A series of embarrassing incidents in recent days shows that while the left may control the media narrative, it's not fooling Xi Jinping or Vladimir Putin into thinking President Joe Biden is strong.
Biden had a beyond-friendly interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, former press secretary to President Bill Clinton, on March 16 in which he allowed Stephanopoulos to lure him into calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a "killer" with "no soul." It would be one thing if there were some purpose behind Biden's hostile utterance about his Russian counterpart, but it didn't appear tied to any strategic foreign policy goal.
Other than some largely symbolic sanctions on Moscow for the poisoning and wrongful imprisonment of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, Biden's response to the January resumption of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany, which the United States had succeeded in halting under the Trump administration, has been "half-hearted." The Biden team says it just wants to move cautiously, but observers say if they wait any longer to act against Berlin and Moscow, it will be too late.
Putin took full advantage of the blunder. After vintage philosophical musings about how Biden may be projecting his own inadequacies, he said the United States has a dark history. He quickly challenged Biden to a public debate. He condescendingly said the sooner it could be done, the better, even if Biden needed a bit of rest and time to prepare. The White House declined the offer for such a public conversation, as Putin surely knew they would.
Russia also recalled its ambassador, the first time such a move had been necessary in decades.
Two days after that ABC interview, Chinese diplomats came to sovereign U.S. territory in Anchorage, Alaska, and brutally dressed down Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. The media did their best to downplay the embarrassing situation, but the disrespect that the Chinese showed the United States was impossible to ignore.
Particularly hurtful was that the Chinese diplomats, like Putin, used the Democratic Party's own talking points about how corrupt, racist, evil, and irredeemably sinister the United States is. The message oft-repeated by the left this past year was that black people are routinely hunted on the streets, are regularly killed by law enforcement, and have no rights. It's not any surprise that the Chinese said they agreed with those points.
Biden's team can't say, politically, that those lines parroted by the highest echelons of their own party are lies, even though they are. Instead, they mumbled something about how America tries to improve itself.
The tongue-lashing against the United States occurred after the U.S. diplomats condemned China for its economic policies and human rights abuses, including against the Uighur ethnic group. China said the United States is in no position to lecture. It was a poorly thought-out effort from the U.S. diplomats.
The Biden team, which has largely maintained the Trump administration's economic policies, including controversial tariffs, against China, went into the meeting thinking they could easily dunk on the prior administration and show how much better they were at diplomacy. They should have thought through their standing and strategy a bit more.
"Rather than staying focused on giving China-specific demands and conveying our seriousness, the U.S. team insulted half the Americans who voted for Trump and was glad for his administration's foreign policy approach by saying 'America is back.' America never left. And it's the approach from the last administration that returned our focus on China and power and away from merely abstract ideas when we deal with other nations," said Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Rebeccah Heinrichs.
Blinken has said he wants to move from Trump's foreign policy focused on national interest back to the post-World War II familiar ruts and abstractions of enforcing a "rules-based order." But the liberal international order has now officially turned its sights on the United States, with the UN Human Rights Council saying it will investigate "systemic" racism in the United States.
The New York Times, the leading paper of the Democrat Party, says the country was founded when slaves arrived, not when the Declaration of Independence was signed. That helped lead to a summer of murderous riots that destroyed major downtowns across the country.
"Hating America is a luxury we can no longer afford," the liberal writer Caitlin Flanagan tweeted this weekend. Well said. The hatred of this fine country would be awful even if foreign adversaries didn't exploit it. But they do.
Putin challenged Biden to a debate about U.S. history and the White House scurried. Xi Jinping had his people yell at U.S. diplomats in their first meeting with the new administration on U.S. soil. Tough words between adversaries are to be expected, but these two big, powerful adversaries have no regard, no esteem, and no respect for the people who lead this country, in part because those people don't seem to respect themselves or the country they lead.
While the liberals in the media and other D.C. establishments aren't concerned about it at all, few things express the weakness of the current ruling regime like the fact that the U.S. Capitol is still surrounded by troops, months after a riot that erupted over widespread concerns — concerns that those who control the discourse in this country are not allowing to be expressed publicly — about the integrity of a U.S. election conducted mostly by mail-in ballots. The United States would be using that as leverage against any adversary if it were happening in their country.
What's more, it leaves genuine issues of national interest abandoned. "Blinken punts on punishing China for coronavirus outbreak," read the headline after an interview this weekend. China hid the origin story and deceived the rest of the world about the attributes of the deadly virus that they unleashed upon the world. Viruses can arise anywhere, but China's behavior and lack of transparency was reprehensible and a country that cared about its dead and the carnage this outbreak caused would demand some accountability.
Then, unfortunately, Biden stumbled up the stairs to Air Force One. Three times. Anyone can fall, even three times, but the White House response to the repeated stumbles was not great. They blamed the falls on the single-digit wind speeds in D.C. that day. "Our world leader gets knocked over by slight gusts," is not the message you want to send the day after top diplomats are dressed down by our chief adversary.
What's more, Biden had gone out of his way to mock President Trump for walking gingerly down a slippery ramp last year. "Look at how he steps, and look at how I step. Watch how I run up ramps and he stumbles down ramps. OK. Come on!" the 78-year-old Biden said.
The stumbles keep happening. A couple of days ago Iran and China inked a 25-year, $400 billion deal. Asked if he was concerned about it, Biden said, "I've been concerned about that for a year." But after the China meeting that went so poorly, Blinken had told reporters that on Iran, "our interests intersect" with China's.
Last week, Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, "When it came to securing American freedom abroad, we treated the world as it was, not as we wished it to be. When the time came, we led and were TOUGH. Strength deters bad guys, weakness begets war."
Instead of trying to manage American decline for the benefit of corporate America, Biden's team should actually fight to secure America's interests, to disassociate the U.S. economy from China's, to recover critical supply chains, build back the military and U.S. economy, and to provide counterweights to China in the world.