Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
President Joe Biden might have articulated what he and his supporters feel was an adequate justification for waiting for as long as he did to order a Chinese spy balloon shot down, but the delay gave his political opponents an easy way to paint Biden in numerous unflattering ways.
Biden said Saturday that he was acting on Department of Defense recommendations when he ordered the U.S. military to wait until a Chinese spy balloon floated over an ocean before destroying the object. The rationale, Biden said, was that the falling debris would prove a health hazard over land.
Republican officials, though, allege Biden’s motives were driven by more nefarious aims.
“President Biden was right to shoot down the Chinese balloon,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted Sunday. “He was wrong to wait a week — and the only reason he acted is Montanans saw it flying over their homes and it became national news. Throughout this crisis, Biden has acted out of politics, not national security.”
President Biden was right to shoot down the Chinese balloon. He was wrong to wait a week – and the only reason he acted is Montanans saw it flying over their homes and it became national news.
Throughout this crisis, Biden has acted out of politics not national security. pic.twitter.com/zLVB4kFThc
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) February 5, 2023
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the response from the Biden administration a “disastrous projection of weakness” and vowed to investigate the “failure.”
Allowing a spy balloon from the Communist Party of China to travel across the entire continental United States before contesting its presence is a disastrous projection of weakness by the White House. It is clear that standard protocol for defense of U.S. airspace was ignored. If press reports are correct, the Biden administration hoped to hide this incident from the American people from the start. The White House owes Congress and the American people answers about this failure, and I intend to get those answers without delay.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) took her criticisms a step further, implying that Biden was colluding with or at least coddling China.
“The Biden admin allowed the Chinese Spy Balloon to traverse the entire U.S. and gather intel on our critical military infrastructure while the entire country screamed to shoot it down, before they finally shot it down,” Greene tweeted. “Biden refused to stop China.”
In the same thread, she added, “They can never again talk tough as they wage war on Russia in Ukraine as they have now proven they serve China.”
It’s important to note that Taylor Greene’s viewpoint was not widely shared on the right. The bulk of Republicans stopped short of suggesting Biden was working with the Chinese. Most conservatives framed the situation as an example of Biden being ill-prepared to meet a challenge and not mentally nimble enough to adjust.
Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie found some small amount of levity. When the balloon was still airborne, he tweeted, “If Biden shoots down the balloon, it will be the first thing he’s ever done to combat inflation.”
Other Republicans made general calls for accountability.
“Now that this embarrassing episode is over, we need answers from the Biden Administration on the decision-making process,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) tweeted. “Communist China was allowed to violate American sovereignty unimpeded for days. We must be better prepared for future provocations and incursions by the CCP.”
Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton was even more direct, tweeting, “The Biden administration should never have let the Chinese spy balloon traverse the entire U.S. The Chinese communists tested Joe Biden, and he failed.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) did not address Biden by name or levy any criticism at the president directly, but he did describe the balloon saga as one indicative of China outdueling the United States in a battle of messaging, an indirect indictment of Biden’s leadership skills.
“There’s a symbolic issue at play here,” Rubio said during an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week” program.
This is not a coincidence that this thing traversed the United States over sensitive military sites leading up to [Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China]. This is deliberate. They did this on purpose. They understood that it was going to be spotted. They knew the U.S. government would have to reveal it to people. And the message they were trying to send is what they believe internally, and that is that the United States is a once great superpower that’s hollowed out and in decline.
ICYMI: Rubio on @ThisWeekABC: "This is not a coincidence that this [balloon] traversed the United States over sensitive military sites…" https://t.co/lTxM1lJQqc pic.twitter.com/T5kKb7txff
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) February 5, 2023
Republicans so resolutely dove onto the low-hanging fruit Biden provided them that even Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who on their best day are tense allies, were in sync.
“Whether it’s spy balloons or spy satellites, China’s military modernization effort is no joke,” McConnell tweeted. “I hope President Biden’s belated decision to finally do the right thing carries over into a more serious approach to America’s top adversary.”
McCarthy, whose most recent tweet preceded the balloon’s destruction, tweeted, “First Biden refused to defend our borders. Now he won’t defend our skies.”