Joe Biden is on his first overseas trip as president of the United States, and if you’re only reading the mainstream, establishment media or watching liberal network TV, it couldn’t be going better.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The 78-year-old is blundering his way across Europe, mumbling incoherently at press conferences, dissing Queen Elizabeth II, and winning little support from the world’s richest nations to take on China.
Case in point: Mr. Biden’s view of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Over the weekend, Mr. Biden called Mr. Putin a “killer” — not exactly diplomatic rhetoric when dealing with another world leader. So in a press conference Monday, Mr. Biden was asked about his opinion of the former KGB intelligence officer.
“In a weekend interview, Vladimir Putin laughed at the suggestion that you had called him a ‘killer.’ Is that still your belief, sir, that he is a killer?” CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny asked.
Here is Biden’s answer verbatim from the official White House transcript:
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) To answer the first question — (laughs) — I’m laughing too. They actually — I —
Q : So he is a killer?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, I mean, he has made clear that — the answer is: I believe he has, in the past, essentially acknowledged that he was — there were certain things that he would do or did do. But look, when I was asked that question on air, I answered it honestly. But it’s not much of a — I don’t think it matters a whole lot, in terms of this next meeting we’re about to have.
Huh? By the end of that meandering non-answer, Mr. Biden had forgotten the second question.
“Let’s be honest, our American president is not very good on his feet,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich later said on Fox News in a grand understatement.
There was so much more. On Sunday, Mr. Biden confused two countries, one in Africa, the other in Asia — three times.
“We can work together with Russia, for example, in Libya. We should be opening up the passage to be able to go through, provide food assistance, and economic — I mean, vital assistance to a population that’s in real trouble,” Mr. Biden said.
White House aides later told reporters Mr. Biden meant Syria, not Libya.
At the G-7 summit in England, Mr. Biden also tried to correct British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for not introducing “the president of South Africa” — even though Mr. Johnson had just moments before introduced him by name. World leaders around the table laughed at Mr. Biden.
There were more substantive blunders, too.
At the G-7, Mr. Biden urged foreign leaders to crack down on China, but a bunch of them said, “Nah.” The chancellor of Germany, which exports millions of cars to China each year, wasn’t on board, nor was the president of Japan, a close neighbor and trading partner of China.
In the end, the G-7 leaders put out a watered-down communique with far weaker language on China than Mr. Biden desired.
It didn’t go much better when Mr. Biden urged leaders gathered in Belgium for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit. The upshot of the trip: leaders announced the formation of a joint council to address China’s predatory economic practices after putting out a lukewarm communique on the rising communist power.
There were less egregious failings, too (but which, had former President Donald Trump committed them, would have been all over the headlines). When Mr. Biden met Her Majesty at Windsor Castle, he kept on his trademark aviator sunglasses (considered very poor etiquette). At another event, Mr. Biden arrived after the Queen, another diplomatic no-no.
And Mr. Biden got some more bad press in the U.K. when he reportedly kicked members of the British Broadcasting Corporation out of their table at a pub garden so he and first lady Jill Biden could enjoy the view.
While throughout his trip, Mr. Biden took few questions from the press — and always from pre-selected members of the friendly mainstream media — he ended up clashing with one reporter who (gasp!) asked a tough question. In answer, Mr. Biden leaned down close to the microphone, and in an odd voice said, “120 days. Give me a break. Need time.” In fact, Mr. Biden had been president for 145 days, so he even got that wrong.
In the end, Mr. Biden dodged a joint press conference with the Russian leader — something every president has held at summits for decades. Instead, he will hold a solo presser Wednesday, where he’ll once again take softball questions from a pre-selected handful of friendly members of the establishment media.
But you won’t hear about any of this in the MSM. Instead, Mr. Biden’s trip will be portrayed as a ringing success and the media will sell the idea that the Democrat — like the Chosen One, Barack Obama — has raised the stature of America.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.