Biden – The President And The Statesman – Disappoints

Biden – The President And The Statesman – Disappoints

By exploiting Jan 6 anniversary to point fingers instead of leading the nation on a path towards healing, President Biden failed miserably, both as a President and as a statesman.

Rajkamal Rao

President Biden, whose disapproval ratings continue to climb and policy proposals are stuck in Congress, chose on January 6 to further divide an already polarized nation. He had one thing going for him - that he was an elder statesman who could work with both sides of the aisle - and he lost that shine when he bitterly attacked former President Trump.

Biden could have chosen to take a different path by solemnly marking the events of last year's riots as a one-time occurrence by some unruly pro-Trump supporters that went out of hand. As a former VP himself, he could have invoked bipartisanship by recognizing former VP Pence for upholding democratic traditions. He could have stressed that no one should draw any conclusions about January 6 until after the panel has had a chance to release its report.

Americans want their leaders to solve problems and not gripe with each other. Rising case counts due to the Omicron variant, school closings, and runaway inflation are pressing issues requiring government action. The White House, which has adopted vaccination as the only strategy against the pandemic, has pointed out to its credit that even Trump supports vaccination. Looking ahead to pandemic challenges, Biden could have thanked Trump for urging his supporters to get vaccinated. He could even have complimented Operation Warp Speed, the Trump-era effort of developing vaccines in lightning time. Such a word of acknowledgment - like President Bill Clinton's famous pronouncement that the era of big government is over - would have shown that Biden, as an elder statesman, cares for the country more than his party.

Instead, Biden lashed out against former President Trump in remarkably dark language. Trump created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election because "his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution," Biden said, accusing his predecessor of holding a dagger at the throat of America. "He can't accept that he lost."

Biden's lieutenant in the Senate followed his lead. "It was Donald Trump's big lie that soaked our political landscape in kerosene," Sen. Chuck Schumer said. "It was Donald Trump's rally on the Mall that struck the match. And then came the fire."

Trump remains popular in states like West Virginia and Arizona, whose senators are crucial to resurrecting Biden's dying agenda. Sen. Joe Manchin has steadfastly opposed Biden's $2 trillion Build Back Better plan and has risen in popularity due to Trump supporters who gave the 45th president a 39-point victory margin in 2020. Biden's attacks on Trump could incentivize Manchin to switch parties, dealing a fatal blow to Biden's presidency.

When Trump wisely passed on holding his proposed press conference on January 6 at Mar-a-Lago and announced that he would make remarks at a rally, it is no accident that he chose Arizona. Trump lost the Grand Canyon state by fewer than 11,000 votes. Its senator, Kristen Sinema, has skillfully played both sides. Progressives cheered when an October poll showed that she may lose the Democratic nomination 75-25 when she is up for reelection in 2024. But 2024 is a long way away and a presidential year to boot. Arizona Republicans could reward Sinema handsomely in the general election, if she ran as an independent, for her insistence on protecting the Senate filibuster, a tool critical to the Republicans to prevent the Left from pushing through loose election standards under the excuse of voting rights. Biden going after Trump could potentially strengthen Sinema's hand.

For years, the Left criticized Trump for only talking to his base and ignoring the rest of the country. Yet, on January 6, this is what Biden did. His attacks on a former president who remains popular with the Republicans served no strategic political purpose. Already, an extraordinary 25 Democrats in the House have announced that they will not seek reelection, a reminder that members of Biden's party are expecting a big shellacking in the upcoming midterms.

Besides, it is unclear whether Trump will run in 2024, so why demonize him now? Trump may enjoy his role of being party kingmaker more than another White House run. Even if he announced, he would enjoy campaigning more than governing. Trump would be 79 on inauguration day, and even he may not have the fire in his belly for another four years of expected Resistance in what would be a lame-duck presidency from day one.

So, why Biden's advisors would have him go all out and destroy Trump from the bully pulpit is a head-scratcher. Independents now see Biden as the president who has consistently engaged in the same kind of partisan, shrill rhetoric for which they punished Trump. Biden's attacks could even increase independents' sympathies for Trump, who has no public platform even to respond. It is remarkable that a year after Trump left office and all of the media's attacks, polls show that Biden would lose to Trump if the election were held today.

Biden had an excellent chance to lower the volume, appear presidential, and appeal to independents on a historic day. He failed miserably - and this will not age well for his presidency.

