Who’s our real president? Joe Biden — or the staffers who keep walking back his comments?
Is Joe Biden President? That’s the question to ask after staffers walked back Biden’s latest remarks on Taiwan.
During his rather uneven “60 Minutes” interview with Scott Pelley last weekend, Biden firmly and clearly announced that the United States would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.
This was a dramatic statement, and a substantial shift from America’s traditional policy of “strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan, in which our response to Chinese saber-rattling over the island nation was essentially “fool around and find out.” Biden was not at all ambiguous: If China went to war with Taiwan, it would be war with the United States and its allies.
That departure made some sense. Back in February, Biden seemed to grant Vladimir Putin a green light to invade Ukraine. White House spokesmen quickly walked that back, but the green light, coming directly from Biden’s lips, apparently convinced Putin that he could launch an invasion without blowback.
That turned out to be wrong, of course, and now the United States is involved in a proxy war with Russia, while sanctions and export disruptions cause the world’s food and fuel markets to go crazy and have Europe looking at a long, cold winter of gas shortages and electrical blackouts. So firmness, this time.
But Biden’s firmness was short-lived. Within hours, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and other spokesmen were loudly proclaiming US policy had not, in fact, changed at all.
Gordon Chang writes: “This is the fourth time that Joe Biden as president, has publicly stated the U.S. will defend Taiwan. He made that pledge last August to ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos. The President repeated his words to CNN’s Anderson Cooper last October.
“Biden also said the same thing to a reporter in Tokyo in May. White House and administration officials, both anonymously and on the record, have contradicted the President all four times.”
In the Curtiss-Wright Export case, the Supreme Court declared the president the “sole organ” of the nation in foreign affairs, noting the importance of speaking with one voice when dealing with other nations. The formulation, and authoritative expression, of US foreign policy is supposed to come from the president.
Yet over and over again, Biden has been undercut by subordinates who basically said, “Pay no attention to the old man in the Oval Office.”
This won’t do. Either Biden is president, or he is not. If he’s president, then policy should come from him, and it’s the job of subordinates to make that policy work. If they’re doing otherwise, they’re engaged in a sort of coup against the duly elected commander in chief. That presents a serious problem.
If Biden is, instead, a dotard whose pronouncements on foreign affairs should be ignored in favor of the presumably more measured statements of unelected White House apparatchiks, then the office of president is effectively vacant. And that presents serious problems of its own.
A president incapable of serving should resign. There seems no chance Biden will do that. Failing that, he can be removed using the 25th Amendment. Though there was a lot of talk about that amendment under the previous administration, we’re not hearing much about it now.
Removal under the 25th Amendment is difficult and requires most of the Cabinet to go along. Worse, in our situation, it would mean replacing Biden with Vice President Kamala Harris, in whom most people have no more confidence. Harris’ political career was short, and her stint as vice president so far has been unimpressive. Her speeches are, if anything, even less intelligible than Biden’s.
(And next in line of succession is Nancy Pelosi, who, to put it mildly, isn’t a comforting prospect as chief executive.)
So at a time of crisis, our nation is effectively leaderless. Nor is this an accident. The 2020 election was, if not rigged, at least heavily tilted in favor of Biden. Media and Big Tech companies blacked out criticism and allowed Joe to campaign from his basement, where he faced no tough questions. Harris also got a pass, because of her historic status.
Shortly after the election, Time magazine bragged about how a “cabal” of business and media and government folks “saved” the election by ensuring that Biden took office.
Now America has to live with the consequences. Thanks, cabal.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and founder of the InstaPundit.com blog.