THE logic of Joe Biden’s candidacy for the presidency of the United States is an enigma to anyone who is not part of the Democratic party mafia inside the Washington beltway where they play three-dimensional chess with the fate of the American people.
Three important questions have remained unanswered since the party panjandrums sawed Bernie Sanders off at the knees with malice aforethought in the South Carolina primary last February. Why did the party choose Joe despite his very evident flaws? Why does Joe, at 78, want to be president? Why is his wife letting him run for a job that is physically and mentally beyond him? As far as I know, no one has explained satisfactorily.
Actually, there is a fourth question equally unanswered: what exactly are they going to do with him if he wins? Finding out will have all the certainty of pulling a Christmas cracker.
It’s said of American politicians who openly relish their trade, a blood sport by sedate British standards, that they are happy warriors – which Trump is. Will President Joe be a happy man in office or will he be crushed by its weight? Even Obama, who was a supremely self-confident and vigorous individual, emerged from eight years in the Oval Office with grey hair despite having been protected by an idolatrous media that hid his scandals. There’s no escaping the unrelenting pressure of being the man with whom the buck stops.
Europeans, even when they are conservative, dislike Republican presidents and they’ve loathed the wilfully egregious Trump more than any since Eisenhower. But with the election approaching, they need to start asking themselves if it’s in their own best interests to prefer Joe. It’s a head-over-heart conundrum in which it seems they’re strongly tempted to give Joe the nod without serious thought about the repentance in store.
Whoever is US president matters as much to the rest of the world as it does to US citizens. The latter of course are directly impacted by his domestic policies – the economy, taxes, employment, immigration, civil and sexual rights, all of which are never off the political agenda.
Apart from trade, the president affects the material lives of ordinary Europeans more tangentially. However we are all part of the West, even if the ‘leader of the free world’ title is overdone. We are allied with the US in Nato and usually have a common interest in UN matters. The US and the EU are economic rivals but have a joint interest in pursuing a co-ordinated foreign policy.
The last four years have been marked by increasing dissonance over the latter which has been made worse by the fact that European leaders can’t stand Trump personally which cannot avoid having an effect on their judgment, even if it is subconscious. It’s none the less real for that.
Biden has promised that under his presidency – in effect an Obama third term – the US will restore the Iran deal and the Paris treaty and will be less confrontational towards China. He won’t be so rude about Nato’s free riders. Whatever his personal feelings about Israel, the Democratic party since Obama has swung more firmly against the Jewish state, towards which the European elites are increasingly negative themselves.
The Trump rapprochement with Israel could be reversed, although it’s clear from the peace deals the US has engineered between Israel and some of the Gulf states that Trump is working to make the possibility of that harder and increase the pressure on Iran. The West’s strategy of forcing Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians depended on a united Arab front which is dissolving.
Iran is what sticks out here although Turkey’s regional ambitions, which now reach into the hornet’s nest of Lebanon, also pose headaches for Western policy-makers.
Obama had a curious and relatively unexplored relationship with Islam but we are not without clues about his attitude to Israel and Iran. Privileged contacts at the Washington Post and the New York Times were briefed from the White House that Obama believed all Middle East Muslim entities – with the obvious exception of al Qaeda – could become US allies, even if they were frenemies rather than friends. His vision particularly included Iran, which he saw as a potential regional superpower aligned with Washington.
This was puzzling, not least because the mullahs are serious about their hatred of the Great Satan which is the linchpin of their dictatorial theocracy. Shi’ite Iran is the sworn enemy of Sunni Saudi Arabia and its allies, which makes it an unlikely candidate for leadership in the Middle East, a role which has anyway traditionally been Egypt’s. Egypt is also mainly Sunni.
There were excellent arguments against the deal Obama and his European allies, as well as Russia and China, signed which gave Iran a legal pathway to become a nuclear power by the mid-2020s. It wasn’t just that rivals such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt would not sit idly by and watch this happen. Iran would also have the capability to blackmail Europe with nuclear missiles in a future stand-off with the West.
This worrying unpredictability is what Biden says he’ll go back to, with the Europeans blithely going along while never having explained the potential consequences of a hostile nuclear Iran to their peoples. Normally, Iran is a classic rogue state that we should be frustrating rather than helping while the mullahs retain power.
As far as we in Europe are concerned, a Biden reversion to Obama’s misconstrued understanding of the Middle East would be one of the most dangerous outcomes of his election.
Trump, on the other hand, will continue with environmental and foreign policies that have been largely successful during his first four years, whatever the foreign policy establishment and the shamelessly pro-Democrat media claim.
We know in advance that Biden will not be a hands-on president and it may be that he is not involved with his presidency at all beyond ceremonial appearances in the Rose Garden. I doubt that it will be in the hands of Kamala Harris either, whether she succeeds him or is vice president. Before joining the Senate in 2016, she’d spent her entire career as a Californian lawyer.
Who is originating and conducting domestic and foreign policy is something that may never be entirely clear throughout the Biden presidency. A faceless and improperly unaccountable four years in today’s troubled and volatile world is not a democratic proposition. In fact the Democrats’ nomination of Biden is an outright insult to democracy for which they should be made to pay.
It’s in that light that we in Europe should take a strictly pragmatic view of what’s best for us in this election whatever we think personally of its one-off incumbent. We do have a stake beyond the propriety of Donald Trump’s manners.