UPDATE: The White House officially announced Tuesday morning President Biden will visit Saudi Arabia in July.
I first saw this quote from President Biden over the weekend, and I couldn't help but wonder if it was missing context. Maybe video of the exchange would look better. Because at first glance, this looked like the president forgetting an answer he'd just given to a directly-related question, within seconds of giving it. Is that what happened? Let's go to the official White House transcript, via a Bloomberg journalist. This is fine:
The footage looks and sounds...exactly like you'd expect it to:
Joe Biden says he hasn't decided whether to visit Saudi Arabia, who he previously called "a pariah," to beg for more oil.— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) June 13, 2022
20 seconds later, he says, "It happens to be a larger meeting taking place in Saudi Arabia. That's the reason I'm going." pic.twitter.com/K4bK6eAZAV
Multiple news organizations have been reporting that the White House has indeed decided that Biden will visit the Kingdom on an upcoming international trip (update - confirmed this morning). The president's mental misfire appears to be confirmation of this:
The White House plans to announce this week a trip by President Biden to Saudi Arabia, according to two officials with direct knowledge of the plans, a prospect that has prompted pushback from members of Congress critical of the kingdom and its leader. Mr. Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia next month as part of a broader trip to the region that includes a stop in Israel, the officials said. The agenda currently includes a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, one of the officials said. Mr. Biden has repeatedly criticized Saudi Arabia for its human-rights record and for the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and called the kingdom a “pariah” when running for president. U.S. officials have said they need to work with Saudi Arabia on a number of global challenges, including rising oil prices and the Iran nuclear crisis, making the relationship too critical to abandon. Average national gasoline prices have hit $5 a gallon, ratcheting up political pressure on Mr. Biden to find a way to lower prices at the pump.
Gas prices have hit record highs across the United States, and Democrats are getting hammered in the polls. So an administration that has been overtly hostile to domestic energy production finds itself in the position of begging and coaxing foreign regimes, with an eye toward increasing the global oil supply -- from making unilateral concessions to an illegitimate Communist regime in South America, to apparently visiting an autocracy Biden has personally decried as a 'pariah' state. And when I assert that Biden is overtly hostile to domestic energy production, I'm referring to his own words and policies:
The important point Republicans have to make here is Biden didn’t just promise this in the campaign - his administration has taken every opportunity to drive up the cost of energy.— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) June 13, 2022
They’re STILL fighting for bad regulations that make drilling and production more expensive. https://t.co/kMYN89nD2j
Joe Biden said he was willing to see people hurt economically to get us off fossil fuels. Your high gas prices are all part of his plan. Don't believe me. Just listen to him. pic.twitter.com/NKpf4qumSs— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) June 11, 2022
They promised to do these things, they've done them, and the results are extremely painful for Americans. The president may view all of this as a needed, "incredible transition" away from fossil fuels, but it's been wrenching -- and it's unclear what exactly would arrive on the other end of said transition. What is clear is that Biden is incapable of articulating a cogent defense of his actions, bumbling through answers (he's given zero interviews to news organizations since early February, performing poorly on a partisan comedy show last week) and serving up insulting, familiar excuses:
BIDEN: "Today's inflation report confirms what Americans already know — Putin's price hike is hitting America hard."pic.twitter.com/eHK3EiJK45— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) June 10, 2022
It's bad enough that Biden's own party is getting cranky, with public criticisms growing louder:
Former Director of Global Engagement for the Obama White House Brett Bruen declared Tuesday that Joe Biden's "reckless riffs" and foreign policy gaffes "have unnecessarily undermined our standing and irresponsibly handed propaganda points to our adversaries." In an article published in USA Today, titled "Biden’s careless comments are hurting his presidency and diplomacy. He needs a reset," Bruen took the president and his national security team to task. "I used to cringe when Vice President Joe Biden took to the podium. Despite all the preparation that went into an event and his remarks, as a staffer on the National Security Council, you never quite knew what he might say," he wrote. "The reckless riffs have continued during his presidency, especially when discussing diplomacy," he wrote.
