President Joe Biden has often been accused of ducking the media. Despite the soft treatment he has received at the hands of America’s liberal networks and newspapers, his staff have seemed eager to keep him away from journalists. It’s almost as if they worry he’s not quite up to the job.
Well, on Wednesday, the Commander-in-Chief took on the doubters by holding a marathon, nearly two-hour press conference in which he proved, once and for all, that he is totally unfit to lead the free world. With law and order collapsing in many American cities, inflation spiralling out of control, Covid romping through the US population and his job approval rating hitting new lows, he declared that he’d “over-performed” in his first year in office. “I don’t believe the polls,” he said. “Can you think of any other president that’s done as much in one year?” The truth is that it is hard to think of a president who has done as badly.
On the difficult matter of what to do about Russia and Ukraine, Biden managed to suggest that his administration was expecting Vladimir Putin to make “a minor incursion” into Ukraine and that he didn’t really know what he’d do about it. The White House felt compelled to issue a clarification that the President had not, as many Republicans instantly claimed, “okay’d” a Russian attack. It just sounded a bit like he did.
It’s increasingly obvious that the man in charge of the most powerful country on earth doesn’t have a clue what he is saying.
Conservative commentators in the US love to play the “Imagine Trump Had Said That” game so much that it’s become a cliche. Like all cliches, though, it is essentially true. Imagine if this were Trump. The media would have erupted in fury. Pundits would have said that the entire American-led world order was on the brink of collapse. Democratic congressmen would have suggested invoking the 25th amendment to the US Constitution and removing their leader on grounds of “mental incompetence”. The conspiracy theory that the Kremlin somehow “owned” Trump would have been repeated ad nauseam.
Yet for a gaffe of such magnitude, the current president seems to have got off rather lightly. And not for the first time.
When he was running for office, the media presented Biden as a wise and steady hand who would calm the international waters after the tumult of Trump – conveniently forgetting that, although he has long claimed to be an expert in foreign policy, his record in world affairs is actually terrible. Senator Biden, for instance, voted against the liberation of Kuwait but for the invasion of Iraq. He also managed to oppose what many consider to be the one major foreign policy achievement of the Obama presidency — the killing of Osama bin Laden.
As for his record in the eastern hemisphere it could hardly be called successful. In 2009 the new Obama-Biden administration attempted to “reset” relations with Moscow. Yet Vice President Biden almost instantly blew up any hopes of a rapprochement by insulting Moscow and calling it a “withering” power.
The idea of Biden as some magic grandpa of global diplomacy was always fantasy – fuelled no doubt by Biden himself, who is something of a fantasist. Does anyone believe the story he likes to trot out that he once looked into Putin’s eyes and said “I don’t think you have a soul”? He also claims he got arrested trying to visit Nelson Mandela, even though he clearly did not.
Reality has a nasty habit of coming out. In August, after the botched US withdrawal from Afghanistan, even the most pro-Democratic organs of the American press finally started to question his leadership. It’s clear now that the pundit class only said he was great because they were so desperate to be rid of the wrecking ball on the world stage that was Donald Trump.
Set against Biden’s first year, however, Trump’s foreign policy is starting to look positively coherent, especially in his efforts to isolate China and bring peace to the Middle East.
At the start of 2022, many Americans, perhaps even a majority, are beginning to realise that Biden may be more embarrassing – and more dangerous – than his ghastly predecessor.