Monday, May 23, 2022

Assessing Joe Biden

Since I do not believe in identity politics, I try not to judge ideas on the basis of their author. Sometimes the right people get things wrong. Sometimes the wrong people get things right. Dismissing ideas because the writer is somehow tainted is a bad idea.

So, I have on occasion found myself in agreement with New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman. Live with it. And yet, Friedman’s most recent column is a living, breathing calamity. In it he returns to his best Democratic suck-up mode, which explains why he was invited to have lunch with Joe Biden.

Why was Friedman invited to the White House? Well, for one, Biden’s poll numbers are so bad, his incompetence so manifest, his cerebral infirmities so obvious, that whoever is running the country must have felt he need to offer up something of an eyewitness testimony about Joe’s greatness and brilliance.

Tom Friedman was the man for the job. So, he wrote like the suck up and flack that he is. At a time when the stock market is tanking, when the economy is in serious trouble, when baby formula is absent from store shelves, when inflation is killing household budgets and when the majority of the citizenry has figured out that Joe is having trouble walking from here to there, Friedman steps forth to crown Biden as a great political hero. Better yet, he takes the majority opinion about Joe’s cerebral deficiencies and declares them to be the result of watching too much Fox News.

So, here is Friedman:

For all you knuckleheads on Fox who say that Biden can’t put two sentences together, here’s a news flash: He just put NATO together, Europe together and the whole Western alliance together — stretching from Canada up to Finland and all the way to Japan — to help Ukraine protect its fledgling democracy from Vladimir Putin’s fascist assault.

In doing so, he has enabled Ukraine to inflict significant losses on Russia’s invading army, thanks to a rapid deployment of U.S. and NATO trainers and massive transfers of precision weapons. And not a single American soldier was lost.

It has been the best performance of alliance management and consolidation since another president whom I covered and admired — who also was said to be incapable of putting two sentences together: George H.W. Bush. Bush helped manage the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany, without firing a shot or the loss of a single American life.

As we are wont to point out, and as many others have underscored, Russia invaded Ukraine because it sensed the weakness in the Biden White House and in Western Europe. What other message does it send when your Defense Secretary sets out to rid the ranks of white supremacists, who wants to design flight suits for pregnant aviators and will happily pay for gender mutilation?

And, let’s not ignore the fact that the results of the Ukraine operation are not entirely known at the moment. For now we know that the loss of grain and fertilizer from Russia and Ukraine is about to unleash a famine in some parts of the world. Many people are going to starve to death because of Joe Biden’s incitement of the invasion of Ukraine. And, depriving Western Europe of energy resources is not going to do wonders for the floundering world economy. Besides, in time, the oil and gas that is not being sent to the West will be sent to China, at a reduced price. And let's not even think about the consequences of weaponizing the dollar.

As for the masterful leadership of George H. W. Bush, I do not recall Friedman lauding it during the Bush administration. I do note that Friedman puts on his political hack hat and blames everything that is going wrong on Donald Trump-- under whose watch Ukraine was neither attacked nor destroyed.

Besides, you will note, if you read closely, that Friedman does not say that Joe was especially articulate, that his brain was functioning at all. In truth, for failing to say so, he implies that Biden was less than coherent for most of their lunch. So, Friedman does not report what Biden said, not a word of it. And he does not testify to Biden’s command of the language or of policy. 

You draw your own conclusions:

It clearly weighs on him that we have built a global alliance to support Ukraine, to reverse the Russian invasion and to defend core American principles abroad — the right to freedom and self-determination of all peoples — while the G.O.P. is abandoning our most cherished principles at home.

And that is why I left my lunch with the president with a full stomach but a heavy heart.

So, the White House chefs fattened up notable fathead Tom Friedman. They knew their man.

And, by the by, Joe Biden just committed our nation to defending Taiwan militarily. So, a proxy war with Russia was not enough. He wants now to lead us into a real war with China. Or at least he is threatening same. Anyone who knows anything about foreign policy knows that those are fighting words and that the Chinese government will react-- not necessarily by invading Taiwan, but by other means.

Meanwhile back in Ukraine, I have occasionally taken note of the fact that the news we are reading, the news that is being presented, tends toward propaganda. We keep reading that everything is going swimmingly for the cause of democracy in Ukraine, that Putin is dying, that the Russian army is flailing and failing, and so on.

So, last week the Ukrainian army finally accepted the inevitable and surrendered Mariupol. Was it a great victory? Well, we find a contrary opinion in The Daily Mail. Its author, Peter Hitchens, is the brother of the late Christopher Hitchens, so we take him seriously. He questions why a surrender is called an evacuation in the media? Good question, that.

