In the wake of a virus that killed millions, these Senate witnesses say it’s time to start treating pandemic research as a national security issue.
Three scientists who testified at the first Senate hearing on gain-of-function research on Wednesday said that stronger oversight is needed to make sure research that’s supposed to prevent pandemics isn’t causing them.
The hearing, held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight and led by ranking member Rand Paul of Kentucky, was agreed to by both parties, but only Republican members chose to participate.
Richard Ebright, laboratory director at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology and hearing witness, said gain-of-function research involves changing pathogens to make them more dangerous. “Gain-of-function research of concern is defined as research activities reasonably anticipated to increase a potential pandemic pathogen’s transmissibility, pathogenicity, ability to overcome immune response, or ability to overcome a vaccine or drug,” Ebright said.
This research has multiple risks, Ebright added, and limited benefits. It results in new health threats because it creates “new potential pandemic pathogens.” He said that “if the new potential pandemic pathogen is released into humans, either accidentally or deliberately, this can cause a pandemic.”
Another risk, according to Ebright, is that once this gain-of-function research is published, people can use it to construct pandemic pathogens from synthetic DNA for well under $10,000. “Publication of the research provides instructions — step-by-step recipes — that can enable a rogue nation, organization, or individual to construct a new pathogen and cause a pandemic,” Ebright said.
Kevin Esvelt, another witness who is a biologist and director of the Sculpting Evolution group at MIT Media Lab, said this is a risk whether scientists are creating potential pandemic viruses through gain-of-function experiments or simply researching naturally occurring ones. He estimated that once the genome of a potential pandemic virus is published, there are 30,000 people with doctorates in the United States alone who would be able to create the virus in a lab.
Trying to identify potential pandemic virus is supposed to help prevent natural pandemics, Esvelt added, but he calculated the research is likely to kill a hundred times as many people as it saves because the likelihood of the research being used maliciously far outweighs the likelihood of it helping prevent a pandemic.
“In the hope of preventing natural pandemics,” Esvalt said, agencies including the National Institutes of Health “seek to identify viruses that could kill as many people as a nuclear weapon, to alert the entire world to what they find, and to publicly share[e] the complete genome sequences of those viruses so that skilled scientists everywhere will be able to make infectious samples.”
Esvelt said that “in the wake of a pandemic that has killed more people than could any thermonuclear explosion,” we need to start addressing pandemics in terms of national security. “We are so used to thinking of pandemics as a health and safety issue that we’ve missed the national security implications of identifying viruses that could be deliberately unleashed to kill millions of people.”
Steven Quay, the CEO of Atossa Therapeutics, said the SARS2 virus that causes Covid-19 “has features consistent with synthetic biology gain-of-function research.” He added that “two features involve acceptable academic gain-of-function research” while one region of the virus “has features of forbidden gain of function research: asymptomatic transmission and immune system evasion.” According to Quay, the permissible gain-of-function features were aspects of research that the United States and Wuhan Institute of Virology had proposed in 2018, while the forbidden features were aspects of research that was already going on at the lab.
Paul said he hopes the scientists’ suggestions can be incorporated into a bipartisan bill for better oversight of research that could lead to pandemics. “I don’t think the people doing the research are able to adequately and objectively regulate themselves,” Paul said. “And I think having a million people die, there should be bipartisan curiosity in this, that we should be able to move forward.”
In response to a question from The Federalist, Paul said that if the GOP wins the Senate and he becomes chairman of the committee, he’ll pursue investigations to hold people accountable for funding this research.
Iran and al Qaeda have quietly forged a strategic terror alliance
The man likely to become al Qaeda’s next leader has spent decades using Iran as a base of operations and maintains deep ties to the hardline regime, signaling that two of the globe’s leading terrorist forces could exponentially expand relations in the near future.
Saif al-Adel, al Qaeda’s number two leader and longtime head of its security arm, fled to Iran in the early 2000s, along with other senior leaders, following the September 11 attacks. From there, he helped relay orders from the just-killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and orchestrate terrorist operations that killed dozens of people, including Americans, according to former U.S. officials and information on the Iran-al Qaeda axis published by a watchdog group.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) protected al-Adel during his time in the country, and the regime permitted him to plan deadly terror attacks, including a May 2003 operation in Saudi Arabia that killed eight Americans. “Adel’s suspected presence in Iran has raised further questions regarding Iranian influence on al Qaeda if Adel were to be named leader,” according to United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), an advocacy group that closely tracks Iran’s regional terror operations.
These ties have only deepened since President Joe Biden’s bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan that left the Taliban in power and the country in shambles. Senior leaders in Iran’s Quds Force, an elite IRGC branch, remain in close contact with al Qaeda leaders, “and since the fall of Afghanistan, have provided some al Qaeda leaders with travel documents and safe haven,” according to a European intelligence analysis. The Iran-al Qaeda alliance, former U.S. officials told the Free Beacon, has quietly grown for many years, making the prospect of a new nuclear deal with Iran—which will provide Tehran with billions in cash—beneficial for its allies in al Qaeda.
“When the U.S. government enriches Iranian terrorists through sanctions relief or a lack of enforcement, that money ultimately goes back to support al Qaeda,” Gabriel Noronha, a senior Iran adviser for the State Department during the Trump administration, told the Free Beacon. “We know that Saif al-Adel has not just been living in Iran for most of the past 20 years—he’s been hosted there by the regime along with other al Qaeda operatives. Since 2015, the Iranian regime has allowed al Qaeda to establish an operational headquarters in the country, providing them with documents, passports, funding, and logistical support like safe houses.”
Al-Adel and his network of al Qaeda confidants used their time in Iran to build close “operational coordination” with Tehran’s security forces, including the IRGC. While Iran was once at odds with al Qaeda due to religious differences, that has not been the case for many years now, according to Noronha and other former U.S. officials familiar with these ties.
“These are not totally separate and distinct terrorist groups or even rivals anymore—they are part of an anti-American and anti-Western alliance,” Noronha said.
From his perch in Iran during the mid-2000s, al-Adel “was allowed by Iran to travel to Pakistan and open more contacts with other al Qaeda leaders,” according to UANI’s research, which is based on intelligence and open-source reporting. Iran’s decision to permit al-Adel and other al Qaeda operatives to freely move in the region “opens up speculation that al-Adel could establish a ‘satellite office’ for the group in Iran,” according to a 2011 AP report.
