There’s a lot of hot air coming from the White House on the China spy-balloon debacle — the Biden playbook as usual is deflect, downplay and deny.
Make no mistake, this embarrassing incident happened for one reason — because this administration, and directly this president, allowed it to happen. President Biden said over the weekend that he wanted to shoot the Chinese balloon down right away, but his generals told him there was too big a risk to civilians to take that step, so they decided to let it cross the entire country top to bottom, end to end before shooting it down in the Atlantic — once its spy mission was complete.
The problem with this theory is the generals aren’t in charge under our Constitution — the president is the commander in chief, and while President Donald Trump was in office, he made very clear he was the decision-maker and no one else. This incident shows that’s simply not the case with Biden — he punted that call to his generals instead of making it himself.
Remember that Biden as commander in chief had so many opportunities to shoot down this Chinese Communist Party spy balloon — he could have done it over the ocean when it came by the Aleutians and flew down toward our mainland, he could have done it together with our Canadian partners in NORAD when it was over empty stretches of that country, and now both Montana senators — Republican and Democrat — have said they could have taken the balloon down over Montana with no problem because there’s so much open space there. It was Biden’s call, and he didn’t even pick up the phone.
One thing is certain — Biden’s handling of this relatively small national-security challenge is such an embarrassment to our country that China may actually have done us a favor by showing the American people just how weak he’s been for the last two years on China.
This is true across the board, whether in the disastrous first meeting in Anchorage where he allowed Chinese officials to lecture us on human rights. Or shortly thereafter in sending John Kerry to China as the first envoy from his administration to talk about not fentanyl, not the coronavirus, not the threats to Taiwan or stealing our intellectual property — but instead, you guessed it: climate change.
Remember, that’s exactly what this White House did in Afghanistan with its botched exit, including the tragic loss of 12 Marines and one Navy corpsman at the Kabul airport. Yet in the wake of that debacle, just like this balloon incident, Biden and his team spoke out of both sides of their mouths — first that the withdrawal was a total success, and then, if anything did go wrong in the exit, Trump was to blame for alleged poor planning.
This is the MO of this White House: Whenever something goes wrong on its watch — a weekly occurrence at a minimum — it does one of two things. It either says, falsely, Trump caused it, such as inflation, or it says, again falsely, it happened under Trump before, such as high gas prices, and it made it better. That’s exactly the play here on the balloon incident.
White House spokespeople are saying somehow similar spy balloons transited US airspace several times under Trump but no one noticed. Not only has this been refuted on the record by the top leaders of Trump’s national security team, the “forensics” Biden’s team cites as the basis for this claim have few or zero specifics. And now it backpedals and admit that any balloon crossings under Trump, if they happened at all, were “brief” and “nothing like we saw last week.”
Despite the blame-shifting and doublespeak, one thing is clear: This flight is literally a trial balloon by the Chinese Communist Party — not only designed to gather intelligence but to test Biden’s reaction time to national-security challenges. And now, not only China but all the world has seen in real time how flat-footed Biden remains in the face of these challenges. This once again gives a green light not just to China but to all bad actors around the globe.
John Ullyot served as National Security Council spokesman and deputy assistant for national security affairs under President Trump.