GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Sunday blasted President Joe Biden, accusing him of being a “destabilizing” leader during his first 100 days in office.
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Graham told host Chris Wallace that Biden started off his presidency straying away from the tone of his successful 2020 presidential campaign.
“During the campaign, he made us all believe Joe Biden would be the moderate choice … that court-packing was a bonehead idea,” Graham said. “All of a sudden we have a commission to change the structure of the Supreme Court. Making DC a state … I think that’s a very radical idea that will change the makeup of the United States Senate.”
He added: “AOC [Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York] said his first 100 days exceeded her expectations. That’s all you need to know.”
Graham quickly laced into Biden’s overall performance.
“I think he’s been a very destabilizing president,” Graham said. “And economically, he’s throwing a wet blanket over the recovery, wanting to raise taxes in a large amount and regulate America basically out of business, so I’m not very impressed with the first 100 days.”
Biden supports raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent to fund his proposed $2 trillion infrastructure bill, but he is open to negotiations with GOP lawmakers.
The conservative senator then derided the president as “a disaster on foreign policy.”
“The border is in chaos, the Iranians are off the map, he’s opening up negotiations with the Iranian regime and they haven’t done a d— thing to change,” he said. “Afghanistan’s going to fall apart. Russia and China are already pushing him around, so I’m very worried.”
Republicans have criticized the Biden administration’s immigration policies, including their approach to housing the unaccompanied minors who have fled to the US-Mexico border in recent months.
A former Obama official said that the Trump administration believed they’d do so well negotiating with China that there would be statues erected in their honor one day.
Ryan Hass, who served as the director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia at the National Security Council under President Obama, recounted the anecdote during the launch of his new book, “Stronger: Adapting America’s China Strategy in an Age of Competitive Interdependence.”
Hass recalled heading to Trump Tower in the days following the 2016 election in order to brief the incoming administration on the US’ China policy.
“The Trump administration had just been elected and they were refusing to receive any briefings from the Obama administration. They said they got it, they know what they need to know, they had a plan,” he said.
However, he continued, “the president and [National Security Adviser] Susan Rice were pretty adamant that they receive a briefing on China. And the instructions that we had were to not to try to put a spin on the ball, not to try to persuade them of anything, just to give them the facts so they knew what they would be inheriting.”
Hass then recounted how a Trump administration official responded to their debriefing.
“We got about five minutes into explaining how we’d gotten to where we were when the person across the table just put his hand up and said, ‘We got it. We’ve heard enough. We know what we need to know. The problem with you Obama guys is you don’t understand the United States and China are locked in an existential struggle that if the United States doesn’t win there may not be a United States in 50 or a hundred years. And we have to do everything we can to prevail, and when we do there will be statues built in our honor.'”
Trump pushed a trade war with China in the early months and years of his presidency, levying high tariffs on Chinese goods and advancing a series of restrictions and sanctions on China through the State and Justice departments.
Beijing retaliated by imposing sanctions on more than two dozen Trump officials and allies, including Mike Pompeo, Steve Bannon, and John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser.
Later, as the coronavirus pandemic spread in early 2020, the president attempted to blame the virus outbreak on China.
“While there are no statues to be found, the Trump administration did succeed in erecting barriers to an Asia-Pacific strategy that can best achieve the US’ strategic objectives of economic fairness and human rights, addressing transnational challenges such as climate change and pandemics while mitigating risks of conflict,” Steven Okun, a senior advisor at McLarty Associates, and the host of the book launch, told Insider.
Hass said he was shocked by the official’s claim that China would erect statues in honor of the Trump administration.
The comment, he said, “provided an early indication that there would be a change in the way the United States would approach China.”
These days everybody adores the troops – at least rhetorically. In fact, the over-adulation of America’s service members has become a sort of civic profession of faith – an obligatory “patriot’s” creed transcending tribal partisan divides. The nation’s newest “war president,” Joe Biden, even ends his speeches with that verbal tick of exaltation: “May God protect our troops.”