Nathan Sales, former U.S. ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism, told the Free Beacon that “contrary to expectations and contrary to conventional wisdom, the Iranian regime and al Qaeda have maintained a mutually beneficial relationship for many years.”
Iran, Sales noted, recently hosted senior al Qaeda leaders and operatives, “which is exactly what we should expect from the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism.”
The depth of these ties was first unveiled by former secretary of state Mike Pompeo in January 2021, when he disclosed publicly that a U.S. operation killed one of al Qaeda’s top leaders on the streets of Tehran in 2020.
“Al Qaeda has a new home base: the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said in a speech at the time, marking one of the first public disclosures about Iran’s deepening relationship with the terror group.
Hans-Jakob Schindler, a senior director at the Counter Extremism Project, which tracks jihadi groups, noted that al-Adel “has become very high value” since al-Zawahiri was killed, “and the Iranians usually take advantage of such situations.”
Al-Adel’s “existence in Iran and his freedom to act while in Iran will solely depend on what the Iranian regime think his value and usefulness for their aims is,” Schindler said.
ANALYSIS – I have argued that one of the most significant collateral benefits of Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has been to unify and strengthen NATO, not only against Russia but also against Putin’s greatest ally, Communist China, led by Xi Jinping.
While individual NATO countries were taking an increasingly complex line against China since President Donald Trump put confronting China front and center in U.S. strategy, Putin’s war (and China’s open support for Russia) pushed NATO to officially place China in its latest’ Strategic Concept’ planning paper.
This is a significant development. The U.S. can’t face China alone.
It also highlights the direct link more Europeans see between Russia’s assault on Ukraine and a similar Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
In its China Watcher newsletter, Politico, explains what this means and asks whether NATO can face off both threats simultaneously. It writes:
Congratulations to President XI JINPING. It’s official. China made it into NATO’s first revamped Strategic Concept in over a decade, formally adopted at last week’s Madrid summit.
NATO pointed to the “systemic challenges” that the People’s Republic of China poses while also holding out an olive branch for “constructive engagement.” Yet the language was tough, referring to Beijing’s “coercive policies” that challenge NATO’s “interests, security and values” as well as the PRC’s “malicious hybrid and cyber operations.”
In the bigger strategic picture, however, it is NATO’s depiction of Beijing and Moscow’s ever closer partnership that raises the largest concerns. NATO is not yet referring to a China-Russia “bloc” in its Strategic Concept, but it is clearly alerting the world’s democracies to the scale of the challenge they now face.
Enter the word “capacity.” Do the U.S. and its allies — especially in Europe — really have the resources and the willpower to hold the line if they are taking on Russia and China at once? The West is now locked in a confrontation over Ukraine that, absent regime change in Moscow, is likely to continue for year after dreary year without a clean and decisive conclusion.
Robin Shepard adds:
NATO firmly rejects the suggestion that China and Russia together are too much to handle. SpokespersonOana Lungescutold China Watcher: “Both authoritarian regimes are pushing back against the international rules-based order, so we are strengthening NATO in an era of strategic competition and deepening our partnerships with like-minded nations around the world, including our Indo-Pacific partners.… NATO does not have the luxury of choosing our challenges, we must face them all.”
The inclusion of China on NATO’s Strategic Concept has rattled the Communists in Beijing, especially as it follows the first NATO summit in June that included Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
China’s mouthpiece, the Global Times, railed at this Aisa-focused summit, saying: “Catering to NATO’s Asia-Pacificization is tantamount to inviting wolves into the house.… The sewage of the Cold War cannot be allowed to flow into the Pacific Ocean.”
This is all welcome news for the West, but it will take a lot more than just talk and papers.
NATO will have to do much more to rebuild its military capabilities if it genuinely intends to back the U.S. and its Asian allies in facing the Chinese Red Dragon.
Congressional Republicans on Friday launched a formal probe into the Biden administration over its decision to alter federal law so that individuals tied to terrorist organizations can more easily enter the United States.
The investigation, led by House Armed Services Committee member Jim Banks (R., Ind.), comes on the heels of a Washington Free Beacon report last month that detailed how the administration amended federal immigration law to permit foreigners who provided “insufficient material support” to designated terrorist organizations to receive “immigration benefits or other status” inside America.
The State Department said the law was altered to make it easier for vulnerable Afghans who might have worked with terror groups to find refuge in America, but current and former U.S. officials who spoke to the Free Beacon said the rule is so broadly written that it could also apply to those who worked with al Qaeda or Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the country’s paramilitary fighting force that has killed hundreds of Americans.
“These loose and overly broad definitions will open the floodgates for supporters of terrorism to enter the United States,” Banks and three Republican colleagues wrote in a letter to the White House that was obtained exclusively by the Free Beacon. “Such a general waiver, if implemented, would create additional difficulty in immigration vetting process, have catastrophic consequences on border security and put American families at increased risk from terrorism.”
The lawmakers—Banks and Reps. Claudia Tenney (R., N.Y.), Greg Steube (R., Fla.), and Rob Wittman (R., Va.)—want the administration to provide Congress with information about whether this rule change was implemented as a concession to Iran meant to entice the country into inking a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear accord.
“This order was also released just weeks before negotiations with Iran over restoring the nuclear deal recommenced,” they write. “Your administration may be trying to entice Iran back to the nuclear deal by using broad executive authorities to weaken the penalties connected to the [foreign terrorist organization] designation without requiring the IRGC and other Iran-supported terrorist organizations to verifiably cease their terrorist activities.”
The State Department, which along with the Department of Homeland Security authored the rule change, said the changes are part of “an effort to address issues related to Afghanistan. The circumstances between Afghanistan and Iran are very different.”
The rule does not specifically mention Afghanistan, however, and appears to cover all U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations, such as the IRGC and al Qaeda, according to lawmakers and former senior U.S. officials who reviewed the order and spoke to the Free Beacon. The Taliban is not designated as a foreign terrorist organization, adding more confusion.
Examples of individuals who would fall into the new category include those who provided “humanitarian assistance” or “routine commercial transactions” to designated terror groups, according to a copy of the rule published in the Federal Register.
“Exercising broad executive authorities to weaken the legal force of [foreign terrorist organization] designations is bound to increase risks to U.S. national security,” the lawmakers say.
