Pinkerton: Biden vs. Pelosi: Democratic Disjunction Spills Out Over Taiwan

“For when the trumpet makes an unsteady sound, the Bible cautions, “Who shall prepare himself for the battle?”

A case in point is President Joe Biden. Not only does he have a low approval , rating, but he is also having problems with Nancy Pelosi, his fellow Democrat. Biden had quietly opposed Pelosi’s August 2 trip to Taiwan, and yet Pelosi went anyway, bringing along with her four other House Democrats, including Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. There is a lot of symbolism.

Of course, the trip was made even more fraught by the virulent opposition of the Chinese Communist Party regime in Beijing, which imperiously claims authority over Taiwan. Ever since, China has been conducting menacing military “drills” in the area-including edgy missile launches in the direction of other Asian countries, including Japan. And just on August 14 comes the news that a second Congressional delegation has arrived in Taiwan, this one led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). And then, as the night follows the day, China announced a new round of military “drills” meant to intimidate. Back in Washington, D.C., on August 16, the Chinese ambassador to the U.S., Qin Gang, delivered a 90-minute tirade, described by Politico as “doubling down” on the flashpoint. Qin claimed that Pelosi was a “political provocateur” and “changing the status-quo”. This implied that China might change it further.

So, yes, Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan is still echoed. There’s even more. Just on August 11, The Daily Mail (U.K.) scooped that Pelosi’s businessman son, Paul, had been on his mother’s plane. It is difficult to miss the family symbolism: Paul Pelosi, a man of high standing. It seems like Paul Pelosi has a significant stake in Chinese telecom companies. Hmm. A business-oriented son of a Democratic great shot rides around in U.S. government aircraft. This sounds quite a lot. . . Hunter Bidenish-well it is, does it not?

Despite the fact that there are many questions about nepotism or influence-peddling, most Americans still support the U.S. current policy of supporting Taiwan. This is largely because the U.S. policy towards Taiwan, despite being characterized as “strategic uncertainty” for over 50 years, has left China wondering what our policies would be regarding Taiwan’s defense. Biden seems to also be guessing. He has said, three times, that the U.S. would actively defend Taiwan-and walked it back three times.

All of this led The Economist magazine, based in London to point out that the trip was a sign of America’s inconsistent approach to China–the nation’s most significant opponent over time. A trip intended to communicate strength could instead reveal the confusion and lackluster purpose of the Biden administration.”

In fact, there had been a dispute behind the scenes between top Democrats for quite some time. Back on July 20, Biden answered a reporter’s question about the pending trip in a desultory manner: “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now. But I’m not sure what its status is .”

The New York Times explained, “Mr. Biden’s aides said he had decided against asking Ms. Pelosi directly to cancel her trip.” So instead, the communications about the trip occurred indirectly. CNBC reported, “The White House and the Pentagon have made little secret of their opposition to such a visit, which comes at a time when U.S.-China relations are the poorest they’ve been in decades.” In the middle of this mix, on July 29, Niall Ferguson, a distinguished scholar of foreign affairs boasting joint appointments at both Stanford and Harvard, pointed out that Pelosi’s trip was first announced in April. The Pentagon took three months to realize that the House Speaker’s trip to Taiwan wasn’t a good idea .

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landing at Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan, on August 2, 2022. (Taiwanese Foreign Ministry via Getty Images)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, center, poses for photos after arriving in Taipei, Taiwan, on Aug. 2, 2022. (Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), center left, poses for photographs after receiving the Order of Propitious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon, Taiwan’s highest civilian honor, from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, center right, at the president’s office on August 3, 2022, in Taipei, Taiwan. (Chien Chih-Hung/Office of The President via Getty Images)

On August 1, the day before Pelosi’s scheduled arrival in Taiwan, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman opined that Pelosi’s looming visit was “utterly reckless, dangerous and irresponsible.” It’s a good bet that Friedman wouldn’t have written that if the White House had wanted him not to. Friedman won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is likely more connected to the foreign policy establishment than any other journalist. Why, just on May 22 he wrote a column bragging about his private lunch with Biden, noting that it was off the record, and yet still teasing the gist of his conversation with the commander-in-chief.

This is to say that Friedman has great authority on the Biden administration. So it was revealing that he wrote, in that column on the 1st, “It is a measure of our political dysfunction that a Democratic president cannot deter a Democratic House speaker from engaging in a diplomatic maneuver that his entire national security team–from the C.I.A. From the director to the chairman, the Joint Chiefs–deemed inadvisable.”

This meant that the optics of this trip were muddled as Biden played with Pelosi through proxy while the Beijing regime sent planes and ships to surround Taiwan. Breitbart News headline August 2, 2012: “Nancy Pelosi Lands on Taiwan, Defies Biden Administration and China .”

