President Joe Biden had little new to offer in the way of solutions to the Ukraine crisis during a March 24 press briefing that appeared to go off the rails courtesy of former President Donald Trump. Although the United States is not currently at war, the threat of global conflict looms just below the horizon and Americans could expect resolve, purpose, and at least a measure of reassurance from the man who holds the unofficial but traditional title of leader of the free world. Instead, they got a lot of words, conveying little of substance, from their commander-in-chief. After huddling with the heads of NATO, Mr. Biden had nothing to tell the American people or any other Western nation that inspired confidence in a satisfactory resolution to the Ukraine conflict.
Russia’s invasion was not the only subject on the table, however; one foreign reporter raised the issue of the 2024 US presidential election. Donald Trump is apparently still on everyone’s mind – which is ironic, considering that there is a strong case to be made that the destruction of Ukraine would not be happening if Trump was still in the White House.
Biden outlined three main goals agreed upon by NATO leaders: Increased humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine, an intensifying of sanctions to cripple Russia’s economy, and a further strengthening of the alliance’s eastern flank to deal with any possible act of aggression against NATO countries bordering Russia and Ukraine. Beyond that, Mr. Biden’s responses to questions he took from pre-selected members of the press were perhaps more notable than his prepared remarks.
Asked if the US would respond to the use of chemical weapons by Russian forces in Ukraine, Biden was non-committal beyond suggesting that such action would trigger retaliatory measures of some kind. It is worth considering, in all fairness, that specific measures are not going to be publicly divulged – especially when the scenario in question hasn’t yet become a reality.
It is to be expected that a US president will always have to field a question or two about domestic American politics even when discussing a situation that has little to do with the United States directly. Still, one question from a German reporter seemed almost too convenient, given the looming 2022 midterm elections in which Mr. Biden’s party is widely expected to take a drubbing. With nothing positive to show the American people, Democrats are always grateful for any opportunity to raise the supposedly terrifying idea of a Trump comeback – and a journalist from Der Spiegel appeared primed to oblige:
“There is a presidential election coming up in 2024 and there are widespread concerns in Europe that a figure like your predecessor – maybe your predecessor himself – might get elected president again. So are there any steps you are trying to do and NATO is trying to do here, these days, to prevent what you’re trying to do becoming undone two years from now?”
Trump Living Rent-Free…
Yes, it did indeed appear this reporter was asking what Western nations, in concert, were doing to prevent Trump from becoming president again in 2024.
Biden gave a rambling answer that included questionable references to Nazis and managed to get in a plug for his party’s midterm campaign. After that he went off the rails with a wholly dishonest reference to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. “Imagine if we sat and watched the doors to the Bundestag [German federal parliament] broken down,” Biden said, “and police officers killed and hundreds of people storming in – or imagine if we saw that happening in the British parliament or whatever. How would we feel?”
The obvious implication – and it was nothing less than a repetition of a lie disseminated by the left-wing American media – was that Trump’s supporters killed police officers during the Jan. 6 unrest. In fact, no law enforcement officers were killed that day, and none lost their lives afterward because of injuries sustained during the unrest.
Things got even more bizarre from there, though. Biden, without any reason to do so, defended his own competency: “One of the things that I take some solace from is I don’t think you’ll find any European leader who thinks that I am not up to the job.” And, in closing, Mr. Biden said, “The next election, I’d be very fortunate if I had that same man running against me.”
That last statement raises a few questions, such as why would Biden consider a rematch with Trump fortunate? Do the other leaders of his party feel the same way and, if so, why are they putting so much effort into preventing Trump from running in 2024?
Before he was able to leave the podium, the US commander-in-chief was bombarded with more questions and took one relating to the ineffectiveness of sanctions as a deterrent to Russian aggression. As he is often known to do, Biden became testy with the reporter who asked the question, claiming he had never suggested sanctions would deter Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine. In fact, several White House and administration individuals are on record as saying the sanctions were intended to act as a deterrent.
But Biden’s reference to the 2024 election might be what sticks in the minds of Americans as they reflect on this press briefing. If he runs for re-election, which seems less than certain, does Mr. Biden really hope for a second face-off with Trump, or is he putting on a brave face, knowing his failure to curb Putin’s expansionist agenda could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?
~ Read more from Graham J. Noble.