The lawmakers asked the administration to explain by July 22 why it altered immigration laws.
They want to know how the administration justifies these changes and how it could possibly support “the national interest to allow any supporters of terrorism into the United States.”
They also want to know how many individuals have qualified for immigration benefits under the rule change and how many could qualify each year. This includes details about how many of these terror-tied individuals are from Afghanistan and Iran.
“If, as the State Department spokesperson commented, this order is intended to benefit Afghan Special Immigration Visa applicants and holders, why is this group not explicitly mentioned?” the lawmakers ask.
“Does your administration intend to issue any immigration related waivers for IRGC and its affiliates? If, as State Department spokesperson commented, this order is not intended to benefit the IRGC and its affiliates, why are IRGC and its affiliates not explicitly excluded from this order?”
Biden's Energy Department said move would 'support American consumers' and combat 'Putin's price hike'
The Biden administration sold roughly one million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to a Chinese state-controlled gas giant that continues to purchase Russian oil, a move the Energy Department said would “support American consumers” and combat “Putin’s price hike.”
Biden’s Energy Department in April announced the sale of 950,000 Strategic Petroleum Reserve barrels to Unipec, the trading arm of the China Petrochemical Corporation. That company, which is commonly known as Sinopec, is wholly owned by the Chinese government. The Biden administration claimed the move would “address the pain Americans are feeling at the pump” and “help lower energy costs.” More than five million barrels of oil released from the U.S. emergency reserves, however, were sent overseas last month, according to a Wednesday Reuters report. At least one shipment of American crude went to China, the report said.
The Biden administration also claimed the Unipec sale would “support American consumers and the global economy in response to Vladimir Putin’s war of choice against Ukraine” and combat “Putin’s price hike.” But as the war rages on, Unipec has continued to purchase Russian oil. In May, for example, the company “significantly increased the number of hired tankers to ship a key crude from eastern Russia,” Bloomberg reported. That decision came roughly one month after Unipec said it would purchase “no more Russian oil going forward” once “shipments that have arrived in March and due to arrive in April” were fulfilled.
The White House did not return a request for comment. Its decision to sell barrels from the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to a Chinese conglomerate comes as the American public increasingly sours on Biden’s energy policies. According to a January Gallup poll, roughly three in four Americans are not satisfied with the federal government’s national energy policy, the highest level in roughly two decades.
Power the Future founder Daniel Turner admonished Biden for selling “raw materials to the Communist Chinese for them to use as they want.”
“We were assured Biden was releasing this oil to America so it could be refined for gasoline to drive down prices at the pump. So right off the bat, they’re just lying to the American people,” Turner told the Washington Free Beacon. “What they’re saying they did and what they did are not remotely related.”
Turner also said the decision highlights the Biden family’s “relationship with China.” Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, is tied to Sinopec. In 2015, a private equity firm he cofounded bought a $1.7 billion stake in Sinopec Marketing. Sinopec went on to enter negotiations to purchase Gazprom in March, one month after the Biden administration sanctioned the Russian gas giant.
Biden campaigned heavily against the oil and gas industry in 2020, promising to “end fossil fuel.” He went on to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline and implement a moratorium on new gas leases on federal land during his first month in office. Biden’s energy secretary, meanwhile, is working with left-wing activists who want to eliminate fossil fuels, and in late October, House Oversight and Reform Committee Democrats pushed top oil executives to produce less gas due to climate change.
Gas prices have since soared to record highs. In mid June, the national average for a gallon of gas surpassed $5 for the first time ever. Still, the White House has assured Americans that they need to pay high gas prices to support the “liberal world order.”
“What do you say to those families that say, ‘Listen, we can’t afford to pay $4.85 a gallon for months, if not years?'” CNN anchor Victor Blackwell asked Biden economic adviser Brian Deese in late June. “This is about the future of the liberal world order and we have to stand firm,” Deese responded.
Biden's drift and weakness
“Which way am I going?” asked President Biden when he ended Thursday’s press conference at the NATO summit in Madrid. He began to exit stage right, before someone redirected him toward stage left. This combination of ignorance and indecision was not new. Throughout his 18 months as president, Biden has been confused, uncertain, sluggish. He behaves as if he is guided by unseen forces. He moves on a course set by hidden captains.
People notice. Every time I speak to a conservative audience, I am asked who is really in charge in the White House. My answer has been that the president is in command. After all, institutions take on the character of their leaders. If all the White House has to offer is excuses, if decisions are made either slowly or randomly, if the communications team and the president and vice president seem to live on different planets, if incompetence and mismanagement appear throughout the government, it is because the chief executive allows it. No conspiracy is required to explain the ineptitude. This is Joe Biden we are talking about.
Lately, though, I have been having second thoughts. Not that Barack Obama or Ron Klain or Dr. Jill are running the show in secret. What I have been wondering, instead, is whether anyone is leading the government at all. There is no power, either overt or covert, in or behind the throne. The throne is empty.
Think of the economy, the border, and Ukraine. From time to time, Biden addresses these issues. He may even answer questions about them. The White House sends out press releases describing its latest initiatives. Vice President Harris or the second gentleman pops up somewhere to talk about all the good she and he are doing.
Yet each of these elements—the president, his staff, his spokesperson, his vice president, his policy—comes across as disconnected, discombobulated, as if each inhabits a separate sphere of activity. Whether because of Biden’s age, or his weekend trips to Delaware, or years of remote work, or lower-level staff turnover, or a painstakingly slow decision-making process, or ideological stubbornness, or a lack of a strategic plan, this administration drifts from crisis to crisis, and from one bad headline to the next. And nothing improves.
The June 29 Reuters/Ipsos poll has Biden’s job approval rating at 38 percent. By far, Americans say the economy, unemployment, and jobs are the most important problems facing the country. What is Biden’s plan? He blames Vladimir Putin and the energy industry for high gas prices. He says it’s the Federal Reserve’s job to reduce inflation. He asks Middle East autocrats to pump more oil rather than easing the burden on domestic fossil fuel production. He wants more spending, more tax hikes, more regulation. Will Congress give him what he wants? Okay, you can stop laughing.
The result: America slouches toward stagflation because the alternative—reducing (non-China) tariffs, suspending “Buy American” provisions, reversing his entire energy policy, dropping his tax plans, committing to spending cuts—is unacceptable to the president.
