Yesterday, Allahpundit pointed out the ripple effect that Joe Biden’s decision to describe the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “genocide” has had on foreign relations and American foreign policy. When asked if he wanted to once again “clarify” what he meant, the President declined but insisted that he was expressing his “personal views” on the matter, not making sweeping changes to the country’s foreign policy. That claim didn’t seem to fit with the almost immediate reversal of our plan to send military helicopters to the Ukrainians.
I’ll confess to being rather surprised when I saw the normally docile, Biden-friendly Associated Press jump onto the dogpile and publish an “explainer” about why the word “genocide” matters when a president uses it. Their conclusion wasn’t very subtle. They determined that the words of a president matter and Biden simply got this wrong in a way that could complicate the entire situation between NATO and Russia.
When President Joe Biden declares Russia’s Ukraine war “genocide,” it isn’t just another strong word.
A formal U.S. follow-up accusing Russia of a campaign aimed at wiping out a targeted group could carry obligations on the world to consider action. That’s because of a genocide treaty approved by the U.N. General Assembly in the years immediately after World War II, signed by the United States and more than 150 other nations.
If they had stopped there it would have been a fairly gentle rebuke. But the AP went on to publish another article at nearly the same time. In this article, the AP points out that presidents don’t have the luxury of “speaking from the heart” because a president’s every word is examined in detail around the world and can carry global consequences. They go on to accuse Biden of “sowing confusion in dangerous times.”
There’s no such thing as a purely personal opinion from the Oval Office on policies that matter. Armchair quarterbacking when you’re the president is fraught when you’re the one with the ball. Armies can move on your words; markets can convulse; diplomacy can unravel.
That has not stopped President Joe Biden from viscerally weighing in on the Ukraine war — labeling Russia’s Vladimir Putin a war criminal, appearing to advocate an overthrow in Moscow, branding Russian war actions as genocide — then saying it’s all his personal, not presidential, opinion.
It’s sowing confusion in dangerous times.
Okay, so the editors at the Associated Press clearly weren’t fans of Biden’s choice of words, particularly calling Putin a “war criminal” and accusing him of “genocide.” But as I scanned through the AP news feed, there was more overt criticism of Biden, or a least an acknowledgment that his efforts at leading the nation on the domestic front haven’t been working out. In this piece, the AP describes Biden as “thinking small” in terms of his domestic agenda and “scrounging” for ways to halt the freefall of his approval numbers.
With his sweeping domestic agenda on hold and images of horror in Ukraine dominating headlines, President Joe Biden is scrounging for ways to demonstrate that he’s still making progress for Americans at a time when many feel the country is heading in the wrong direction.
Six months out from the midterm elections, Biden’s team is betting that smaller, discrete announcements can break through to voters better than talk of transformational plans that are so far only aspirational. And as the global focus is on Ukraine, the White House is eager for Americans to see Biden tackling the kitchen-table issues important to them…
Again, none of the language in the article reaches the level of fire and brimstone. But the editors are quick to point out the President’s tanking approval ratings as well as including an obvious reference to the complete collapse of his sweeping domestic agenda amid interparty squabbling. In short, he hasn’t really been getting much accomplished beyond COVID relief bills and conditions in the country are not what they should be. The reference to the country “heading in the wrong direction,” is a somewhat subtle way of saying that this presidency just hasn’t worked out and there’s a lot of buyer’s remorse out there.
Is it just me or is this a significant change of “tone” for the Associated Press? They generally don’t tend to be anywhere near as sharp-tongued as, for example, the evening lineup at Fox News, and they aren’t going that far here. But they’ve traditionally highlighted any possible suggestions of good news that comes along for Biden and the Democrats. So these types of critiques seem to represent a communal realization that Biden’s time on the stage may need to come to a close. We’ll keep an eye on this moving forward, but it’s an interesting development in the mainstream media to be sure.