(Photo via the White House on Flickr.)

Sure, there were plausible, even obvious reasons for President Obama to take an unannounced trip to Afghanistan today.  For one thing, there’s a long-scheduled review of our fiasco strategy there later this month — and if you want to make one of those time-honored, feel-good holiday season visits to the troops without actually being away from home during the holidays, well, early December’s a pretty good time to do it.

Even so, it’s hard to avoid the sense that sneaking out of Washington, D.C., under the cover of darkness is an ironically apt bit of symbolism for Obama.  Between another bad jobs report this morning, the awkward (but regrettably, apparently not fatal) fizzle of the Catfood Commission report, the all-too-typical preemptive surrender on tax cuts, and the possibility of the president’s long-promised trust-me approach on repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” (… What’s that?  You say you know the ending of this sentence, having watched this administration the past two years?…) collapsing at the last moment, it sure feels like he’s leaving the scene of not one, but several accidents.

But that’s not to say that there isn’t hope:  With his boss out of town, Vice President Joseph Biden gave an unqualified message of support for the House vote yesterday on tax cuts (for a plan that would extend them for the middle class, but let them expire for the wealthy).

No, I’m not saying that Obama and his inner circle realize they screwed up their messaging on the tax cut vote, and there’s hope they will go to the mat next week for ending the Bush-era giveaway to the richest tax bracket.  I’m saying there’s hope Biden may change the locks on the White House before Air Force One returns from Afghanistan.