Earlier this week, authorities found at least 50 dead people in a tractor-trailer on the side of a road in El Paso, Texas. The victims were illegal immigrants who had paid human traffickers to bring them to the United States. This ghastly discovery was a reminder of illegal immigration’s human toll, and of the inadequacy of Biden’s migration policies. One reporter asked White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for her response to Republican critics. “The fact of the matter is the border is closed,” Jean-Pierre said, “which is in part why you see people trying to make this dangerous journey using smuggling networks.”
Closed? Unauthorized crossings hit another milestone in May, when Border Patrol encountered some 239,000 individuals. At that time, however, authorities could expel illegal migrants under public health regulation Title 42. The status of the Remain in Mexico program was unclear. Biden, of course, wants to end Title 42, and the Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that he has the authority to shut down Remain in Mexico. If you think the border is “closed” now, just wait.
Biden could explain to the nation why it is in our interest to admit as many asylum-seekers as possible, even if a rise in illegal entries and in cross-border human and drug trafficking is the consequence. Or he could admit that his policies are responsible for a humanitarian disaster and withdraw his earlier executive orders. Or he could use whatever political capital he has left to pass an immigration reform bill that combines legal pathways to entry with workplace enforcement. But he won’t do anything. Why? Because he is either satisfied with the situation or simply overwhelmed by it. Neither option is reassuring. And the problem grows worse.
Where Biden is most engaged is Ukraine. He warned against the invasion, rallied NATO against Russia, encouraged Sweden and Finland to join the Western alliance, and committed America to supply Ukraine with aid and weapons. “The generic point is that we’re supplying them with the capacity—and the overwhelming courage they’ve demonstrated—that, in fact, they can continue to resist the Russian aggression,” Biden told reporters Thursday. “And so, I don’t know what—how it’s going to end, but it will not end with a Russian defeat of Ukraine in Ukraine.”
Shouldn’t the leader of the Free World have some idea of how this brutal conflict might end? The war has taken a horrible human toll. Its effects on energy and food markets have been devastating. The goal should be to end the war.
How? Not by giving Putin what he wants. By giving Ukraine what it needs to push Russia back to the pre-war line of control. A Russia on defense is more likely to sue for peace.
Biden makes this prospect more difficult by limiting the systems we provide to Ukraine, by dribbling them out over time, and by insisting that we won’t provide Ukraine with weapons that could strike targets inside Russia. From the start of the war, Biden has been more interested in signaling to Russia what he won’t do than in causing Putin to fear what he might do. His self-constraint extends the fighting rather than shortens it and provides Russia the space for its slow roll through eastern and southern Ukraine. The war has become another disaster that Biden allows to play out in the background, in between bike rides and scoops of ice cream from Starkey’s.
American aid to Ukraine is just and necessary. Since 1947, the policy of the United States has been to “support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” But Biden won’t be able to sustain the domestic support for American involvement in a years-long war of attrition. He needs to match his actions with his words and drop his inhibitions on the aid we provide the Ukrainians. And he could do so while launching a peace initiative, thereby restoring coercive diplomacy as a tool of American foreign policy.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Decisive leadership is not Joe Biden’s calling card. And so, the crises continue to mount. And Americans are left with feelings of aimlessness and fear.
Biden must abandon his quest for a nuclear deal
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about: This week Iran escalated its war against the West.
On June 8 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) passed a resolution calling on Iran to explain traces of uranium that it found at three undisclosed sites of nuclear activity. Hours before the IAEA vote, Iran disconnected security cameras from one of its declared nuclear sites. Then Iran began taking down IAEA cameras throughout its territory. The world’s nuclear watchdog is flying blind. “When we lose this,” IAEA director Rafael Mariano Grossi told reporters, “then it’s anybody’s guess” what Iran is doing.
But we know what Iran is doing. Iran is playing hardball. For over a year now, the Biden administration and its European partners have attempted to lure Iran back into the 2015 nuclear deal, a.k.a. the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Those negotiations have failed. Iran keeps upping the ante. It wants Biden to drop sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its terrorist army, and to guarantee that future presidents won’t back out of the deal. The first demand is harmful to national security and a political hot potato. The second is impossible. Result: deadlock.
Deadlock that favors Iran. The mullahs have used the months of jaw-jaw to prepare for war-war. Ayatollah Khamenei has placed radicals in top positions, including the presidency. His proxy forces have spread violence in Iraq, Yemen, and throughout the Greater Middle East. He has plotted to assassinate U.S. officials. He has evaded sanctions. And he has built up his stockpile of nuclear fuel.
Iran has enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. Last week, David Albright and Sarah Burkhard of the Institute for Science and International Security (the good ISIS) wrote that “Iran’s breakout timeline is now at zero.”
Swell. How does President Biden respond? He says there is still time to make a deal that even his lead negotiator, State Department official Robert Malley, admits is “tenuous at best.”
The complacency is maddening. The other day, when a reporter asked National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan for his thoughts on Iran’s dispute with the IAEA, Sullivan said, “From our perspective, we have to view these on separate tracks, and that’s how we’re going to proceed.” Translation: We won’t let Iran’s hostile behavior get in the way of appeasement.
On June 9, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Iran’s moves against the IAEA are “counterproductive and further complicate our efforts to return to full implementation of the JCPOA.” Also, the sky is blue. What’s Blinken going to do about it? “We continue to press Iran to choose diplomacy and de-escalation instead,” he said.
This is willful blindness. Iran made its choice. It rejected diplomacy and de-escalation. It opted for confrontation and resistance.
Yet America is too preoccupied, too distracted, too overwhelmed to act accordingly. Inflation, crime, the border, guns, abortion, and Ukraine command the public’s attention. The growing danger from Iran does not. Meanwhile, the secretary of defense is a background player. The secretary of state and the national security adviser are staffers, not independent leaders. The president is 79 years old and not good at his job. This moment demands confidence, willfulness, boldness, imagination, and risk. What we get are odd ramblings from Biden on Kimmel.
