The Junior President from the State of Delaware

Winslow Wheeler, CounterPunch:

Joe Biden was a B-list Senator. One of multiple examples occurred in late 2002 when President George W. Bush was pushing America into an invasion of Iraq. Biden was the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but he was a non-actor in the Senate’s decision-making. Hearings he held in the Committee were inconsequential and failed to probe the speculation at the time that the case for war was fraudulent. When the legislation his committee reported to the Senate favoring war was debated there, he literally came to the chamber late, declared himself to be undecided and ultimately articulated confused reasons for supporting the invasion. No Wayne Morse or Ernest Greuning here.

Holding the vice-presidency between 2009 and 2017, the job V.P. John Nance Gardner famously described in the 1930s as “not worth a bucket of warm piss,” Biden can be excused for being as inconsequential as any other Vice-President. However, we see no real change in Biden as President on the war in Ukraine.

It’s not the herded lemming we saw in the debate over the Second Gulf War; instead, it is the opposite: a quick mouth positioning itself to the front of the existing parade. In January 2022, before Russia’s invasion while diplomacy was still somewhat alive, Biden publically opined that a “minor incursion” by Russia into Ukraine might not provoke a fulsome Western reaction. His own White House fuzzed it up it as a “gaff,” but Biden’s actual wording was much more like an offer to defuse the crisis, even if it was impromptu.

Once the shooting started, Biden veered from ad hoc deal-maker to voluble cheerleader: Putin is a “war criminal;” Putin should be deposed; Putin “commits genocide.” Putin’s aggressive, multi-front invasion made any hint of deal-making very politically incorrect; the shifted winds made outraged rhetoric de rigueur. While Biden’s staff would usually try to undo the statements, they kept on coming. Biden knew exactly what he was doing: keeping himself on the leading edge of making news, allowing few others to be more visibly outraged – although some certainly tried.

This is what Senators do, not what Presidents do: issuing what amounts to press releases about the problem, getting into the news, little more; not showing the country, the allies and even the opponents a path to an end of the killing.

It seems the only strategy is to keep saying something new. Now the rhetoric is to “weaken Russia,” perhaps even break it up. It is playing the daily political game, ever more each day. This evolving rhetoric makes more extreme positions seem acceptable to the media and public and an unremarkable strategy. All this leads to a bad place.

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