YORK, Pa. - Billboards showing President Joe Biden "Making the Taliban Great Again" recently popped up in Pennsylvania and a former senator is staking claim for them.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Scott Wagner watched the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the chaos it wrought, he wondered, "What do you say to (those veterans)?"
He said he wanted to do something to speak out. Those who are acquainted with Wagner, a one-term Republican state senator and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate, know that he is not shy about expressing his views in a provocative manner.
He met veterans who had sacrificed their bodies for the cause, wounded both physically and mentally, losing limbs and their psyches in the course of their service.
So he took to the highways and byways of central Pennsylvania, renting out a dozen billboards at a cost of about $15,000.
The billboards depict President Joe Biden dressed in Taliban garb and holding a rocket-propelled grenade, and they bear the phrase, "Making the Taliban Great Again!" The phrase, of course, apes former President Donald Trump's campaign slogan and rallying cry for his supporters, "Make America Great Again!"
The billboards have attracted a lot of attention on social media and from passersby, with mixed reactions. Those who support Biden believe the billboards are disrespectful and crude. Those who don't, well, don't.
Wagner said he felt the need to express his opinion because the pullout in Afghanistan, and the ensuing chaos as the government collapsed with astonishing speed, "is an absolute mess and a tragedy."
Afghans who worked with Americans, and some American citizens, were left behind as the Taliban reasserted power and took over the country with minimal opposition from the government. And, Wagner pointed out, a whole generation of Afghans grew up in a country where they were afforded some measure of freedom and fear that the Taliban will return to its oppressive style of governance - a fear particularly felt by girls and women, whose rights were trampled under former Taliban rule.
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And the "bigger mess," Wagner said, is the U.S. left behind aircraft, vehicles and large stores of weapons, ammunition and explosives. "I was watching an evening news show one night and saw the Taliban in American personnel carriers," he said.
"It's like Vietnam, even worse," he said.
He blames Biden for the chaos, saying that the withdrawal had been poorly planned. If it were up to him, Wagner said he would have maintained a military presence in Afghanistan. He said Trump made the decision to leave, but Biden, once things began going poorly, could have changed course - something Wagner says is a matter of "leadership," deviating from plans when things go awry.
"If Trump had done the same thing," he said, "he'd be looking the same way."
Brian Scott, vice president of Trone Outdoor Advertising, which owns the billboards, said the company is not responsible for the content of the provocative ads. As long as ads meet certain standards of decency, he said, "If someone wants us to put something up, we put it up."
He said, "We try to stay in the middle. ... If someone wants to put up a billboard praising Joe Biden, we'll do that."
Reach Mike Argento at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Biden 'Making the Taliban Great Again' billboards put up by PA senator