Things must change. Iran policy is a good—and urgent—place to start. Step one is to face reality. Close the open hand that the ayatollah has spat upon. Demand enactment of snap-back sanctions. Adopt the bipartisan Senate bill that would integrate air and missile defenses in the Greater Middle East. Call for a massive defense buildup. Ease restrictions, limits, and delays on lend-lease to Ukraine, then take the same approach to arming Israel and our Gulf partners (as well as Taiwan). Recognize the importance of the Abraham Accords as the foundation for regional stability. And revive the military option to demonstrate our seriousness.
The drift toward global disorder began after former president Obama decided not to enforce his red line against chemical weapons in Syria. That was almost a decade ago. One way to repair the jagged breach in American credibility and American deterrence would be to make good on our longstanding promise that Iran won’t obtain the world’s most terrible weapon.
The current path leads to a world where America is ignored, where Israel’s existence is threatened, and where the risk of nuclear war is greater than it is even today. We’ve been telling ourselves for a while that such a world would be unacceptable. Let’s act like it.
The president’s budget doesn’t match U.S. commitments
War was in the background of President Biden’s trip to Asia last week. He redeployed U.S. forces to Somalia before he left. He signed into law $40 billion in financial and military assistance to Ukraine during his visit to South Korea. Then, in Japan, a reporter asked Biden if he was prepared to “get involved militarily to defend Taiwan.” Biden’s answer was succinct. “Yes,” he said.
Forget the clumsy White House reaction to Biden’s moment of lucidity. Leave aside the question of whether the United States should move from a policy of strategic ambiguity, where our response to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is left undefined, to a policy of strategic clarity where we let China know the direct consequences of such an attack.
Consider instead the following: Does the Pentagon have the resources to defend democracies from autocrats in two hemispheres?
Afraid not. The Pentagon ditched the “two-front” war preparedness strategy under Barack Obama. Meanwhile U.S. defense spending as a percentage of the economy has been in decline for decades. Biden has shown little interest in changing its downward course. Indeed, the one place where he’s been reluctant to spend money is national defense.
Biden’s fiscal year 2022 request of $715 billion was too small even for the Democratic Congress. It ended up authorizing $728.5 billion. Biden’s fiscal year 2023 request is for $773 billion. Maybe that seems like a hefty sum. It’s not. Biden’s defense budget is meager compared with the tasks the president has set out.
Why? Part of the reason is inflation. The Biden budget request paints a rosy—and inaccurate—scenario. My American Enterprise Institute colleague Mackenzie Eaglen has run the numbers. She begins with the $773 billion marked for the Pentagon. “Using a more honest 7.46 percent CPI [Consumer Price Index] estimate (the FY22 average so far) for military personnel raises the topline to $794.5 billion needed next year,” she writes.
That still isn’t enough, however. “$846 billion in FY 2023 is a more realistic down payment on matching defense investments against national security threats,” Eaglen concludes, “and should be the starting point as Congress builds a more accurate defense budget.” In other words, Eaglen recommends a 9 percent increase in the Biden administration’s topline before Congress and its appropriators become involved. Her proposal makes sense. It’s necessary. And it won’t happen.
It won’t happen for several reasons. The first is inertia. None of the threats we encountered or fear we might encounter in the post-Cold War world have provoked the people’s representatives to increase defense spending to Reagan-era levels. The political willpower doesn’t exist. Entitlements and interest on the debt act as additional constraints. We’ve muddled through for 30 years, this thinking goes. No need to stop now.
The second brake on defense spending is the Progressive bias against hard power. By the 2024 election, America will have been governed by presidents skeptical of defense spending and the military for 12 of the past 16 years. Such leadership has an effect not only on materiel but also on the culture of the national security establishment. Progressives under Obama and Biden see the Pentagon more as a vehicle for social policy and geopolitical featherbedding than as an instrument of deterrence and the national interest. Left-wing taboos against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, oil and gas, and the warrior mindset take precedent over military readiness and lethality. The president overrules the secretary of defense and joint chiefs. America grows weaker even as its leader calls for greater global activism.
Noninterventionism and restraint on the foreign policy right creates a bipartisan reluctance to spend more on defense. President Trump increased defense spending, but not by enough. His administration was filled with skeptics of American engagement and foreign intervention who wanted to reduce not only the Pentagon’s budget but also its influence throughout the world. Republican voices in Congress promote an “America First” foreign policy that would constrict U.S. deployments, aid, and partnerships.
About a quarter of the House GOP and a fifth of the Senate GOP, for example, voted against the latest aid package to Ukraine. Granted, this batch of aid seemed designed to split conservatives, who have a longstanding aversion to unconditional economic assistance. The vote stands as a warning for both liberal and conservative internationalists, nonetheless. The bipartisan consensus over Ukraine may not survive a prolonged war of attrition.
You correct a mismatch between resources and commitments by increasing resources or decreasing commitments. President Biden resists increasing resources for national defense, while powerful elements of both left and right work to reduce American commitments. Neither strategy makes America safer. Someone needs to make the case for a major U.S. defense buildup in response to the challenges of China, Russia, and Iran. And they need to do it soon.
As the rest of the world reeled from the COVID pandemic in 2020, it looked like China had things under control. Americans and Europeans sheltered in place, while the Chinese enjoyed pool parties and weddings. The World Health Organization concluded in a February 2020 report: “China’s bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic. This decline in COVID-19 cases across China is real.”
Turns out, China’s “bold approach” wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. For weeks now, the country’s Communist leaders have imposed lockdowns on some of its largest cities to grapple with a spike in hospitalizations. China’s COVID vaccines are far less effective than those developed and produced in America and Europe. Despite state censorship, cell phone videos of average citizens yelling at the authorities have gone viral (so to speak). People don’t have enough to eat. They are imprisoned in their own apartments. Meanwhile, even the bluest cities in America are lifting mask mandates.
None of this should surprise anyone. On the one hand, China invests a great deal in trying to convince the rest of the world that it should be feared, and its leader, Xi Jinping, has accumulated increasing power.
But the regime has also blundered. Xi this year signed a sweeping pact with Vladimir Putin on the eve of Russia’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine. And China is gaining little from picking a fight with India in the Himalayan Mountains.
What Xi and his apparats do not understand is that every time they bully a neighbor or con an international organization, they are making a strong argument to weaker states that it is better to align with America than to accept Chinese hegemony. When the rest of the world sees that Beijing cannot control a virus that likely originated from one of the regime’s biological laboratories, that case gains strength.