The commander-in-chief certainly talks the talk. What’s less clear is whether anyone in Washington will walk the walk, or give those fetishized troops – and what it really means to “support” them – much thought at all. Because if we truly want to honor and protect America’s soldiers and veterans, that means we must end absurdly hopeless wars and retool our entire civil-military culture.
I got to thinking about this, once again, when last Memorial Day-as has become his custom – my old boss General Colin Powell made an appearance at the National Memorial Day Concert on the Mall. As he made what is now an almost pro forma plea for us all to remember our military veterans, I couldn’t help but address my television to my loving wife’s displeasure.
“If you want to honor our military veterans, General, make a strong plea to the President to bring them home from our stupid, endless wars!”
This is such a no-contest, best-practice, undeniably needed, overwhelmingly necessary action for America to take, that one puzzles over why it even needs suggesting.
But it never does get done. A few folks talk about it a bit, newspapers and magazines intermittently entertain the idea, occasionally presidents ponder it, but they don’t do it. Why, for heaven’s sake? Why are we becoming so heavily mired in the fringes of our empire? Consider just the broad strokes of such salaciousness:
Eight hundred-plus overseas bases and counting; billions spent maintaining them, special operations forces in dozens of countries to combat a threat – international terrorism – that a CATO Institute study demonstrates, conclusively, has about the same chance of harming one of us as an errant lightning strike. Then there are America’s armed drones flying over at least nine countries – none with which we are constitutionally at war; covert operations ongoing on at least three continents; cruel sanctions on so many people and states that we can barely keep up with them – a sanctions web it will take a century to unravel, if ever. All of which contributes to half the world’s population now believing America-the self-styled “city on a hill” – is the greatest threat to their futures.
So amidst a supposedly transformational presidential administration, why not start the ameliorative process by stopping the endless, stupid wars, and all the other incredible idiocy induced, and then start unwinding America’s demonstrably counterproductive imperium?
The answer is simple, actually: there’s no money in it. Oh so much cash changes oh so few hands funding and waging wars inside a far-flung structure that both supports and engenders them. There are just too many too powerful people pocketing that blood money – from formidable defense contractors, to revolving-door generals and admirals, to members of Congress, to the executives of the big banks and financial firms. All profiting mightily from the empire’s treasury. Crony capitalism and the awful conflicts it spawns and supports-it all craves endlessness. Such obscenities are a democratic disease, the bane of the proverbial “city on a hill.”
Yet we, the common citizenry, are all complicit – victims of a very old and terrible lie, an almost impressive imperial scam. It’s a long con and the ruse requires a carefully crafted culture of pageantry patriotism. For the most part it’s worked like a charm.
Contributing equally to this militarist corruption is the pernicious and obscene enlisting of just 1% of the youth of America, mainly less-advantaged youth hailing from places like West Virginia, Alabama, the interior of Maine, the backcountry of Oklahoma, and other rural or Rust Belt towns of America, to do the dirty business of state killing on behalf of a checked-out 99%. That’s one of the most tragic aspects of all of these endless, stupid wars. Trump’s “Bone spurs,” or Dick Cheney’s “I had better things to do,” paltry bow outs on the one hand, and the underprivileged devil’s bargain-takers – for whom $40,000 signing bonuses are more money than they’ve ever seen – on the other, combine to craft this horrible reality. It’s a key component of a forever war formula.
As has become the custom with America’s wars, conditionally-selected young people are dying, suffering devastating wounds, or living with life-long post-traumatic stress, homelessness or worse – committing suicide at unprecedented rates– whilst the self-selected huge majority carry on as usual.
Now that the over-the-top inaugural celebration comes to a close, if we don’t all of us take a holy oath to stop this desecration of all that’s sacred about our country, we ought hereafter hang our collective heads in shame.
“Thank you for your service” just ain’t enough anymore, if it ever was.
