AMAC Exclusive by David P. Deavel
The man who many predicted would restore the place of the U. S. on the world stage that President Trump supposedly ruined has brought shame and dishonor on the presidency and our country. “President Joe Biden phoned British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday,” the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported on August 17, “hours after it was revealed he hadn’t phoned any allies since the fall of Kabul set off frantic efforts to evacuate American and allied personnel.”
Let that sink in for a moment. The President of the United States, having completely bungled the withdrawal of our troops from a country in which not only thousands of Americans but also thousands of our allies were now stuck, had not even called the leaders of those allies whom we had stranded. British papers reported that not only had the British military been kept completely in the dark about American withdrawal details, but that Boris Johnson had been attempting to contact Biden for 36 hours. Is it any wonder that the British Parliament held Mr. Biden in contempt?
The Biden Administration was hailed from its beginnings as the return of the “adults,” but the events of the still-new-but-definitely-not-shiny Biden presidency have revealed a grave crisis in understanding. “Feeling overwhelming gratitude for the adults in the room,” tweeted the militant left-wing atheist writer Sam Harris on January 20, 2021. He wasn’t alone. Last week, Harris had the intestinal fortitude to retweet his original comments with the new message that he was “Publicly eating these words…syllable by syllable.” Adults understand that they need to keep allies in the loop, at the very least. The catastrophe of our bungled withdrawal and effective surrender of Afghanistan to the Taliban has many sides to it, but one that cannot be stressed enough is that the Biden administration acted like a teenager who smashed up the car and hid in his room rather than admit what he had done.
Many people accused President Trump of wanting to break up NATO by demanding that members pay their fair share, but President Biden may actually have accomplished it by alienating them from the United States.
Historically speaking, American presidents have kept in constant touch with allies, using the phone (ever since it was put in the White House by Herbert Hoover) more and more as cables connected the continents and then satellites made international calls more reliable. Though the famous Washington-Moscow “hotline” used by the White House from 1963 until into the Reagan administration was actually a teletype machine for sending messages, the telephone became increasingly important in the late-twentieth century despite the difficulties in communication in foreign languages and the differing perceptions of how tricky phone calls can be interpreted by both sides. Richard Nixon, despite dealing with the Watergate scandal, famously kept in very close contact with Israel’s Golda Meir during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and aided her with an airlift of materiel and supplies. Ultimately, in historian Stephen Ambrose’s words, he succeeded in “saving Israel.”
This habit of calling our allies and keeping in constant touch in times of crisis continued through President Trump’s time. Though critics of Barack Obama’s presidency noted how he failed to do enough telephone diplomacy with allies in periods of calm, nevertheless the 2014 crises in Ukraine and the Middle East found President Obama and also then-Vice President Joe Biden constantly on the phone with leaders from around the world.
President Trump was from the get-go on the phone constantly with world leaders. He dared to speak to Taiwan’s president early on, angering the Chinese and also American figures eager to please them. While conventional critics scored his informal and sometimes “frank and candid” (as the euphemism is used for politicians favored by media) conversations with figures such as Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and Australia’s Scott Morrison, it was clear that he actually was talking to them—and he got results. When Trump decided to pull out of Syria, he talked to the upset Macron numerous times. Trump’s pull-out of military advisers from Syria in October 2019 was widely decried, especially by Macron. But evidence of the kind of disaster facing us today was not present. Kenneth Timmerman argued at the time that Trump’s decision, communicated to unhappy allies, was the right one: “By targeting Erdogan financially, legally and undermining his legitimacy, President Trump has done more to help the Kurds than his critics with their crocodile tears. And for now, he is winning.”
Biden was advertised, early on, as continuing this tradition of keeping in touch. Perhaps, given his approach to things, personal in a similar if not the same way as President Trump, he would make American diplomacy a kinder and gentler version of the Trump way. CNN reporters announced on January 22 one long series of glad-handing talks with world leaders. The truth in this might have been in the CNN anecdote that began the story about Biden reminiscing about eating many meals with Chinese President Xi Jinping. President Biden apparently has more time for the Chinese President than he does for the Prime Minister of one of our closest allies. Alas, this matched President Obama’s penchant for prioritizing conversations with Iran over our traditional allies.
But what Americans paying attention soon found out was that Mr. Biden was perhaps too busy eating ice cream cones to do the telephonic glad-handing. Kamala Harris was reported to be the one making customary calls to heads of state. Perhaps she should have kept it up if Mr. Biden himself was going to give up communicating in the way he has done.
It is not just communication with our allies that shows neither Mr. Biden nor apparently Ms. Harris are the adults in the room. They have shown by their communication with our enemies and the American people the disaster we face. Politico’s report that the Administration shared the names of American and Afghan evacuees with the Taliban, to which it has entrusted a great deal of our “security,” was not contradicted by the President in his August 27 address to the American people.
That address, as Scott Johnson of Powerline said, was filled with remarks that were “pathetic and stupid” and gave “human form to our humiliation.” Instead of restoring confidence in our allies and in our country, the Biden presidency brings us shame and fear. A president who cannot communicate with his allies or his own fellow Americans but can provide the names of Americans to the terrorist cabal whom we invaded a country to remove is not a man to be trusted. A new poll from Rasmussen shows fewer than 40 percent of Americans think President Biden is in charge.
Given his performance, the wonder is that it is so many.
David P. Deavel is editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of the Deep Down Things podcast.
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