None of this is to say that America should not prepare to confront China in the coming years. The Chinese have surpassed us in hypersonic weapons technology. China’s military buildup is real. But just as the world is now learning through Russia’s blunders in Ukraine just how incompetent and corrupt the Russian Army is, we should not assume a military untested in battle will be as menacing as Chinese propaganda would have us believe.
Totalitarian regimes look fearsome right until they crumble. Xi’s is unlikely to be any different.
Inaction by the Biden administration and an aversion towards long-term strategic policy goals has put the United States in an exceedingly vulnerable position, with China and our adversaries aggressively advancing their plans to overtake the United States on the world stage.
Our nation’s current leadership has failed to act on forward-thinking initiatives to strengthen the economic and national security of America. It is imperative that new voices be sent to Washington who recognize future challenges and implement strategic plans to protect the wellbeing of American industry, security and freedom.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict underscores the need for a comprehensive plan to confront geopolitical and domestic challenges before they arise. This conflict was driven by Joe Biden’s withdrawal of United States Energy Independence at the world stage, all while the intelligence community and lawmakers having advance knowledge of a Russian invasion into Ukraine. Instead of acting to deter the Russian threat, lawmakers and the Biden administration failed to issue a preemptive sanction package. By lacking the foresight and courage to act, Biden disgraced American diplomacy and strength on the world stage.
It’s paramount that our next class of lawmakers address the needs of tomorrow’s America and develop long-term policies that strengthen United States national security and economic interests. I led the fight for energy independence and stood with President Trump’s successful policies by suing the Biden administration over the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline and filed suit against Biden’s disastrous ‘Social Cost of Greenhouse Gas’ rule. We must strengthen the American energy sector, and never become a pawn of another nation’s exports.
The lab leak in Wuhan, China exposed critical vulnerabilities in our country’s national security and economy. As Missouri Attorney General, I’ve fought China at every turn, suing the Communist Chinese Party in 2020 to hold them accountable for unleashing COVID-19 on the United States. But more must be done. We must eliminate funding for gain of function research, as seen in the NIH-funded Wuhan lab. The United States, through financing the NIH lab in Wuhan, placed an economic weapon in the hands of our greatest adversary.
This is an unacceptable lack of foresight our country can never allow to happen again. In the U.S. Senate, I will be relentless in my pursuit to hold accountable, whether foreign or domestic, those responsible for unleashing the pandemic on the world.Through Iran-Contra-like investigations, I will ensure that our enemies will never have the opportunity to use American research funding against us again.
Energy independence and opposing China, along with the foresight and willingness to take on these big fights like President Trump did so effectively is what our country needs, with the threat to our nation at the highest point in decades. International turmoil, rising inflation, and economic stagnation embolden our enemies and have been perpetuated by the Biden administration. We must do better. We need fighters. And we need long-term solutions. That’s why I’m running for the United States Senate.
The U.S. Air Force now has 57 new, high tech refueling tankers with more in the proverbial pipeline to replace its aging fleet of Eisenhower-era tankers. While tankers don’t generally capture the headlines, without a capable tanker to do mid-air refueling, the reach of our military’s bombers, fighters, and reconnaissance planes are cut dramatically. Simply put, tankers allow America’s warfighters to stay in the air and on target longer and without making extra trips back to the home base to refuel. And the KC-46 is operating right now refueling military aircraft over Poland and Germany that are protecting NATO as war wages nearby in Ukraine. The modernized KC-46 tankers are the most capable on the planet, and are more fuel efficient and can deliver fuel to every single aircraft in our arsenal. That means they are better for the taxpayer, the environment, and the warfighter.
Our nation’s military leaders estimate that we will need about 480 tankers to entirely replace America’s aging fleet and meet our defensive needs. As with all military equipment, many years or even decades from now, we will likely replace the KC-46 tanker, just as we are now doing. However, for the fights of today and the generation to come, the KC-46 is the world’s most capable and robust tanker. It’s also cost-effective at a time when budgets are being spread thin.
Given what has happened in recent years, it is clear that we have a lot of pressing national security budgetary needs. We will need to expand our missile defense and deterrence capabilities and make sure we have the tools to deter Chinese and Russian aggression as well as deter rogue states like North Korea and Iran. In times like these, we can’t afford to waste billions of dollars to buy a less advanced foreign tanker, let alone the years of development and testing it will take to upgrade it to the capability of an aircraft we already own. Doing that would simply divert money from other pressing needs which would have the impact of endangering our nation — not protecting it.
Development of military hardware is an expensive and time consuming process. And adding a whole host of changes and upgrades to bring a foreign tanker up to U.S. military standards would be a major development program with all the same risks of the unknown and the unproven. If the Pentagon starts down that path on another tanker today, it likely won’t roll off the assembly line for close to a decade. By that time, the Air Force will be looking to next generation tankers that are unmanned, stealthy, and able to fly places a wide body aircraft never will. In the meantime, if the Pentagon wants new technology or capability built into the new KC-46, that can easily be done. l
Some Pentagon officials want to pursue a relationship with Airbus. That would be a mistake. Even as Russia wages war against Ukraine, threatens expanded war against the Western world, and even threatens nuclear escalation, Airbus continues to buy titanium from Russia. In contrast, U.S.-based Boeing has announced that it is ceasing Russian titanium buys.
But that’s not the only reason the U.S. should be wary of entering into business with Airbus. The company has a long history of scandal and corruption. In the United Kingdom, for example, investigations have exposed massive bribery scandals. French investigations have also uncovered evidence of corruption. Additionally, Airbus has paid billions in fines because it has engaged in bribery schemes around the globe.
Moreover, Airbus has cost Americans thousands of high-paying aerospace jobs by violating trade laws and trade agreements. It doesn’t make sense defensively or economically to outsource our high tech capabilities and make our nation more dependent upon unreliable and untrustworthy trading partners.
“Buy American” is a mantra being repeated far and wide by the White House and others, from newsrooms to manufacturers. It’s merits can be debated, but the reality is that it makes no sense at all to choose to make ourselves dependent upon other nations for the things we absolutely must have to survive in a dangerous world. For example, missile defense technology and national security technology must be 100% American.
The KC-46 tanker is the most capable in the world. It is new and in the coming years if it needs updates, it can be achieved at a minimal cost. There is simply no real benefit to our war fighters, our taxpayers, or our nation to start developing a foreign tanker, especially given the current global environment.