Rajkamal Rao is a columnist and a member of the tippinsights editorial board. He is an American entrepreneur and writes the WorldView column for the Hindu BusinessLine, India's second-largest financial newspaper, on the economy, politics, immigration, foreign affairs, and sports.


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TIPP Takes

Geopolitics

U.S. Trade Chief Expresses Support For Lithuania Amid China 'Coercion'

Vilnius is under pressure from Beijing

USTR Katherine Tai
U.S.Trade Representative Katherine Tai

During a phone call with E.U. Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis on Friday, USTR Katherine Tai expressed strong U.S. support for Lithuania and the E.U. in the face of "economic coercion" from China.

Ms. Tai's support for Lithuania comes after a Wednesday phone call with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis.

China, which claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own, is pressuring Lithuania to reverse a decision last year to allow the island to open a de facto Embassy in Vilnius.

On top of that, China has recalled its ambassador to Lithuania and is pressuring companies like Continental to stop using Lithuanian-made components.

They also discussed how to address "global non-market excess capacity" in steel and aluminum, which refers to China's overproduction of the metals that have flooded global markets.

Related:

WSJ Editorial: Β China Bullies Little Lithuania
WSJ Commentary: Β China Takes Lithuania as an Economic Hostage
WSJ Commentary: Β Lithuania Is the β€˜Canary’ of World Order


Taliban Foreign Minister Visits Iran For Talks Focused On Refugees, Economic Issues

"The visit aims to discuss political, economic, transit and refugee issues between Afghanistan and Iran."

Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi at the airport before leaving for Tehran.
Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi at the airport before leaving for Tehran.

It is the first such trip since the Taliban seized power amid the collapse of the Western-backed government and a chaotic withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces in August. Iran, which has not recognized the new government formed by the Taliban, hosts millions of Afghans and fears a new influx of refugees.

Last month its border guards clashed with Taliban fighters along a segment of the border in what Iranian-state media reported was a "misunderstanding" from the Afghan side.

Shi'ite Iran, which shares a 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan, did not recognize the Sunni movement's rule the first time the Taliban held power in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.


Maldives, China Ink Key Deals, Agree On Visa Exemption

Chinese Minister Wang Yi is on a five-nation trip to Eritrea, Kenya, the island nation of Comoros, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka.

Maldives map

Maldives and China on Saturday signed key bilateral agreements during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit, on developing and maintaining infrastructure in the Indian Ocean archipelago, besides agreeing on a visa-free travel arrangement for Maldivians intending to travel to China.

Further, the Government of Maldives signed a 'Letter of Exchange' on a 'Feasibility Study of Management and Maintenance of China-Maldives Friendship Bridge' for Chinese assistance in maintaining the 1.4-km bridge connecting capital Male with the island of Hulhumale.

The bridge was built with $200 million Chinese assistance during former President Abdulla Yameen, whose government was close to Beijing. The bridge is considered China's flagship project in the Maldives.

Male owes Beijing about $1.4 billion from past loans, which President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's government has sought to "restructure."


Albanian Police Fire Tear Gas As Protesters Storm Party Offices

Local media said people inside the building had sought to keep the protesters out by spraying fire extinguishers before police arrived.

Albania map

The protesters were supporters of former president and prime minister Sali Berisha, who was thrown out of the party last year after Washington banned him from entering the United States over alleged corruption.

Berisha, who denies wrongdoing, has since mounted a leadership challenge against party leader Lulzim Basha. Last month, Berisha called a party assembly and announced himself as the leader.

The U.S. ambassador in Albania, Yuri Kim, said Washington was deeply concerned about recent tension surrounding the Democratic Party. "Those inciting violence or undermining the rule of law will be held accountable," Kim said in a tweet.


Airbnb Questioned Over Xinjiang Business Amid Uighur' Genocide'

More than a dozen of Airbnb's listings in Xinjiang are on land reportedly owned by a company under the U.S. sanctions list since 2020.

airbnb

Two members of the U.S. Congress have raised concerns about home rental firm Airbnb Inc's business activities in China's Xinjiang region, where Washington says Beijing is committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other ethnic groups.

The legislators said they were raising "questions about Airbnb's commitment to human rights and anti-discrimination in China as it sponsors the Beijing Winter Olympics" that starts next month.

The legislators cited an Axios website report that more than a dozen of Airbnb's listings in Xinjiang are on land owned by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), which was hit by U.S. Treasury Department sanctions in 2020.


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