For her part, just on August 11, Pelosi added some new fuzz to the ball of confusion, telling reporters of the U.S. military’s stance toward her trip, “I don’t remember them ever telling us not to go.” So is it possible that the Biden administration didn’t want Pelosi to go and didn’t dare so it? Even secretaries, generals, and admirals weren’t willing to face the speaker directly. If the Bidenites don’t speak it loudly, how can anyone possibly know Biden policy?

Let’s get back to the word Friedman mentioned above. Disjunction is a 1979concept, which was commonly applied to Jimmy Carter’s presidency (– Disjunction is a concept commonly applied to the presidency of Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), which I am old enough to remember well. As with Carter’s 39th presidency, Biden’s 46th presidency suffers from a bad case of disjunction. The trumpet’s weak sound is heard by few and ignored. Indeed, plenty of fellow Democrats are now telling Biden that he should soon stop sounding the trumpet altogether–that he should not run again.

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I have written eleven articles over the past year and a half that explore the similarities between Carter and Biden administrations. They focus on topics such as inflation, immigration and energy policy. Today we will highlight a 12th parallel: disjunctions in foreign policy towards a superpower.

So let’s take a little time-jaunt back to the late 1970s, when President Carter was trying to manage fellow Democrats while attempting to deal with the then-mighty Soviet Union. Carter was optimistic about his liberal agenda. He believed that his new, enlightened diplomacy could sweep aside the Cold War cobwebs.

To that end, early in his presidency, in May 1977, he delivered a commencement speech to the University of Notre Dame in which he dumped on cold warriors, declaring instead, “We are now free of that inordinate fear of Communism.” Got that? The communists were not so terrible. And so Carter signed the arms control treaty known as SALT II with Soviets. That was in June 1979. To seal the deal, we kiss.

Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev (right) kisses U.S. President Jimmy Carter (left) after both leaders signed the SALT II Treaty in Vienna, Austria, on June 18, 1979. (AP Photo)

Now we should add that when the 96th Congress first met in January 1979, it boasted a thumping majority of 58 Democratic senators. So, Carter believed he would win when he presented the SALT II treaty for ratification to the Senate.

But, the disjunction was already in place. Carter had not gotten along well with his fellow Democrats and didn’t properly factor their feelings on the Soviets. Many of these people believed that SALT II was an ominous giveaway to Moscow. According to the State Department’s official history of the negotiations, “a broad coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats grew increasingly skeptical.” One of those skeptical Democrats was Sen. Russell Long (D-LA), a thirty-year veteran of the chamber, chair of the mighty Finance Committee.

So Carter signed his treaty. Long disagreed with it. The twain never met. Here’s what the Washington Post reported on September 13, 1979:

Sen. Russell B. Long (D.La. Yesterday, Long, one of the Senate’s most powerful members, said that he will vote against SALT II. He stated that the agreement cannot be confirmed and that Soviet combat forces in Cuba were an act of Soviet bad faith. Although Long has been critical of SALT II before, the Carter administration had expected his support. Most of its positive projections of Senate approval for the arms treaty were based on Long’s eventual support.

In other words, it had made a mistake. It had sought Long’s help–but didn’t receive it. That’s the disjunction made visible.

As an aside, Joe Biden used to be in the Senate at that time. Indeed, as the Washington Post also reported, the Delaware lawmaker, a strong supporter of the president–he had been the first senator to endorse candidate Carter–visited Moscow, looking for ways to save the treaty.

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With Biden’s help, Carter stuck with SALT II until the end of 1979. But then, on December 25 of that year, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. It was clear that the fear of communism was not excessive. Such fear and loathing was actually quite rational and ordinate. In early January 1980, Carter bowed to political, and geopolitical, reality: He asked the Senate not to consider SALT II, that being a face-saving way of staving off an outright defeat. Okay. That was Jimmy Carter’s encounter with disjunction–one.

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) tells a Washington press conference that ratification of the Salt II treaty is vital to American security, on October 9, 1979. (AP Photo/ Charles Harrity)

Now back to the current day. As we have seen, Biden can’t rely on Pelosi on a key international issue–which is arguably the international issue. Indeed. The China issue has also caused divisions on the Republican side. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 25 other Republican senators co-signed a letter expressing their support for Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan.

To be certain, Taiwan support has been an established conservative principle. If a small percentage of the Senate Republican Conference supports Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, that would mean that less than half the Senate Republicans have a different position. And as to what other positions may be, each Republican senator should speak for himself. But one who has made himself loud and clear is Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who released his own statement, supporting Pelosi’s trip while bashing Biden’s reaction to it:

Speaker Pelosi was right to visit Taiwan. The Biden White House made a mess of all this by leaking that Speaker Pelosi was opposed to traveling to Taiwan and then refusing to clarify that violence threats against Speaker Pelosi would have severe consequences.

Mark Twain once said that history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. Joe Biden rhymes with Jimmy Carter just like “dysfunction” rhymes with “disjunction”. Neither man was able to manage his own coalition. All of this suggests that, like Carter’s tenure in office, Biden’s term at the White House is limited.

So no later than January 2025, all the issues and concerns about China will be there to greet the next president.

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