International influence isn’t something that comes cheap – even when you’re a super power.
America’s badly blemished brand will only begin to get better if the government dedicates a massive amount of money to addressing the challenge. This is not even a one-billion-dollar problem. We are talking tens and probably even hundreds of billions. Despite the considerable price tag, it is both necessary and worth the extraordinary expense.
Rebuilding costs money
The US has long taken for granted its soft power. Because of the country’s economic dominance, educational excellence, and scientific successes, many argued America simply did not need to spend large sums to promote the country’s values policies abroad.
In fact, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, the US shuttered many of the American cultural centers and libraries overseas, the government called it part of the “peace dividend” that was being returned to taxpayers.
The US normally spends about two billion dollars a year on public diplomacy programs. These range from government-sponsored international media channels like the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe to foreign exchanges including the famous Fulbright scholarships. It also covers salaries for American diplomats and their staff to work at home and abroad in communications and cultural offices.
At this particularly perilous point for our nation, we desperately need a massive infusion of funds into our public diplomacy programs, increasing the budget to at least $10 billion per year. That would still be less than the cost of our newest aircraft carrier.
More military equipment will not return the respect we lost under President Donald Trump. In fact, as former Defense Secretary James Mattis put it, if State Department funds get cut, “then I need to buy more ammunition.”
Public diplomacy also happens to deliver dividends directly to the American worker, ensuring we can secure better trade conditions and fewer tariffs. Lastly, as the world has tragically witnessed in the past year, less pressure on China and other countries to deal with their own public health issues can have serious implications for our safety.
It’s time to put the money where America’s mouth is
I was shocked by how little money was available when I worked in our embassies as a press attaché and later ran the public affairs office.
When entertaining foreign officials, we would literally bake homemade cookies, because there wasn’t enough to pay for store bought pastries. Hours were spent searching through discounted books on Amazon, so we could stretch our bare bones budget. I even had to resort to asking family and friends for donations. This is a pretty pathetic way for the most powerful country in the world to manage its strategic promotion and persuasion programs.
Our international influence efforts have been stuck on autopilot for a while. The current budget, adjusted for inflation, is actually less than what we were spending in the early 1990s. This, despite the fact that the threats we are facing have multiplied and the policies our diplomats are asked to defend are much more unpopular in many more places.
I run a public relations firm now. If a client did not increase their budget for three decades, no matter what we did, the results would undoubtedly be disastrous for their corporate reputation. It would be malpractice for us to continue running those programs, expecting to have much of an impact, especially following multiple major crises.
President Barack Obama worked to increase funding for public diplomacy in his first year, but it again got cut as budgets tightened throughout his term.
President Joe Biden and most of the Democrats on Capitol Hill have railed against the damage done to the country’s standing on the world stage under former President Donald Trump. They’ve mentioned less the money it will take to rebuild our reputation. With the party in control of both the executive and legislative branches, now is the time to do something about the problem.
I continue to sadly believe that there is no restoring the United States to its former global glory. That does not negate the need to repair and try to rebuild America’s image and influence. Even a small amount of progress would pay big dividends. But, the public and our leaders have to be clear eyed about the considerable destruction done and more importantly what it will take to regain a modicum of the trust and credibility we used to enjoy.
It is time we finally started getting serious about protecting our national brand and promoting our foreign policy interests. Without a major infusion of new resources, we will remain badly out gunned on the global information battlefield. The sad, sorry state of our reputation and lack of respect for our country is truly a national emergency. It is one that merits being treated and funded as such.
What if Joe Biden is just not able to steer America’s ship of state back to safer waters?
What if, at the end of his term, there was a vigorous, valiant attempt to restore or at least repair America’s international influence after the destructive presidency of Donald Trump but the damage was simply too great and our adversaries had grown too strong?