The U.S. has a lot of work to do in other areas of national security to ensure that Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran pose no serious danger to our nation. When you consider all the facts, it becomes clear we need a new tanker built by Airbus like we need a gasoline powered turtleneck sweater.
The Biden administration is ending missile tests against defunct spy satellites, making the United States the first world power to do so.
In a Monday speech at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, Vice President Kamala Harris said the United States will no longer conduct the “dangerous” missile tests, which scatter debris in space that could threaten astronauts, weather and GPS satellites, and U.S. military interests.
The announcement comes after Russia in November destroyed a Soviet-era satellite with a missile, a decision Harris called “reckless” and “irresponsible.” The United States and China have not conducted a missile test in more than 10 years. About a dozen have been conducted since 1960 by the United States, China, India, and Russia.
Rep. Mike Waltz (R., Fla.), a member of the House’s Armed Services Committee and Science, Space, and Technology Committee, said the decision “handicaps” the United States’ ability to “deter future conflicts.”
“While the Chinese Communist Party launches more into space than the rest of the world combined, the Biden administration has opted to diminish our space capabilities by banning anti-satellite missile tests,” Waltz said. “We deter future conflicts by showing the capabilities to confront and defeat our enemies, not by hoping the CCP and Russia will cease military tests after the United States does. The Biden administration should understand this decision only handicaps the United States and reverse course immediately.”
Iran won’t back down from its assassination campaign targeting former U.S. officials over the killing of General Qasem Soleimani, a top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander said.
IRGC navy commander Alireza Tangsiri said that Iran would not accept a deal whereby the U.S. would lift terrorism sanctions in exchange for Iranian pledges to “give up on avenging Soleimani,” Reuters reported yesterday. Tangsiri, Reuters added, seemed to be speaking specifically about Iran’s demand that the U.S. remove the IRGC from its Foreign Terrorist Organization list, which bans members of the group from entering the U.S.
“This is pure fantasy. The Supreme Leader has emphasized the need for revenge and the Revolutionary Guards’ top commander has said that revenge is inevitable and that we will choose the time and place for it,” Tangsiri said.
When Iranian officials talk about avenging Soleimani’s death, they are understood to be referring to their efforts to kill Trump administration officials who planned the Soleimani operation.
Tangsiri’s comments are an indication that Tehran continues to take a hard line on its demands that the Biden administration lift the FTO designation — which has brought the talks in Geneva to a standstill.
They also demonstrate that Iran has no intention of backing down from its ongoing assassination plots, even if the Biden administration were to lift the FTO designation and return to the deal.
The Iranian government has made a number of threats targeting former U.S. officials over the Soleimani killing.
To mark the two-year anniversary of the strike in January, Iran placed 52 U.S. officials it said were involved in the Soleimani strike on a sanctions blacklist believed to double as a list of people to target for assassination. In another memorable instance that month, the country’s supreme leader even shared a video depicting Trump’s assassination on the Mar-a-Lago golf course.
Meanwhile, a number of former senior U.S. officials, including John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, have reportedly been assigned security details beyond their government service. The intelligence community believes that Iranian agents are working to assassinate the two officials on U.S. soil, the Washington Examiner’s Tom Rogan reported last month.
The Biden administration’s response to these Iranian assassination threats, besides the protective details, has largely been symbolic.
Although national-security adviser Jake Sullivan issued a statement in January pledging to inflict “severe consequences” on Iran in response to any assassinations, the U.S. has not withdrawn from the nuclear negotiations in Vienna over the ongoing threats to former officials. Instead, the administration has continued to participate in the talks, despite Iran’s demands to remove the IRGC from the FTO list.
In fact, there’s reason to believe that the administration is holding back from taking steps that would name and shame Iranians involved in these assassination plots for fear of disrupting the nuclear talks.
Rogan reported that the Department of Justice possesses indictable evidence against at least two IRGC members who are working to recruit a U.S.-based assassin to kill Bolton. (While Rogan noted that the department may have opted for a sealed indictment, he called the possibility unlikely.)
Those efforts haven’t prompted the White House to scrap the nuclear talks, and neither have Tangsiri’s recent comments.
Even as a top Iranian commander doubled down on his country’s assassination threats, the Biden administration has opted for continued engagement toward an agreement that would undeniably empower the IRGC.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has raised concerns about SpaceX’s plans to put more than 30,000 Starlink satellites into orbit to create its satellite internet system.
To put that into perspective, Sputnik was launched 65 years ago and there are less than 3,000 functioning satellites orbiting the Earth. NASA questions whether SpaceX’s automated collision avoidance system would be effective given the dramatic increase of satellites that would be in orbit.
While SpaceX claims there is “zero risk” of its Starlink satellites colliding with other satellites or spacecraft, NASA sees that calculation as dangerously misguided.
As proof that NASA is right, in 2019, there was a potential collision (the risk was 10 times higher than the threshold requiring a collision avoidance maneuver) involving a Starlink satellite. SpaceX did nothing to avoid the collision with a European Space Agency (“ESA”) satellite. So it was left to the ESA to avoid the collision.
SpaceX blamed its failure to take any action or even respond to the possible collision on an email snafu. That doesn’t instill confidence.
Elon Musk has made headlines with Tesla electric cars, SpaceX’s Falcon rockets and SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service. But there has been a consistent question about safety and taking short cuts.
Problems and collisions with Musk’s automated or driverless cars have been blamed on others with little recognition of the shortcomings of the vehicles’ safety systems. Likewise, SpaceX’s Falcon rockets have had a number of explosions that destroyed the rocket and cargo, yet SpaceX has been opaque about its failures and cavalier about safety concerns.
While the promise of expanding high-speed broadband internet all over the globe via satellite is promising, the issue of space junk and debris is a growing safety concern. And it has life and death consequences and could become an economic disaster as well.
Space debris, satellites, and spacecraft are carefully tracked so that potential collisions can be predicted and avoided. Transparency and communication are needed because when a satellite’s trajectory is changed to avoid a collision, new collisions become possible — like on a crowded freeway, swerving to miss a pothole could create other accidents.
Similarly, if two satellites have collision avoidance systems, it is helpful if they can predictably do their avoidance jobs so that they don’t accidentally both adjust themselves into the path of the other and thus fail to avoid the collision.
