Whenever President Joe Biden attempts to emphasize that he’s rebuilding international ties he felt the former president strained unnecessarily, he’s fond of saying some permutation of “America is back.”
In February, during his first foreign policy speech, Biden declared, “America is back. Diplomacy is back.”
When he rejoined the Paris climate accord: “America is back. We rejoined the Paris Agreement and are ready to rally the world to tackle the climate crisis. Let’s do this,” he tweeted.
America is back. Diplomacy is back. pic.twitter.com/03dFPQyYjw
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 5, 2021
He said it again at the end of the G-7 summit in England on Sunday before heading over to Brussels for talks with NATO allies: “America’s back in the business of leading the world alongside nations who share our most deeply held values,” Biden said during a news conference, according to ABC News.
The words are meant convey a bit more than the fact Biden is more internationalist than the previous inhabitant of the White House. They’re supposed to show he’s leading confidently; that this isn’t a man wracked with insecurities. He’s supposed to be boldly setting a course for America on the global scene — one that’ll win over allies and disquiet our adversaries.
And there’s no better way for Joe Biden to display that confidence than spending part of his media briefing at the NATO summit on Monday ensuring everyone that the Republican Party is “vastly diminished” and that it makes up a “significant minority of the American people.”
America is back at the table, apparently, but bringing its domestic squabbles along with it.
According to a Rev.com transcript of the event, Biden was asked by Washington Post reporter Anne Gearan about the Jan. 6 Capitol incursion and what he would say to allies who were rattled by it or by “the continued hold that Donald Trump has over the Republican Party and the rise of nationalist figures like him around the world.”
“The leaders I’m dealing with in NATO and the G-7 are leaders who know our recent history, know generically the character of the American people and know where the vast center of the public stands,” Biden said.
“We’re a decent, honorable nation. And I think that they have seen things happen, as we have, that shocked them and surprised them that could have happened. But I think they, like I do — the American people are not going to sustain that kind of behavior.”
Biden went on to say he didn’t “want to get into these statistics because you know that old phrase of Disraeli’s, ‘There’s three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.'”
There are two problems with that statement. The first is that Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th-century British prime minister he was attributing the quote to, probably didn’t say it. (It was popularized by Mark Twain, however, who incorrectly attributed it to Disraeli.) The second is that, in the next breath, Biden got into those statistics. And it turns out that whoever first uttered that quote was onto something.
“The Republican Party is vastly diminished in numbers. The leadership of the Republican Party is fractured. And the Trump wing of the party is the bulk of the party,” Biden said. “But it makes up a significant minority of the American people.”
BIDEN: “The Republican Party is vastly diminished in numbers, the leadership of the Republican Party is fractured, and the Trump wing of the party is the bulk of the party, but it makes up a significant minority of the American people.” pic.twitter.com/X3eangcP2f
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) June 14, 2021
After engaging in hyperbole by claiming the Republican Party had been vanquished toward the dusty corners of American politics, he then said that “I believe that by standing up and saying what we believe to be the case, not engaging in the overwhelming hyperbole that gets engaged in by so many today, that we — I guess that old expression, the proof of the pudding is in eating.”
After a bit of rambling where Biden beat his chest over singlehandedly getting people vaccinated (while noting that “we have a group of people who are everything from the political rejection of a notion of taking a vaccine, to people who are simply afraid of a needle and everything in between”), he went after Republicans who wouldn’t support the Democrats’ asinine proposal for a Jan. 6 “truth commission.”
“I think it is a shock and surprise that what’s happened in terms of the consequence of President Trump’s phony populism has happened,” Biden said. “And it is disappointing that so many of my Republican colleagues in the Senate who I know know better, have been reluctant to take on, for example, in an investigation, because they’re worried about being primaried.”
What Biden’s Republican colleagues in the Senate know is that law enforcement is perfectly capable of investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol incursion. As for any sort of commission, Senate Republicans know it’ll basically devolve into a shouty-fest in which Democrats try to cast anyone more conservative than Mitt Romney as being in league with the Proud Boys. Nothing will be discovered, nothing will be accomplished.
Biden’s remarks were notable for a couple of other reasons, too.
The man who has been in government since the tail end of the first Nixon administration seems seems to have forgotten — or ditched — the unwritten script of American presidents abroad — the one that stops domestic politics “at the water’s edge” (as another old expression goes).
As Fox News reported Monday, then-President Donald Trump “faced significant media backlash” in 2019 when he ignored that unofficial script by attacking Biden while on a trip to Japan.
Here’s an example published May 27, 2019, by USA Today:
“U.S. presidents traveling abroad were driven for decades by an axiom rooted in the Cold War: ‘Politics,’ the saying goes, ‘must stop at the water’s edge.’
“President Donald Trump once again upended convention during a formal state visit to Japan over the weekend, repeatedly blasting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden throughout the trip …”
The Fox headline summed up the difference between then and now succinctly: “Media ignores Biden’s attack against GOP while abroad after shredding Trump for violating political norm.”
Biden also seems to forget how underwhelming his party’s performance last November was. The RealClearPolitics polling average had Biden up by 7.2 points nationally on Election Day. He ended up winning by 4.5 points.
Prognosticators in the mainstream media expected Democrats to expand their majority in the House of Representatives. Instead, it contracted.
A FiveThirtyEight forecast had the Democrats holding 52 seats in the Senate and with a 75 percent chance of controlling it. They required two runoff victories in Georgia to get even at 50 seats with the Republicans — technically controlling it, but by the slightest margin possible in a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Jan. 6 didn’t kill off the GOP, either.
But then, what’s the point about looking at the “damn lies” in the “statistics?” What does it say about America being back at the table when the country’s president — on foreign soil — feels the need to slam part of the American body politic to do it?
For that matter, where are those statistics, anyway? Where’s the proof that Republicans are “vastly diminished?”
Most importantly, does Biden come across as a man who’s leading confidently? America never left, but Joe Biden doesn’t sound like the kind of guy who’d bring it back, anyway.
He’s too busy bickering with his political opponents back home — and bashing his fellow citizens abroad.
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