I ask the question as my expectations are not exceedingly high for the new president. It is not because I am rooting against him. In fact, quite to the contrary. As a former diplomat, I desperately want Biden to rebuild America’s preeminent position in the world. But, my time on the frontlines of conflict and crises – from Iraq to Venezuela – have forced me to approach any effort to reshape the world stage with copious quantities of skepticism and a strong shot of cynicism.
The world is already well into a post-American era. Biden does not change the US’s present predicament, nor for that matter could almost any leader in his position. The United States squandered its credibility and standing on the global stage over the past two decades. There is no recovering them now.
Yet, the new administration enters office with hopes high at home and abroad. Undoubtedly, such lofty aspirations will be disappointed, some even dashed. However, even if Biden is only able to deliver on a small portion of his foreign policy promises, that will still represent progress and help pave the way for greater stability and security.
Despite the goodwill and grand plans to build our country back better, there remains a very real scenario in which Biden is not able to make much progress. Dare I even say it, our position in the world could worsen. Like President Obama in Syria, he could fail to respond adequately to a major crisis, further eroding confidence in our leadership. Another massive cyber or disinformation attack, like we have repeatedly seen from Russia would certainly weaken the strength of our institutions. An attack our military, with considerable casualties, would also draw into question our readiness and resolve.
I worry that many have failed to account for or accept these and other plausible possibilities. Time and trying will tell, but America’s influence on the world may just be too far gone for it to come back.
What does our country do then? One path would perhaps see a return to Trumpism or some populist politician who has picked up his MAGA mantle. But another four years of America First would be catastrophic. Russia and China would accelerate their aggression, as allies struggled to contain the destabilizing effects of their encroachment on economies, democracies, and a rules-based international order.
Another version of events might see Biden forced to throw in the towel, like President Lyndon Baines Johnson, in pursuit of a second term. The Democrats would likely then look to Vice President Kamala Harris to take the reins. Undoubtedly, she would face considerable challenges trying to recalibrate the policies of an administration in which she played a leading role.
Sensing America’s distraction and diminished position, we could well see countries attempt to seize the moment to secure an advantage. Not just the larger nations, but particularly mid-size and even small ones. North Korea could try to blast its way to sanctions relief. Azerbaijan could attempt to take more territory from Armenia. A full-scale conflict could break out in the Middle East. The list goes on. My warning is that if Biden fails, it may well usher in a period of even more upheaval, truly upending the international order.
Who could step in to save the world? With their own divisions and difficulties, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and other major democracies would struggle to replace the role we once occupied. Others would simply be too small to battle Beijing. In my assessment, it would largely fall on corporations to try and rein in reckless actions and remind countries that conflict comes at considerable cost. It is unlikely that would be enough to dissuade them from a destructive course.
We continue to look out at the prospects of the new Administration through rose colored glasses. I fear that our hopes for its success are also crowding out thoughtful consideration of the case in which they are unable to overcome today’s considerable challenges.
It is time to come to terms with what would need to be prepared and done in that event. The United States might no longer set the global agenda or even get the privilege to stay on international offense. Instead, we need to start figuring out how to play better diplomatic defense. Otherwise, things could get really bad, really quickly for America and its allies.
Brett Bruen was the director of global engagement in the Obama White House and a career American diplomat. He runs the crisis-communications agency Global Situation Room.
President Joe Biden moved to try to restore confidence in US leadership after the Trump era in his first big speech on the global stage on Friday.
In a virtual address to the Munich Security Conference, the president underscored America’s commitment to democracy and diplomatic engagement.
“Let me erase any lingering doubt: the United States will work closely with our European partners,” Biden said. “I know the last few years have tested our transatlantic relationship. But the United States is determined – determined to reengage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of leadership.”
Biden took a starkly different tone from former President Donald Trump during his remarks, especially on the NATO alliance and Russia.
Trump spent years bashing NATO and attacking fellow members on the subject of defense spending. Biden reassured NATO allies that the US has their back. “We’ll keep faith with Article 5,” Biden said, referring to NATO’s founding principle of collective defense.
