22, 2006 in the Zabul province of Afghanistan. The US military announced today that four American soldiers were killed in fighting after coalition forces attacked enemy extremists in north-eastern Afghanistan. The anti-Taliban operation, mainly by American, British and Canadian forces, entered it's second week across a vast area in southern Afghanistan. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

John Moore/Staff via Getty Images

The American People Respond

Polling data shows that while more Americans support the idea of withdrawing from Afghanistan than oppose it, the numbers are much lower since April.

A recent poll showed that 49% of Americans support the general policy while 37% oppose compared to 69% in favor and 16% against just a few months ago.

This drop is occurring across all political groups, but less so among Democrats.

What’s Next In Afghanistan 

At the moment, the main focus for the Biden administration is evacuating the remaining Americans who are still trapped in Kabul, the nation’s capital. The Pentagon press secretary told CNN they estimate between 5,000 and 10,000 personnel are still waiting to be airlifted out. 

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told the press, “The Taliban have informed us that they are prepared to provide the safe passage of civilians to the airport, and we intend to hold them to that commitment.”

Big Picture: Not only does the administration have to deal with an ongoing evacuation — which is becoming more dangerous by the day — they will have to wrestle with growing bipartisan condemnation of the situation domestically.

 Tropical Storm Grace Hits Haiti After 7.2 Quake LES CAYES, HAITI - AUGUST 17: A woman carries a jerrycan on her head through a flooded area as heavy rain brought by tropical storm Grace hits Haitians just after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on August 17, 2021 in Les Cayes, Haiti. Rescue workers have been working among destroyed homes since the quake struck on Saturday and so far there are 1,419 dead and 6,000 wounded. The epicenter was located about 100 miles west of the capital city Port-au-Prince. (Photo by Richard Pierrin/Getty Images) Photo by Richard Pierrin/Stringer/Getty Images

Photo by Richard Pierrin/Stringer/Getty Images

2) Tropical Storm Hits Haiti Following Massive Earthquake

The Topline: Heavy rains brought by Tropical Storm Grace have stalled rescue efforts in Haiti for survivors of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that devastated the impoverished nation on Saturday morning. 


In 2010, Haiti was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake which killed more than 200,000 people and left over a million homeless. Saturday’s earthquake killed more than 1,400 people and injured 7,000 others, though the numbers are expected to increase as officials gain access to rural areas currently blocked by landslides. 

Tropical Storm 

UNICEF estimates that around 1.2 million people have been affected by the earthquake, and now, they have to endure a tropical storm. Reports from the country say displaced Haitians were creating makeshift shelters to survive the high winds and driving rain and seeking out the few public buildings that hadn’t been damaged by the earthquake. There has also been severe flooding throughout the country. 

International Assistance

Haiti is being helped by international organizations such as the U.S. Agency for International Development and other humanitarian groups, but the storm made it difficult for these groups and the U.S. Coast Guard to get to Haiti. There is a road between the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and the affected areas to the west of the country, but gangs have been attacking travelers, despite earlier agreeing to a truce after the earthquake. 

The U.S. has sent a search-and-rescue team to aid in recovery efforts, and Mexico has flown in aid as well. 

Remember: A month ago, Haiti’s president was assassinated, leaving behind a power vacuum. Because of this, Haitian authorities have been hampered in their ability to help those affected by the natural disasters.

What’s Next 

Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry — who has been serving as interim President — said over the weekend that any relief sent to the country would go through one operations center in the capital. He said this would help avoid the problems of 2010, when corrupt government officials used the aid for their own benefit.

Cropped shot of young woman carrying a shopping basket, standing along the product aisle, grocery shopping for daily necessities in supermarket - stock photo Cropped shot of young woman carrying a shopping basket, standing along the product aisle, grocery shopping for daily necessities in supermarket d3sign via Getty Images

d3sign via Getty Images

3) Biden Administration Expands Food Stamp Program

The Topline: On Monday, the Biden administration unveiled the largest budget increase in the history of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), leading some lawmakers to investigate their methods.

What Changed?

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced on Monday that the amount of SNAP benefits will be 27% higher than before the pandemic. Beginning in October, a family of four could receive up to $835 a month in food stamps.

The Program

The program will now cost about $100 billion a year — roughly a $40 billion increase over pre-pandemic levels, according to administration estimates

The true cost of the program, however, depends on the number of people enrolled. 

During the Obama administration, the number of Americans receiving food stamps reached its peak at 47 million people. The number declined to 36 million under President Trump, and today, it is back up to 42 million. 

Congressional Involvement 

Congress doesn’t have to sign off on the latest increase in SNAP funding due to legislation passed a few years ago.

The Biden administration increased benefits because it changed the way the government calculates the cost of the average meal. 


Republican leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees — Arkansas Senator John Boozman and Pennsylvania Congressman G.T. Thompson — have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the increase in spending. 

Detractors of the decision have noted that enrolling in the SNAP program is associated with increases in obesity, especially for women. The latest Biden administration review increased the amount of calories per recipient by 7%.

More Displaced Afghans Arrive In Kabul As Taliban Gains Ground KABUL, AFGANISTAN - AUGUST 13 : Displaced Afghan women and children from Kunduz are seen at a mosque that is sheltering them on August 13, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Tensions are high as the Taliban advance on the capital city after taking Herat and the country's second-largest city Kandahar. (Photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images) Paula Bronstein / Stringer via Getty Images

Paula Bronstein / Stringer via Getty Images

Other Stories We’re Tracking

Afghan Women Fear For Their Lives 

Female leaders in Afghanistan fear for their lives after the Taliban took control of the country. One of the first female mayors in Afghanistan told the press she is “waiting” for the Taliban to come and kill her. Female athletes are also in hiding and are afraid that they will be killed. 

New Zealand Locks Down 

New Zealand is locking down after discovering a single case of the coronavirus. The entire country will be locked down for three days, while Auckland — where the case was discovered, and another town where the person traveled — will be in lockdown for a week. The prime minister announced that schools, businesses, and offices will be closed, with only essential services staying open. The situation led to a surge of people going to supermarkets to get supplies and a decline in the New Zealand dollar.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders became the first NFL team to require proof of vaccination for fans to attend their games. Fans who have not been vaccinated can receive a vaccine shot at the gate, but will be required to wear a mask during the game.

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