Every time President Joe Biden opens his mouth to say anything about foreign policy these days, the world seems to hold its breath. There’s simply no telling what Biden might say at any given moment or what impact his words will have on a world where America’s relationships with our allies are already strained and everyone is on the brink of crashing into another world war. So when Biden agreed to one of his rare appearances where he took a couple of questions from reporters yesterday and one of them asked about Speaker Pelosi’s anticipated trip to Taiwan in the near future, it was clearly a tense moment. Oddly, Biden declined to offer an opinion of his own about the planned trip, instead saying that he “thinks” that the military believes it’s “not a good idea.” Given China’s current combative attitude toward the United States and the west, we’ll need to wait and see how this one plays out. But it’s worth asking the obvious question here. Doesn’t Joe Biden have an opinion of his own about this? (Associated Press)

President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that U.S. military officials believe it’s “not a good idea” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan at the moment.

Biden’s comments in an exchange with reporters came a day after the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it would take “resolute and strong measures” should Pelosi proceed with reported plans to visit Taiwan in the coming weeks.

“Well, I think that the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now,” Biden said in response to a question about Pelosi’s reported trip. “But I don’t know what the status of it is.”

As noted in the linked report, Chinese officials have already said that they plan to take “resolute and strong measures” if the Speaker makes a diplomatic excursion to Taiwan. Those are the usual sorts of threats that China makes and it typically doesn’t wind up being anything beyond some new military exercises in the Strait of Taiwan or some military flyovers into Taiwan’s airspace. But the day may be coming when they do something more.

Biden’s response was more than a little curious, to say the least. Does he recall that the military works for the Commander-in-Chief and not the other way around? Even if that weren’t the case, it’s unclear why Biden “thinks” that’s the position of the military. Doesn’t he know? Has he spoken to anyone about this yet?

This incident also calls into question whether or not Nancy Pelosi has already been in touch with the White House about her planned trip. This is a sensitive foreign policy matter so you would think that any member of the legislative branch – even the Speaker – would coordinate such a trip with the Oval Office, wouldn’t you? They really need to be on the same page before anyone goes out and makes an announcement like that. But unless Biden was already briefed on this and completely forgot about it (a possibility we clearly can’t rule out these days), it sounds as if Pelosi is simply ignoring the President and making her own plans on the fly.

China has grown increasingly aggressive over the past year or two and the status of Taiwan is a very sensitive topic for them. Biden has already muddled the country’s delicate policy regarding Taiwan more than once, leaving his staff to come out and try to clean up his gaffes. But the Chinese have clearly been paying attention. Xi Jinping is watching the events currently unfolding in Ukraine closely. If Vladimir Putin can invade a neighboring country and face no direct military response from the west, the temptation to go ahead and invade Taiwan must be growing.

We might see a visit by Pelosi as a strong statement of support for the government of Taiwan. But that would only be true if the Speaker and the President were lining up together with a clear message. The other way to view this would be to describe a visit by Pelosi as a needless provocation of one of our most powerful adversaries. I’m on the fence about which would be more accurate today, but the one thing I’m sure of is that we need our legislative and executive leadership to be on the same page and speaking with one voice when it comes to China or any other adversarial nation.

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