Watching President Biden’s Ukraine speech, there’s good news and bad news.
The good news is, Biden isn’t drunk.
Biden doesn’t drink.
The bad news is, Biden isn’t drunk. He just talks that way now.
Biden may be as sober as Sunday morning, but he’s as lost as last year’s Easter eggs.
The content of the speech was predictably bad. The short version: The United States is firmly committed to its principles but would like Putin to know in advance that we will not fight for them. Not in this case. Maybe if he invades a NATO country rather than a country Washington has quietly endeavored to keep out of NATO.
The content is unremarkable, mainly. This is what Biden was always going to say. But the performance is something: Biden is slurring his words, getting lost in the middle of short sentences, and in general acting like a grandpa who cannot figure out how his new phone works.
There is, of course, more to the United States and to U.S. policy than the president. But Putin must be encouraged by this sorry performance. Mao once dismissed the United States as a “paper tiger,” but paper — strongly worded multilateral statements, sanctions regulations — is all Biden is even threatening to bring to the fight. Mao’s successors must find this even more amusing than Putin does.
Which is not to say what’s needed is a swaggering, bullying posture. Not at all. What is needed is the kind of hard-earned, unquestionable credibility that makes that sort of thing beside the point.
Charles Krauthammer insisted that “decline is a choice.” Maybe Biden’s isn’t. But the nation’s is.