It is just the tonic you need after reading the Friedman swill:

Not since the wild frenzy after the death of Princess Diana have I ever met such a wave of ignorant sentiment. Nobody knows anything about Ukraine. Everyone has ferocious opinions about it.

The other night I shocked a distinguished Oxford academic by informing her that the lovely, angelic, saintly, perfect Ukrainians had blocked off the water supply to Crimea in 2014. 

She was rightly shocked by this nasty, uncivilised act of spite, but it was far more shocking that this highly educated person did not know this important fact. 

Hitchens continues to recall the roots of Ukrainian nationalism:

In the same way almost nobody, in education, politics or journalism, knows about the nasty, racist roots of Ukrainian nationalism, the horrible history of the vicious Stepan Bandera (now a Ukrainian national hero), or the Kiev state’s discriminatory scorn for the Russian language. If Canada treated its French speakers as Ukraine treats its Russian speakers, there would be international outrage.

As for the local politics, he adds this point:

Worst of all is the widespread ignorance of the fact that President Volodymyr Zelensky, in my view an admirable man, was elected on a programme of peace with Russia. But when he tried to do as he had promised, he was blocked by parts of his own army, who publicly confronted him and humiliated him. 

At the same time his political rivals, including the neo-Nazis who very definitely do exist in Ukraine, went on the streets to denounce any sort of deal. President Zelensky crumbled. And the war came. 

The origin of the war dates to 2014, to the Obama administration, when we decided to overturn an election:

I have mentioned here before that the first act of violence in this war was actually the Western-backed mob putsch which overthrew Ukraine’s lawful government in 2014. 

This was the true beginning of all the horror. And while it does not excuse the idiotic and brutal Putin invasion, it very much helps to explain it.

Look, I respect those who take Ukraine’s side in this war. They have a valid point of view which I happen not to share. But what I object to is the wholly one-sided nature of public opinion here. It is so bad that it is a positive disadvantage to know anything about the subject.

And now, a few words about Mariupol, about the brave fighters who held out against the Russian army for longer than anyone had imagined. Do we really know anything about who they are? Hitchens says that we missed the point:

And it reached its peak last week when the Ukrainian defenders of the Mariupol steelworks, many of them in fact the neo-Nazis of the Azov battalion who proudly wear SS emblems on their official uniforms, surrendered.

The UK media coverage of this event strove mightily not to mention the neo-Nazis and to avoid using the word ‘surrender’. 

The Mariupol garrison was said instead to have been ‘evacuated’ into Russian-held territory. Pictures showed them disarmed and being frisked by Russian soldiers. But we are so much in the grip of a one-sided view of this conflict that we could not even admit they had capitulated.

Refusal to accept such obvious reality is a sign of madness.

Apparently, the Biden administration has joined the proxy war in order to make Joe Biden look like he is in command. Hitchens himself, a subject of the Queen of England, has a different perspective:

I personally have no idea what British interest is served by slavishly backing the American policy of stirring up trouble in Ukraine and goading Russia into combat.

Perhaps someone could explain it to me, over a plate of ‘Chicken Kyiv’ and a bottle of vodka. But for any debate to take place, we’ll have to start accepting that there are two sides to this argument.



Anonymous said...

So we'll have a two front war. It will be interesting as soon as the supply chain really seizes up when China shuts us off.

Malcolm said...

Gibson Block said...

1. I suspect that most Jewish people know about Ukraine's dark history since they were often victims. And, yet, they also know that Zelensky has a Jewish background that has not been hidden and he is president. So something seems different today.

2. Some people also know that Ukraine was given territory when it was part of the USSR as part of the USSR and never expected to be independent.

3. Some people also believe that NATO should have absolutely refused to cozy up to Ukraine leaving a neutral buffer zone around Russia.

4. But these same people do not think that this justifies an out and out war on the country with threats of nuclear weapons.

5. There is also a fear that once Russia has taken Ukraine it will try to take over the smaller Baltic states in an attempt to rebuild the empire. And then it will try to exert influence over the countries that were once members of the Warsaw Pact. And it doesn't seem unreasonable as something like this has famously happened before.

Anonymous said...

Tommy boy, I trust nothing, NO THING WHATSOEVER, from you!

Anonymous said...

It would be fascinating if another nuclear reactor core melted down next week. The Soviet Union barely contained that disaster and are in no position to do it again if another one of Chernobyl’s reactors Mets down. You know how easy it is to melt one? Just close one valve.