Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Joe Biden on the World Stage

Two Wall Street Journal opinion pieces allow us to assess the current state of the Biden presidency.

As though you needed columnists to tell you how much of a mess Biden is making of the job. It’s so bad that his wife, the one who uses the affected title Dr., in front of her name, is now whining openly about the injustice of it all. Given her limited cognitive capacity Dr. Jill does not understand that her husband’s failure to manage crises is the fault of her husband’s inability to manage crises.

Anyway, Gerard Baker makes a point that more people should have recognized. Namely, that for all the caterwauling about how Joe Biden is losing it-- whatever it is-- the truth is, Joe Biden never had it.

The Democratic Party and the mainstream media colluded-- it was nearly criminal-- in conjuring a candidate who could beat Donald Trump. They lied about Biden and sold him as something he was not-- moderate, rational, adult, centrist. And they viciously censored any story that might have thrown down on their fabrication-- the Hunter Biden laptop to the hair sniffing fetish.

And, of course, they ignored the simple fact that Joe Biden was suffering from senile dementia. Now that the truth seems more than obvious, Democrats and the media are trying to jettison old Joe as fast as they can. As Baker points out, the truth is not that Democrats are suddenly having a crisis of conscience over what they sold the American public. They are distraught because Biden seems poised to lead them to electoral ignominy:

Democrats aren’t suddenly alarmed by the discovery of unexpected evidence that the president is too old for the job. They are alarmed by the discovery of entirely predictable evidence that he is too inept for the job. It’s not his advanced age that has Democrats worried, it’s his advancing unpopularity. You can guarantee that if Mr. Biden had an approval rating that was closer to his years of age (79) than his months in office (18), we’d be hearing endless stories of his physical fitness and mental acuity.

So, Baker suggests that Biden has not “lost his capacities. He never had them.”

Consider, he adds, the record of Biden’s political career. It has been a litany of bad ideas and poor judgment:

It is a pretty good indicator of the quality of your political judgment when most of the memorable things you did in your career you have subsequently repudiated—pro-life votes in the 1970s and later, the 1991 Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill showdown, the 1994 crime bill, the 1996 welfare reform, support for the Iraq war in 2002.

So, Biden had his chance, and he blew it. We ought to have expected as much:

After four years of politics on the verge of a nervous breakdown, the country was plunged into a public-health and economic crisis of almost unprecedented severity. Then far-left activists seized an opportunity to bring chaos and disorder to American cities, and the Democratic Party, embracing the moment, swung hard to the left.

Mr. Biden suddenly, for the first time in his career, was the answer to the most important political question of the moment. All he had to do was renounce the extremism of his party and offer a hyperventilating nation a chance to breathe normally.

But he couldn’t do it. He had spent a lifetime following where his party leads, and that wasn’t going to change. Now, like that old man in the poem, there he is, he is standing on his head, the inverse of what he promised to be, of everything the country needs.

If Baker is wistful about the lost opportunity, Karen Elliott House is no less concerned about the extent of the Biden failure. She examines the recent Biden foray into Middle Eastern politics and does not find very much to cheer. In truth, she finds nothing to cheer.

When a president strides on the world stage, when he escapes the partisan bickering of Washington, he should shine. He should take command. He should show that he has some idea of what he is doing.

On all those accounts Biden failed. For example, House writes:

Mr. Biden insisted that, in front of the entire U.S. and Saudi delegations, he had labeled the crown prince the killer of Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Minister of State Adel al-Jubeir was quick to say he didn’t recall hearing that. When Mr. Biden was asked if the foreign minister was telling the truth, he said no—implying that a key Saudi official was a liar. Even the New York Times questioned if Mr. Biden’s account was accurate, noting that he has a history of describing events other meeting participants don’t recall.

More largely, the trip damaged American interests in the Middle East and on the world stage:

This trip was worse than a missed opportunity. It damaged U.S. security interests in the Middle East by highlighting to the world that neither Saudi Arabia nor other Gulf states trust the U.S. enough to make any sacrifices to renew badly frayed relations. 

No one really believed Joe Biden when he committed America to engagement in the Middle East:

That fell on doubting ears from a man they watched walk away from Afghanistan. The United Arab Emirates promptly announced its effort to return an ambassador to Tehran and resolve differences diplomatically. Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud contradicted Mr. Biden’s claims of enhancing Saudi-Israel relations, and reiterated that any increased oil production won’t be a Saudi decision but one by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Plus, which includes Russia. That’s a not-so-subtle way of saying Saudi will maintain its warming relations with Vladimir Putin regardless of what the U.S. thinks.

House considers that the fist bump with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was another embarrassment, an empty gesture, the kind that had been concocted by a junior staffer and that the diminished president did not know enough to reject:

The White House staffer who thought a banal buddy-to-buddy fist bump was preferable to a customary formal handshake should be fired. It had nothing to do with Covid; the president shook hands with other Saudis and also, earlier, with Israelis and Palestinians. If he thought that forgoing a handshake would appease anti-Saudi critics in his own party, he was wrong.

The trip accomplished nothing of substance. Thus, the press was left with commenting on the show:

But without any substance to report, it’s hardly surprising that reporters focused on the spectacle of Mr. Biden squirming uncomfortably in the bed he had made with his earlier bravado about punishing Crown Prince Mohammed. And the president couldn’t have expected them to be fooled by White House efforts to tout as breakthroughs incremental changes in Saudi-Israeli overflight arrangements or a long-agreed transfer of two tiny islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia with Israel’s blessings.

And, as for the Biden stopover in Israel, that led to some empty rhetorical flourishes, most of which have been belied by his behavior:

Mr. Biden and Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid pledged again that Iran will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons. “The only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table,” Mr. Lapid said. But Mr. Biden hasn’t done that. For 18 months he has begged Tehran to forgo nuclear weapons while turning a blind eye to its violation of economic sanctions, its mischief in neighboring nations, and its support of Houthi rebel attacks on Saudi Arabia. He affirmed on this trip he’ll keep chasing that chimera of negotiations.

His determination to conciliate an implacable foe is another similarity to Chamberlain. Let’s hope it doesn’t produce a similar result in a year.

The Biden trip was a calamity. Without even noticing that Biden did not seem to know where he was or what he was doing, House seems to be more right than wrong in suggesting that the future does not look very rosy, either for American foreign policy or for the Middle East. 


SCOTTtheBADGER said...

My worry is the results will be exactly the same.

Anonymous said...

If I had to describe this administration in one word, I think it would be painful.