Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
President Joe Biden’s Saturday decision to order the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon came in the wake of harsh criticism from numerous political figures, chief among them Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte.
An American fighter jet shot down the offending balloon Saturday after the large dirigible had floated from Montana all the way to the Carolinas and out over the Atlantic Ocean.
Biden told a gathering of reporters that he had ordered the balloon shot down Wednesday, but yielded to a Department of Defense recommendation to wait for the object to float over the open waters of the Atlantic prior to destroying it.
“On Wednesday, when I was briefed on the balloon, I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down, on Wednesday, as soon as possible … without doing damage to anyone on … the ground,” Biden said. “They decided that the best time to do that was as it got over water … within the 12-mile limit [of the U.S.].”
But, even before the balloon was taken out, Gianforte was saying the Biden effort was too little, too late.
“If it was up to Montanans, the Chinese Communist Party’s spy balloon would have been taken out of the sky the moment it entered our sovereign airspace,” Gianforte tweeted Saturday morning.
This followed a Friday tweet in which Gianforte shared a letter he penned to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin demanding an accounting of DOD’s decision-making.
“The Chinese Communist Party flew a spy balloon over Montana, and it’s making its way over other states,” Gianforte’s Friday tweet read. “It should have been taken down well before now. Montanans and all Americans deserve full answers from the Biden administration now.”
The Chinese Communist Party flew a spy balloon over Montana, and it's making its way over other states. It should have been taken down well before now. Montanans and all Americans deserve full answers from the Biden administration now. pic.twitter.com/N1QK0o2Is2
— Governor Greg Gianforte (@GovGianforte) February 3, 2023
The Montana governor also appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program, where Gianforte was critical of the Biden administration for being slow to inform him of the balloon’s presence.
“It had already flown near [Malmstrom] Air Force Base and the [intercontinental ballistic missile silos located in Montana],” Gianforte told Carlson. “When I finally got informed, it was over our most populous city. It got spotted by a photographer at the airport.”
Gianforte later added, “Clearly, this went to the president’s desk. He was given options. For whatever reason, he chose not to act. And unfortunately, the result of that is that Americans are endangered, and our enemies are emboldened.”
Many other Republicans offered their own complaints about the Biden administration’s reaction to the spy balloon.
After the takedown, Sen. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) expressed disappointment with the Biden administration.
“Thank you to the U.S. military for shooting down China’s spy balloon,” Budd tweeted. “The Biden administration owes the American people a full explanation of this incident and why the president failed to act earlier.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), whose state the balloon crossed during its west-to-east trek across the nation, called the entire episode a debacle.
DOD officials have stated the balloon entered U.S. airspace by first floating over Alaska, then Northwest Canada, before floating into Montana and then across the country before being shot down over South Carolina and landing in about 47 feet of water off the Atlantic coast.