Government space agencies and space sustainability experts have noted that Starlink’s planned constellation of satellites is a threat to satellite safety, including the International Space Station (ISS). And NASA says that launch safety windows become much smaller when the number of objects flying around the earth at 18,000 miles per hour dramatically increases.
A study concludes that SpaceX’s satellites have been involved in about 1,600 close or highly risky collision encounters which turns out is about 50% of all possible collisions. Imagine what happens if SpaceX increases by more than 16 times the number of satellites it has in orbit.
These collisions are a problem not merely because the two satellites would be destroyed, but because the collision would create a dense field of space junk and debris which would continue to orbit around the planet at speeds of up to 18,000 miles per hour. Even a small chunk of metal (like a nut or a bolt) can do considerable damage traveling at that high speed.
A typical 9 mm handgun shoots a relatively small bullet at about 820 miles per hour. So imagine the energy and damage that could be done by an object traveling about 20 times faster. And imagine many thousands or even millions of pieces of space debris that can be created when two satellites collide and the dramatic increased risk of future collisions that would ensue.
Given Musk’s track record of being a bit cavalier about safety concerns and passing the buck when safety issues are raised, we should be careful about blindly jumping on board with his plans.
While there is a great deal of promise in expanded satellite systems that could revolutionize communications, we must make sure we don’t make satellite technology nearly impossible to maintain because of massive space debris fields that could have been avoided with responsible and transparent safety systems.
If the U.S.’s national security satellites or our communications satellites were at risk because of some Russian oligarch’s irresponsible space launches or because of the totalitarian Chinese regime’s provocative actions in space, it seems safe to say that we would not cheer them on. So perhaps we should expect more from Elon Musk, SpaceX, and Starlink.
As NASA points out, it isn’t asking too much that the project be “conducted prudently, in a manner that supports spaceflight safety and the long-term sustainability of the space environment.” And if we would expect this of Russia and China, we should expect this of American companies as well.
The president has an unerring instinct to make problems worse
“This is a wartime bridge to increase oil supply into production,” President Biden said during his announcement Thursday that he would release more barrels of oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve than at any point in American history. His decision was also a concession. None of the policies Biden has enacted throughout his short presidency have alleviated the problems they were meant to solve. Quite the opposite: In practically every case, Biden has made things worse.
Energy? Killing the Keystone pipeline was one of the first things Biden did when he took office. In February, Biden delayed approval of new oil and gas leases. He continues to blame the increase in gas prices on Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, even though prices began to rise early in Biden’s term. Biden scapegoats oil companies for sitting on profits, while he could be doing everything in his power to ramp up domestic production of available fuel sources—including nuclear.
The fallout from Putin’s war was bound to make energy scarce and thus more valuable. Biden could have lessened the pain on the American consumer by pursuing an all-of-the-above energy dominance policy from the start, and by reducing the size of the American Rescue Plan so that it didn’t contribute to inflation. He chose to ignore the warnings of economists such as former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers and followed his advisers who incorrectly predicted that inflation would be temporary. By turning to the Strategic Reserve, Biden is promoting a temporary fix while the long-term solutions are plain to see. He’s relied on similar gimmicks before. They haven’t worked.
Consider Biden’s immigration policy. He spent his early days as president tearing up President Trump’s agreements with Mexico and several Central American countries that forced asylum-seekers to stay in third-party nations while U.S. judges decided on their claims. The rush for the border was swift and ongoing. This week, Biden is expected to reverse a rule Trump enforced during the coronavirus pandemic that allowed border agents to repatriate illegal immigrants swiftly because of the public health emergency. Homeland Security officials tell the New York Times that because of Biden’s decision they are planning on unauthorized crossings to double from an already high level. Republicans must be giddy with anticipation at the coming headlines.
Immigration and the border were the first places where you saw erosion in Biden’s job approval numbers last spring. Now he’s about to do something that will undermine border security and his political standing, and for no discernible reason. The pandemic is not over. Border crossings aren’t falling. We know that Biden’s decision will attract additional illegal immigrants. Nothing about this policy makes sense.
Biden doesn’t make sense. His Europe trip was a substantive success but a stylistic failure. The Western alliance is holding. But the president gaffed his way across Eastern Europe—saying the West would respond “in kind” to a Russian chemical attack, denying the deterrent value of sanctions when his subordinates have said precisely the opposite, telling U.S. troops that they would see the horrors of war in Ukraine firsthand, then raising the possibility that America’s strategic goal is regime change in Russia. Then, when Fox’s Peter Doocy soberly asked him about these inadvisable statements, Biden denied that he had said anything problematic.
I happen to believe that the world would be a safer place if Vladimir Putin were out of power—that indeed one possible consequence of a Russian defeat in Ukraine is Putin’s demise. I also believe that presidents shouldn’t sound like me. They need to watch their public statements because, as we were reminded throughout the Trump administration, words matter. Biden’s sentiment in Warsaw was correct. His sense of timing was wrong. After all, you never get in trouble for what you don’t say. Biden’s problem is that he rarely lets his actions speak louder than his words. And the words are garbled.
People notice. They don’t like what they hear, they can’t stand what they see. The public verdict on Biden is grim. He has not benefited from a rally-around-the-flag effect. His approval rating continues to fall. He’s at 41 percent approval in the FiveThirtyEight average of polls. He fell under 40 percent approval in this week’s Marist poll. Republicans continue to lead the congressional generic ballot. Democrats recognize that the electoral battlefield has widened. Biden is running out of time to improve his standing. And he hasn’t demonstrated an ability to bounce back as president.
Biden entered office at a time of national emergency. He benefited from the public’s desire to see Donald Trump off the airwaves for the first time in years. He oversaw the successful implementation of the vaccination program Trump had started. The resilience of the American economy helped him too.
Then the situation went sideways. Biden’s problems started on the southern border, ramped up with the Delta variant of coronavirus, accelerated with inflation, spread with the debacle in Afghanistan, and haven’t abated since. His rallying of the West in support of Ukraine is laudable, but he still hasn’t done enough to help the Ukrainians and he keeps stumbling on his own message. His commitments to the left wing of his party keep him from embracing the center. And damaging leaks about the federal investigation into his son’s finances only will mount if Republicans take Congress in November.
Biden’s reliance on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is telling. This is a presidency that is running out of gas.