If there was any doubt that we are engaged in some sort of cold war or contest for global superiority with China, the emergence of the CCP surveillance balloon over the United States should eliminate that. There’s no question China is being intentionally provocative.
And why wouldn’t it? The CCP is paying close attention. Chinese leaders have correctly assessed America is so politically and culturally dysfunctional that blatant acts of provocation can be done with impunity because blatant acts of hostility will just become more fodder for our domestic political disputes.
Our lack of national unity has been a national security problem for a long time, but as far as China’s concerned, it became abundantly clear just how bad a problem it was in 2020. The media and those otherwise responsible for “fortifying” our elections decided we weren’t allowed to say Covid came from Wuhan and started banning people from social media for saying the virus leaked from a Chinese lab. Regardless of the fact that China’s irresponsible behavior was to blame for the deaths of millions of Americans, it became an important domestic political priority to convert a global plague into baseless accusations of racism so it could be used as a cudgel in a presidential election.
Similarly, when the local media first noticed the surveillance balloon over the northern states, there was clearly a scramble by the Defense Department — which by all appearances was aware of the balloon and could have shot it down over the Aleutian Islands but let it continue, hoping civilians wouldn’t notice — to avoid having to explain why it was forced into doing something reactive as a result of public outcry. And since the president is responsible for national security matters, this made him look like he wasn’t doing his job, either.
What could be done so the DOD could avoid having to explain any failures here to avoid public doubt and fear? And what could Biden, who already looks tremendously weak on foreign policy after the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal and his failure to preempt the Russian invasion of Ukraine, do to minimize domestic political blowback?
The answer was obvious: Just go to the well for this one and blame Trump. Of course, that strategy depends on having a wholly credulous media that innately trust conflicted and compromised government officials who care more about political fallout than the safety and security of their country. So naturally, the accusation that the Trump administration looked the other way while several other Chinese spy balloons transited the U.S. was all over the media last week before anyone asked any real questions about whether this was fair or accurate.
After days of top Trump officials, including Trump’s CIA head Mike Pompeo and the former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, publicly denying the story, we’re now getting a situation so absurd it demands the mixing of metaphors: a backhanded walkback.
Monday morning, CNN was up with the story, “Chinese spy balloons under Trump not discovered until after Biden took office.” If you’re inclined to believe the national security apparatus under Trump would have been a little more aggressive in confronting China’s provocations, as most realists are, now the blame has shifted so as to portray the Trump administration as too incompetent to even notice what was going on.
There remains a possibility that this version of events is true. But the way this issue was dealt with by immediately pointing the finger at the previous administration, and then admitting the accusations that made it to the press were devoid of important context, is infuriating, less than reassuring, and difficult to believe.
As for how politics might enter into this transparently insulting and unserious media narrative, it’s probably worth noting that the aforementioned CNN story was written by Natasha Bertrand, a reporter so credulous that she earned the nickname “Fusion Natasha” because she wrote so many inaccurate stories about Trump-Russia collusion that appeared to be fed to her by Fusion GPS, the dodgy opposition research firm behind the so-called “dossier,” as well as other dishonest partisan sources.
Bertrand also holds a special place in President Biden’s heart for her, well, “politically helpful” journalism on Hunter Biden’s laptop. When the New York Post broke that story in October of 2020, Bertrand, then at Politico, wrote up the now-infamous story “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say.” The article was cited by Joe Biden himself on the presidential debate stage while he was brazenly lying about his knowledge of his son’s corruption, and the broader media used her article to dismiss the need to look into the scandal. Of course, even some of the “former intel officials” Bertrand cited now admit they knew all along the laptop was real and declared it was Russian disinformation anyway.
To bring this full circle, it’s probably worth noting that some of the most damning allegations of Hunter Biden’s corruption involve him being financially compromised by the CCP and President Biden’s personal role in those deals.
Suffice to say, the situation we’re in where we have a Chinese spy balloon floating over the United States and we’re unable to trust the information we’re getting from our inept government and the corrupt media that enable it is a horrible one to be in. The end result of their excuse-making and blame-shifting is that a great many people feel more confused and less safe than when they first learned of the balloon.
National security threats can’t be used to play political games, yet that’s all we’ve seen for several years. The baseless accusations of Russia collusion under Trump were leveraged for domestic partisan political gain at the expense of actively poisoning our relationship with a hostile nuclear power with which we’re now mixed up in a war in Eastern Europe. And now we can’t bring ourselves to even speak forthrightly about the national security threat posed by communist China because it would have bad electoral ramifications for the same bad actors that regularly instigate domestic political tumult and sleepwalked into the war in Ukraine.
These bad-faith attempts of the Biden administration and the media — for once “collusion” is the right word — to examine every serious foreign policy development through a self-interested political lens have simply got to stop. Uniting Americans and the world at large around the threat China presents militarily and economically needs to be a much higher priority. And that’s simply impossible so long as China can exploit the fact that its every provocation will trigger a blizzard of dubious and divisive information coming straight from our government and sympathetic partisans in the press.