Alan Zendell, September 21, 2021
In June, President Biden traveled to the U. K. to engage with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and attend his first G7 meeting. From there, he went to Belgium, where he attended the Brussels 2021 Summit. He also had one-on-one meetings with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, after which he attended the E. U./U. S. summit. Then, he traveled to Geneva, where he met Swiss President Guy Parmelin and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sounds like a busy week for anyone, much less a seventy-nine year-old president who critics claim isn’t physically or mentally up to the job.
Yesterday, he traveled to the United Nations in New York, were he met with Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and this morning, Biden delivered his first address to the General Assembly. Biden did what all American Presidents do, visiting foreign leaders, touching hands, and laying out his view of American foreign policy.
Usually, these visits are intended to assure allies and other foreign leaders that there will be continuity from previous administrations. In diplomacy, stability and clearly communicated intentions are everything. But Biden had a more important theme. At each stop he reinforced his message that “America is Back” from the isolationism and America First policy of his predecessor.
For four years, Donald Trump consistently told our allies that they could no longer count on America the way they had in the past. He did so with a tone of rancor and disdain, accusing individual nations and NATO of ripping off the United States for decades, threatening to abandon them if they didn’t pay up. He publicly snubbed staunch allies like German Premier Angela Merkel, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. At the same time, he continually praised adversaries who ruled autocratically with little regard for human rights: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, China’s Xi Jinping, and Putin.
Biden’s mission was to inform the world that the United States was returning to normal diplomacy and restoring relations with its allies. It wasn’t an easy message, coming on the heels of our chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the recent kerfuffle with France over a nuclear submarine deal between The U. S., U. K., and Australia. The French described it as a betrayal since it resulted in the cancellation of a lucrative agreement between France and Australia. With other critical issues like COVID, climate change, and immigration on everyone’s front burner, this was going to be a difficult address.
Biden delivered his forward-looking message to more than polite applause from the General Assembly, but that had more to do with knowing and liking him personally than buying his message. Normally, when a president is involved in serious diplomacy outside our borders, political opponents at home turn down the rhetoric. Regardless of how you view the U. N., there’s an unwritten understanding that it’s important to create at least a façade of unity for the rest of the world. This year, that tradition was upheld by senior Republicans with strong views on foreign policy, even highly vocal opponents like Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
But this year there are two Republican parties, one led by Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney, and one led by Donald Trump. As he demonstrated throughout his life, Trump cares only about himself. His thirst for power admits no exceptions, not our Constitution, our rule of law, our diplomacy, or the long-term interests of our country. As President Biden slogs through the messes he inherited and attempts to re-engage positively with the rest of the world, self-absorbed Trump continues to claim Biden is an illegitimate president, regardless of mountains of evidence and court decisions to the contrary. He behaves like a rabid attack dog who cares nothing about the potential consequences of his actions as long as he wins.
Trump’s detractors, who represent about two-thirds of all Americans, often accused him of treasonous acts: bribing foreign governments to help him win elections, trying to overturn an election he lost by eight million votes, and the act for which I believe he will most remembered, inciting the insurrection at the Capitol. Brazenly attempting to undercut our current president while he struggles to rebuild our international relationships is more treasonous than all the rest. What Trump is doing reminds our allies and adversaries alike that America cannot be trusted, because our democracy contains the seeds of its own destruction. Anything Biden promises could be reversed by the next election. Our allies may not like autocrats, but at least they know where they stand.
We preach free speech and human rights to the rest of the world, but when the political opposition at home pushes the envelope around those rights beyond reason and legal precedent, it’s time Americans woke up to the reality that Trump would rather burn everything down than accept defeat.