Similarly, while Trump habitually avoided criticizing Russia, Biden in his speech on Friday took swipes at Russian President Vladimir Putin, an authoritarian who has held the reins of power for five successive US presidential administrations.
“Putin seeks to weaken the European project and our NATO alliance. He wants to undermine the transatlantic unity and our resolve. Because it’s so much easier for the Kremlin to bully and threaten individual states then it is to negotiate with a strong and closely united transatlantic community,” Biden said.
Biden said addressing “Russian recklessness and hacking into computer networks in the US” and other parts of the world has “become critical to protecting our collective security.”
As Republican critics in Congress accuse Biden of being too soft on Beijing, the president also used Friday’s speech as an opportunity to call out China on its economic practices.
“Competition with China is going to be stiff,” Biden said, calling for the US and Europe to “push back against the Chinese government’s economic abuses and coercion.”
The president said he does not aim to pit “east against west” and doesn’t seek conflict.
“We want a future where all nations are able to freely determine their own path without a threat of violence or coercion,” Biden said. “We cannot and must not return to the reflective opposition and rigid blocs of the Cold War.”
Biden’s speech was designed to reassure allies that the US would not continue Trump’s go-it-alone approach to foreign affairs, while offering a sense of self-awareness that America lost credibility over the past four years. Polling has shown that European countries, in particular, increasingly lost faith in US leadership under Trump.
“We cannot allow self-doubt to hinder our ability to engage each other or the larger world. The last four years have been hard, but Europe and the US have to lead with confidence once more,” Biden said. “I know we can do this.”
Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, a titan of American academia, business and diplomacy who spent most of the 1980s trying to improve Cold War relations with the Soviet Union and forging a course for peace in the Middle East, has died. He was 100.
Shultz died Saturday at his home on the campus of Stanford University, where he was a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution, a think tank, and professor emeritus at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
The Hoover Institution announced Shultz’s death on Sunday. A cause of death was not provided.
A lifelong Republican, Shultz held three major Cabinet positions in GOP administrations during a lengthy career of public service.
He was labor secretary, treasury secretary and director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Richard M. Nixon before spending more than six years as President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state.
Shultz was the longest serving secretary of state since World War II and had been the oldest surviving former Cabinet member of any administration.
Condoleezza Rice, also a former secretary of state and current director of the Hoover Institution, praised Shultz as a “great American statesman” and a “true patriot.”
“He will be remembered in history as a man who made the world a better place,” she said in statement.
Shultz had largely stayed out of politics since his retirement, but had been an advocate for an increased focus on climate change. He marked his 100th birthday in December by extolling the virtues of trust and bipartisanship in politics and other endeavors in a piece he wrote for The Washington Post.
Coming amid the acrimony that followed the November presidential election, Shultz’s call for decency and respect for opposing views struck many as an appeal for the country to shun the political vitriol of the Trump years.
“Trust is the coin of the realm,” Shultz wrote. “When trust was in the room, whatever room that was — the family room, the schoolroom, the locker room, the office room, the government room or the military room — good things happened. When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen. Everything else is details.”
Shultz had a lengthy track record in academia, public service, and business
Over his lifetime, Shultz succeeded in the worlds of academia, public service, and corporate America, and was widely respected by his peers from both political parties.
After the October 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 soldiers, Shultz worked tirelessly to end Lebanon’s brutal civil war in the 1980s. He spent countless hours of shuttle diplomacy between Mideast capitals trying to secure the withdrawal of Israeli forces there.
The experience led him to believe that stability in the region could only be assured with a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he set about on an ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful mission to bring the parties to the negotiating table.
Although Shultz fell short of his goal to put the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel on a course to a peace agreement, he shaped the path for future administrations’ Mideast efforts by legitimizing the Palestinians as a people with valid aspirations and a valid stake in determining their future.
As the nation’s chief diplomat, Shultz negotiated the first-ever treaty to reduce the size of the Soviet Union’s ground-based nuclear arsenals despite fierce objections from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to Reagan’s “Strategic Defense Initiative” or Star Wars.
