An aging, often confused, seemingly fragile US President waits two months to give a press conference. When he gives it, world leaders – and the press corps before him – hold their breath.
The place is unnaturally quiet. He muddles through, only friendly reporters, no tough questions, slow answers, no interruptions, fumbling cards, losing his train, picking up practiced lines, leaning on a lifetime of one-liners. For domestic and national security, the event was telling.
Those who describe Biden’s first press conference – and possibly last – as a “success” miss the vital standards by which American security is measured. One is the perceived clarity of mind, physical vigor, and capacity to manage the fast-moving crises of a US president. By that standard, the long-overdue, stumbling, scripted press conference did not inspire confidence.
Critics will say, he got through it. Yes, that is true, the way a fading light offers enough lumens to navigate a dark hall, or a smart child manages round one of a spelling bee, or nursing home resident projects confidence through a scheduled visit. One friend who works with cognitively challenged elders calls this the “fool ‘em on the street” phase, social graces, and slow fade.
Whatever one’s politics, projecting strength is part of being President. The signal Biden sent was not strength. China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, US Allies, and domestic radicals of call kinds – saw this. The event confirmed what they thought: Biden is being stage-managed, cognitively slow, physically weak, appears ill-equipped to respond to fast-moving crises.
Unfortunately, perceived lack of capacity, readiness, the nimbleness of mind, acuity of judgment – while it may not lip the 25th Amendment’s “fitness for office” trigger for removal – triggers other events. The most dangerous is a sword with two edges – swung against the American people.
The first edge is foreign opportunism, a sharp cut administered by anti-American, anti-Western influences – state and non-state, overt and clandestine, physical, territorial, maritime, overhead, and cyber. We may see it coming, get a chance to stop it – or may just suffer the effects.
Adversaries undeterred are unleashed, whether China is leaning on Taiwan, suffocating Hong Kong, taking disputed islands, pushing cyber tsunamis, Russia planning paramilitary action in Eastern Europe, Iran and North Korea pushing nuclear weapons, or Middle Eastern radicals infiltrating border crossers. Projected weakness invites foreign opportunism.
After the Biden press conference, China tightened screws on the Western press, slapped sanctions on Western countries, accused the US of trying to “subvert China’s unity,” and “rejected all criticism over its policies in Xinjiang …. crackdown on opposition figures in Hong Kong and threats against Taiwan.” See, e.g., https://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/china-sanctions/SAGOT5QXP2CECNC5BCGWVWG3E4/.
North Korea proceeded with new missile tests, the second set in ten days, a gambit reopened only after Trump left office. See, e.g., https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/north-korea-makes-splash-biden-ballistic-missile-salvo-n1262130; https://www.foxnews.com/world/north-korean-missiles-agile-evasive.
Russia sparked fresh concern in Eastern Europe. See, e.g., https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-polytics/3215232-us-monitoring-closely-russias-actions-in-eastern-ukraine-state-department.html; https://www.unian.info/world/nato-russia-s-aggressive-actions-constitute-threat-to-euro-atlantic-security-11363713.html. Biden rambled calling Putin a “killer,” triggering a roar-back. See, e.g., https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2021/03/bidens-actions-russia-escalate-biden-calls-putin-killer-putin-responds-saying-takes-one-know-one/.
Iran continues to get aggressive, rebuffing Western efforts to halt their nuclear weapons program, as China visits Iran – and four US allies, Turkey, UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. See, e.g., https://thediplomat.com/2021/03/chinas-foreign-minister-heads-to-the-middle-east/.
As a top diplomat once noted: “It fills in real fast behind you, if you pull your fist out of the bucket.” Biden’s weakness is China’s, Russia’s, North Korea’s, and Iran’s gain.
The sword’s second edge cuts closer to home – foreign enemies boldly projecting power internally, together with domestic enemies of democracy, seeing a chance to destabilize, radicalize, and upend public safety. Look at continuing riots and spiking crime.
The foreign threat is also coming ashore, invisibly. Highlighting Biden’s weakness, a senior military leader – head of US CYBERCOM – revealed this week foreign adversaries are here. General Nakasone said: “US adversaries are demonstrating a changed risk calculus … undertaking malign activities in cyberspace on a greater scale, scope and sophistication.”
They use our laws against us, “increasingly instigating cyber campaigns against US entities from the US’s own backyard, conducting domestic hacks partly from infrastructure that is geographically within the country,” and “operating inside the US puts threat actors beyond the reach of … CYBERCOM and NSA.” Nor are all threats of foreign origin. See, e.g., https://breakingdefense.com/2021/03/nakasone-warns-adversaries-hack-unseen-in-us/.
Efforts are afoot to kill the Senate’s protection of the hundred-year-old legislative filibuster, or cloture vote, without which radicals are free to federalize elections, mandate no voter identification, mass mail-in ballots, felon voting, punish political speech, mandate DC statehood and gun confiscation, pack the Supreme Court and federal bench. Biden is noddingly in favor, like a sleepwalker, after a career of defending the filibuster and opposing radicalism.
The press conference was revealing. The press – which Founders saw as a check on executive power – was bereft of journalistic professionalism, doting on the old man, sharing his partisan views, indulging their broadcast power to bend the truth. The spectacle was as hard to witness.
A second irony went unreported. Even in this staged event, a close-up on the cards – caught on camera – reveals Biden could not manage to get the facts out on his cards. He botched even that. See, e.g., https://www.foxnews.com/politics/photos-biden-cheat-sheets-first-formal-press-conference.
So, what is the point? Biden’s leadership is fading before the world’s eyes. His energy is sapped, moderate Senate positions – favoring law enforcement, legislative filibuster, national and border security, incremental change – are gone, handlers in charge, grip on power weakening. We can all see it, even if we do not wish to. So can our adversaries, foreign and domestic.
The endgame must be a renewed sense that the country is worth defending, a coming together by moderates and conservatives in both parties to plan for what lies ahead, reinforcing that our country is not weak, indecisive, or headed far left. The message must be we are “one people,” proud of our Constitution, Bill of Rights, borders, security, economy, history, and Allies. The time is now for that message – because Biden’s press conference was telling.
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