Shootdown of Red Chinese Spy Balloon Is Likened to ‘Tackling the Quarterback After the Game Is Over’

Will the spectacle burst Biden’s political balloon?

AP/Patrick Semansky
President Biden at Hagerstown Regional Airport, Maryland, February 4, 2023. AP/Patrick Semansky

According to an ABC News poll released Sunday, 62 percent of Americans would consider themselves to be “angry” or “disappointed” were President Biden to be re-elected. Furthermore, in a hypothetical rematch, President Trump held a three-point lead over Mr. Biden.

While the timing of the poll and the Chinese spy balloon incident were coincidental, the administration’s halfhearted approach to the violation of American airspace — at least initially — underscores the frustration more Americans are feeling with respect to the job performance of the octogenarian commander-in-chief. Mr. Biden’s growing roster of opponents was quick to pounce.

Writing on his Truth Social platform, Mr. Trump said that the “Chinese balloon situation is a disgrace, just like the Afghanistan horror show, and everything else surrounding the grossly incompetent Biden administration.” Mr. Trump added that “now they are putting out that a balloon was put up by China during the Trump Administration, in order to take the ‘heat’ off the slow moving Biden fools.”

The heat, though, is on. The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Turner, likened the shooting down of the balloon to “tackling the quarterback after the game is over.” Via Twitter, Mr. Turner said, “We need to have a critical conversation about our national security and the increasing threat posture from China. The Biden Administration does not recognize the urgency, let alone have a plan to respond.”

Senator Cotton, a senator of Arkansas, told Fox News: “What began as a spy balloon has become a trial balloon, testing President Biden’s strength and resolve, and unfortunately the president failed that test.” Before the balloon’s destruction over the Atlantic, Speaker McCarthy tweeted, “First Biden refused to defend our borders. Now he won’t defend our skies.” 

If that assessment is harsh, the episode does point to a White House on the back foot with regard to a growing catalog of Chinese threats. The F-22 Raptor that fired a single AIM-9X Sidewinder missile at the balloon on Saturday was flying at an altitude of about 58,000 feet off the coast of South Carolina. Earlier in the week the balloon had at times likely hovered higher than 60,000 feet, which would have made the task of bringing it down tricky, though not impossible. A Pentagon official said last week that the balloon’s sensor package, now presumably in pieces, weighs as much as a thousand pounds. 

As it happened, the debris field over the Atlantic was spread out over just seven miles. That is far smaller than the hypothetical size of a debris field over land that had been proffered by senior administration officials as a rationale for not shooting down the contraption as it hovered over Montana and the sensitive military installations in the state. 

In any event, Mr. Biden’s speechwriters could be having a busy day ahead of the president’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. It is not that difficult to spin a political fiasco into predictable platitudes that can pay short-term dividends in social media. How much hot air the public is willing to take from this White House is an open question.

The New York Sun

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