The book explores Biden’s determination to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan despite resistance from senior advisers. Biden was determined to get American troops out, having battled the problem for nearly 20 years – and having seen, as vice president, military and national security leaders boxing in front of the president of the time, Barack Obama, in his first year trying to end the American War in Afghanistan.
Biden believed the military had manipulated Obama.
“The military doesn’t mess with me,” Biden told others in 2009, implying they had with Obama, according to the book.
CNN obtained a copy of “Peril” ahead of its September 21 release.
“Previously, he had been squarely with Biden for a complete withdrawal,” the authors write. “His new recommendation was to extend the mission with US troops for a period of time to see if that could lead to a political settlement. Save time for negotiations.”
Blinken told Biden on a call from Brussels he was hearing other NATO ministers “in quadraphonic”, or surround sound, that the United States should use his departure to take concrete action towards a political settlement, according to the book.
Austin also introduced a new proposal at around the same time, the authors write, proposing a three- or four-step “controlled” withdrawal that would provide leverage for diplomatic negotiations.
But Biden was unconvinced and determined not to allow the “mission slippage” to justify keeping US troops there. “Our mission is to prevent Afghanistan from being a base for attacking the homeland and the allies of the United States by al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups, not to deal a fatal blow to the Taliban,” said Biden, according to the book, at one of 25 Security Council Meetings held during a rigorous foreign policy review.
Trump’s legacy looms everywhere, write Woodward and Costa.
Biden and his advisers hated using Trump’s name, write Woodward and Costa, and aides “often cautioned each other to avoid the ‘T’ word.” One night in the White House, Biden discovered a room where a large screen covered the wall, which Trump was using to virtually play on famous golf courses, according to the book.
“What a fucking asshole,” Biden once said of Trump, according to the authors.
Trump was also consumed with Biden after he left office, according to the book. He told a group of friends and donors he golfed with that he was considering using his private plane to taunt Biden and was considering having him painted in the red-white-and-blue paint scheme. like the Air Force One overhaul that was proposed during the Trump administration.
“It’s my brand. I don’t do the business jet thing,” Trump said, according to the book. “I’m not going to show myself in a little Gulfstream like a fucking CEO.”
“Presidents live in the unfinished business of their predecessors,” Woodward and Costa write in “Peril.” For Biden, that meant stepping into the White House with a pandemic still raging, just weeks after the violent Jan.6 insurgency on the U.S. Capitol.
It was not a comfortable transition. Biden began to privately call the White House “the tomb,” and he found the White House cold and lonely, according to the book.
“He’s not comfortable living in the White House,” Biden chief of staff Ron Klain told others, according to the authors.
Woodward and Costa write that Biden summoned Klain to Delaware to talk about his decision to run in March 2019. “I just feel like I have to,” Biden said. “Biden’s next words would stay with Klain forever,” the authors write: “This guy just isn’t really a US president.”
The bitter campaign against Trump alienated Biden from some Republicans he was once close to. Woodward and Costa write that Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, spoke to Biden in the days following the 2020 election, but the conversation escalated when she turned to the attacks on Graham against his son, Hunter Biden.
“Graham did not apologize,” the authors write, adding that Biden believed Graham had “crossed a red line”.
“Biden and Graham would not speak to each other for months – and if Biden had anything to do with it, they would probably never speak to each other again,” Woodward and Costa write.
Biden’s tendency to blunder prompted Klain and other aides to try and keep Biden away from unscripted events or lengthy interviews, write Woodward and Costa. “They called the effect ‘the wall’ a cocooning from the president.”
Biden’s assistants were unable to help him when he stumbled upon the steps of Air Force One during a March trip to Atlanta. Woodward and Costa write that Biden’s stumble, which has been replayed repeatedly in conservative media, has frustrated the president.
“Fuck,” Biden whispered once on Air Force One. “Shit!” he said, “loud enough for others to hear him,” according to Woodward and Costa.