Bruen criticized Biden for remarking last summer on the "inevitability" that Kabul would "fall to the Taliban," seeming to "give Russian President Vladimir Putin a tacit green light to take at least some Ukrainian territory," asserting in Poland that Putin "should be removed from power," and stating "his clear commitment of American forces to the defense of Taiwan, a major departure from our long-standing policy." "How does such careless careening into crisis territory keep happening?" he asked. "Biden bears the lion share of blame for his ill-considered improvisation." Bruen also placed blame on Biden’s national security team, saying, "They are all too aware that he has this troublesome tendency to go off script." They should better prepare the president for "obvious questions" and also be prepared themselves in advance with responses and "strategies for when the president sails the ship of state into unchartered waters."
The issue is that this is Biden being Biden, and he's not going to improve. His challenges are deepening. Which is why these whispers are growing louder:
NYT: “Should Biden Run in 2024? Democratic Whispers of ‘No’ Start to Rise.” https://t.co/8u3SwMqwAP— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) June 11, 2022
President Biden’s struggle to advance the bulk of his agenda, doubting his ability to rescue the party from a predicted midterm trouncing and increasingly viewing him as an anchor that should be cut loose in 2024. As the challenges facing the nation mount and fatigued base voters show low enthusiasm, Democrats in union meetings, the back rooms of Capitol Hill and party gatherings from coast to coast are quietly worrying about Mr. Biden’s leadership, his age and his capability to take the fight to former President Donald J. Trump a second time. Interviews with nearly 50 Democratic officials, from county leaders to members of Congress, as well as with disappointed voters who backed Mr. Biden in 2020, reveal a party alarmed about Republicans’ rising strength and extraordinarily pessimistic about an immediate path forward...
Most top elected Democrats were reluctant to speak on the record about Mr. Biden’s future, and no one interviewed expressed any ill will toward Mr. Biden, to whom they are universally grateful for ousting Mr. Trump from office. But the repeated failures of his administration to pass big-ticket legislation on signature Democratic issues, as well as his halting efforts to use the bully pulpit of the White House to move public opinion, have left the president with sagging approval ratings and a party that, as much as anything, seems to feel sorry for him...To nearly all the Democrats interviewed, the president’s age — 79 now, 82 by the time the winner of the 2024 election is inaugurated — is a deep concern about his political viability.
I continue to believe that Biden will not seek a second term, even as his team must go through the motions of publicly planning to do so for as long as possible. I guarantee there have been quiet discussions about when the right time would be to potentially bow out. The key would be striking a balance between avoiding premature lame duck status, while also allowing a robust primary battle to ramp up and unfold. Also, if Democrats are increasingly convinced that Biden needs to step aside, are they really ready for this person to become the frontrunner for the nomination? She's the sitting Vice President, who has enormous political vulnerabilities, but who also 'should' be the heir apparent. And she's already signaled strongly that she's more than willing to use identity as a weapon against anyone who might stand in the way of the first woman -- a woman of color, no less -- to hold her position. She wouldn't be the inevitable Democratic nominee, but if she wants it, dislodging her could get ugly. Of course, if this former Obama cabinet secretary is correct (as he was about inflation), Democrats might find themselves in a very difficult predicament regardless of who ends up being their standard bearer:
"Secretary Yellen...said this week that 'there is nothing to suggest a recession is in the works.' Do you agree?"— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) June 12, 2022
Obama Treasury Sec. Larry Summers: "No ... The optimists were wrong a year ago in saying we'd have no inflation, and I think they're wrong now." pic.twitter.com/hzIKvUhe35
I'll leave you with rumblings from the other side of the aisle, where an increasing number of people may similarly be eager to move on:
The shadow race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination is well underway, with at least 15 potential candidates making moves — even if Trump runs, by w/ @jdawsey1 @isaacstanbeckerhttps://t.co/SGadMZivpz— michaelscherer (@michaelscherer) June 11, 2022