This fun leftover from yesterday raises all sorts of questions, even apart from what John Kerry precisely meant in this exchange with a French reporter. Was Joe Biden “literally not aware” of France’s submarine deal with Australia? Or just “literally not aware” of French anger over its cancelation in favor of the US-United Kingdom deal? The latter would be bad enough, but the former suggests total incompetence.
And the latter isn’t an excuse for the insult to the French, which is clearly what Kerry is trying to create here:
John Kerry admits in interview with French TV that Joe Biden had no idea about the fallout with the French from the AUKUS sub deal.
“He literally had not been aware of what had transpired” pic.twitter.com/EblvE05zKg
— POLARIS (@polarisnatsec) October 5, 2021
Kerry: President Biden asked me about it, and I told him, and expressed–
Interviewer, surprised: You told Joe Biden that it was not the right-
Kerry: He asked me. He said, ‘what’s the situation?’ and I explained exactly, uh… He was he had not been aware of that, he literally, literally had not been aware of what had transpired. And I don’t want to go into the details of it, but suffice it to say, that that the president… My president is very committed to, um, strengthening the relationship and making sure that this is a small event of the past and moving on to the much more important future.
First question: why did Biden ask Kerry to clarify the situation? Kerry serves as an envoy on climate change, not in any broader diplomatic capacity. Biden should have gone to Antony Blinken as his Secretary of State to determine why France of all countries had broken diplomatic contact with the United States, even temporarily. Maybe Biden went to Blinken too, but Kerry’s explanation makes it sound as though Biden came to him first — a point which certainly raises questions about Biden’s confidence in Blinken, and/or vice versa.
The next question is more obvious: what did Biden know about the sub deal and when did he know it? If Kerry is only saying that Biden didn’t know about the French reaction until they recalled their ambassador for “consultations” and not that Biden was unaware of the deal, that’s also an indictment of Blinken as well as Biden, but it doesn’t let Biden off the hook for stabbing France in the back on the deal. Biden and his team should have realized that torpedoing a $90 billion deal would create a diplomatic furor, not to mention that it looked as though Biden got manipulated by Boris Johnson in the UK’s attempt to get revenge over the handling of Brexit.
The only way to excuse Biden from that is by insisting that Biden either didn’t know about France’s pre-existing deal with Australia or that he didn’t know about the AUKUS deal at all until it got signed. Both of those would be stunning admissions of incompetence, either or both of which should prompt questions about who’s running this administration. The national media is too invested in Biden’s presidency to ask, however, and instead they keep trying to punish those who raise the topic, as Jim Geraghty points out:
Remember, questioning the 78-year-old president’s ability to remember what he’s been told in briefings, or handle the pressures of the job, is absolutely unacceptable, or at least that is what I keep getting told.
This time, the questions come from inside the house … the White House, to be specific. At the very least, our “democracy dies in darkness” media should be demanding an immediate clarification from Kerry, Blinken, and Biden.
Update: Jeff Dunetz calls this “frightening”:
I suppose that it’s nice that the French are no longer pissed off at America. However, it’s frightening the President of the United States didn’t understand the implications of his actions, was told the impact but forgot, or was kept out of the loop totally.
Update: This first got reported by my friend Olivier Knox at the Washington Post yesterday, so credit where it’s due:
What Kerry said:
“He [Biden] asked me. He said ‘What’s the situation?’ And I explained exactly. He had not been aware of that. He literally had not been aware of what had transpired.”
Question is at 18:45https://t.co/TnW6MdJPFD
— Olivier Knox (@OKnox) October 5, 2021
Olivier also has the full interview in his clip.