The 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was a historic attempt to begin to reverse the nuclear arms race, a goal he never abandoned in private life.
“Now that we know so much about these weapons and their power,” Shultz said in an interview in 2008, “they’re almost weapons that we wouldn’t use, so I think we would be better off without them.”
Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, reflecting in his memoirs on the “highly analytic, calm and unselfish Shultz,” paid Shultz an exceptional compliment in his diary: “If I could choose one American to whom I would entrust the nation’s fate in a crisis, it would be George Shultz.”
George Pratt Shultz was born Dec. 13, 1920, in New York City and raised in Englewood, New Jersey. He studied economics and public and international affairs at Princeton University, graduating in 1942. His affinity for Princeton prompted him to have the school’s mascot, a tiger, tattooed on his posterior, a fact confirmed to reporters decades later by his wife aboard a plane taking them to China.
At Shultz’s 90th birthday party, his successor as secretary of state, James Baker, joked that he would do anything for Shultz “except kiss the tiger.” After Princeton, Shultz joined the Marine Corps and rose to the rank of captain as an artillery officer during World War II.
He earned a Ph.D. in economics at MIT in 1949 and taught at MIT and at the University of Chicago, where he was dean of the business school. His administration experience included a stint as a senior staff economist with President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisers and as Nixon’s OMB director.
Shultz was president of the construction and engineering company Bechtel Group from 1975-1982 and taught part-time at Stanford University before joining the Reagan administration in 1982, replacing Alexander Haig, who resigned after frequent clashes with other members of the administration.
A rare public disagreement between Reagan and Shultz came in 1985 when the president ordered thousands of government employees with access to highly classified information to take a “lie detector” test as a way to plug leaks of information. Shultz told reporters, “The minute in this government that I am not trusted is the day that I leave.” The administration soon backed off the demand.
A year later, Shultz submitted to a government-wide drug test considered far more reliable.
A more serious disagreement was over the secret arms sales to Iran in 1985 in hopes of securing the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by Hezbollah militants. Although Shultz objected, Reagan went ahead with the deal and millions of dollars from Iran went to right-wing Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua. The ensuing Iran-Contra scandal swamped the administration, to Shultz’s dismay.
In 1986 testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he lamented that “nothing ever gets settled in this town. It’s not like running a company or even a university. It’s a seething debating society in which the debate never stops, in which people never give up, including me, and that’s the atmosphere in which you administer.″
Under Reagan, Shultz set the record for longest-serving secretary of state
After Reagan left office, Shultz returned to Bechtel, having been the longest-serving secretary of state since Cordell Hull under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
He retired from Bechtel’s board in 2006 and returned to Stanford and the Hoover Institution.
In 2000, he became an early supporter of the presidential candidacy of George W. Bush, whose father had been vice president while Shultz was secretary of state. Shultz served as an informal adviser to the campaign.
Shultz remained an ardent arms control advocate in his later years but retained an iconoclastic streak, speaking out against several mainstream Republican policy positions. He created some controversy by calling the war on recreational drugs, championed by Reagan, a failure and raised eyebrows by decrying the longstanding U.S. embargo on Cuba as “insane.”
He was also a prominent proponent of efforts to fight the effects of climate change, warning that ignoring the risks was suicidal.
A pragmatist, Shultz, along with former GOP Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, made headlines during the 2016 presidential campaign when he declined to endorse Republican nominee Donald Trump after being quoted as saying “God help us” when asked about the possibility of Trump in the White House.
Shultz was married to Helena “Obie” O’Brien, an Army nurse he met in the Pacific in World War II, and they had five children. After her death, in 1995, he married Charlotte Maillard, San Francisco’s protocol chief, in 1997.
Shultz was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1989.
Survivors include his wife, five children, 11 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.
Longtime AP Diplomatic Writer Barry Schweid, who died in 2015, contributed to this report.