What does Biden want?
I think Biden is indecisive, and it's going to cost us the Congress and the White House, if we don't speak up.
I’ve long been a fan of the Greek myths. Growing up Greek-American, mom never regaled me with Grimm’s or the other typical fairy tales the “American” kids would get — I was more likely to hear about Zeus than Cinderella. To this day, one of my favorite myths is about Cassandra, a Trojan priestess who was blessed by the gods with the gift of foresight. But there was a catch: The gods made sure that no one would believe here.
As a Democratic/progressive activist, I often feel like Cassandra. For whatever reason, I’ve always been good at reading the tea leaves, and discerning what people were up to based on a lot of small data points that others might miss, or fail to piece together into a larger picture. And Joe Biden’s larger picture is worrying me.
To be precise, he worried me from the beginning, but he was the best candidate to beat Trump, and he’s who the country needed at the time. But that time has moved on — sadly, much of the country has forgotten how awful Trump was, and they’re no longer going to give Biden a pass for being better than garbage.
But that’s not what worries me about Biden. I’m increasingly worried that he’s indecisive. And it’s constantly getting him into trouble that ends up painting him as weak, uncertain — and even worse, old and befuddled.
What really got my goat was this week’s brouhaha over the rocket systems Ukraine wanted. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Biden had agreed to the deal. Then on Monday, Biden seemed to say that the deal was off: “We’re not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia.” Ukraine borders Russia. A stone thrown from Ukraine can strike Russia. So, if we’re not going to send a rocket that can strike into Russia, then we’re not sending rockets, period. But then the next day that all changed, and we were sending Ukraine medium-range rockets that are, according to the military experts, really good, and just what Ukraine needs. Yeah!
Not so fast. Today we learn that Biden is only send four of the rocket platforms to Ukraine. The rockets are fired from a platform that sits atop a truck or sorts. Biden is sending four trucks. But that’s not nearly enough to help Ukraine win back the land that Russia is occupying, and our military folks agree. So why not send more? Because Biden doesn’t want to anger Vladimir Putin, lest it lead to “World War III.”
“World War III” was an early Biden talking point, just as the war got started, and has persists with it until today. Biden even used the phrase in a letter to the Washington Post just yesterday. Now, no one wants “World War III” — which in American vernacular means the end of the world via nuclear annihilation. But when you keep saying it, as Biden does, and you keep linking it to a second promise, that NATO will never send troops, lest we end up at war with Russia (because that would lead to “World War III”), you’re giving Russia a green light for carnage. After all, you’ve just telegraphed that there is nothing Russia could do that would trigger NATO entering the war, so why not have at it? (And don’t listen to me, retired General Spider Marks just said the same thing this morning on CNN.)
Biden’s desire NOT to go to war with Russia was quickly corrupted by his indecisiveness. Biden seems to personally want Ukraine to win this. But he also believes that if Russia loses, we could have “World War III.” So Biden has adopted a wishy-washy policy see-saw where we increasingly help Ukraine, but not quite help them enough to win. All the while, making statements that suggest we want Ukraine to win, and that we absolutely positively don’t want to anger Russia (ignoring the fact that both goals are mutually exclusively — if Ukraine wins, Russia angers).
I sensed a similar pattern last year with Infrastructure Bill #2. For some reason, Biden insisted on negotiating the bill publicly over a multi-month period, which only served to make him (and Dems) look weak. The Manchin thing was bad enough. But there was also Biden’s dance with House “progressives.” It was far too public, and also far too confusing. Did Biden, or didn’t he, promise (cave to?) the progressives that he’d work out their concerns about Infrastructure Bill 2 if only they voted for Infrastructure Bill 1? Of course, that promise fell flat, and House progressives said so publicly, hurting Biden and Dems with the public at at large, but also the left wing of our own party.
Now, I’m not faulting Biden for Manchin’s bad faith. But I do fault Biden for trusting Manchin, for playing it all out in public, and for projecting indecisiveness. He didn’t come across as a particularly strong leader, and in the end, the deal died.
Fast forward again to now. There was an article the other day in which a White House insider said Biden was angry that White House staff kept walking back his comments, as it makes him look weak and befuddled, buying into right-wing arguments about his age. The thing is, the walk-backs have been going on for a year now, so why hasn’t Biden done anything about them? If he meant what he said about Putin, that he “cannot remain in power,” then why didn’t Biden say so? Why didn’t he publicly rebuke the folks who walked back his comments, and fire them? The walk-backs have been happening for 17 months now. Either Biden is fine with the walk-backs, that make him look indecisive, or he approved them, which means he IS indecisive, as he keeps going back on what he’s said.
More worrisome was a quote at the end of the story from an anonymous White House staffer who said that they say nothing that Biden hasn’t approved. Meaning, it was Biden who approved the walkback, but then later unapproved it after it was too late.
And that, my friends, is the essence of indecision.
Look, I thank God every day that Donald Trump is no longer president. But Trump is gonna be president again in 2024, and Democrats are going to lose the Congress in 2022, if we don’t come to terms with the fact that the public isn’t happy with the job Biden is doing — or rather, the perception of the job. We either accept there’s a problem, discuss it publicly, and figure out how to fix it. Or I think we’re in for a horrible surprise come election day(s).