Biden’s speech on Hamas’s brutal atrocities was a good speech, not in that he delivered it well or especially convincingly (let’s not even rehash the invented Golda Meir story) but in that it appeared to have been written by someone who cared enough to inject into it moral outrage and certainty.
But rhetoric is relatively cheap in politics. More significant than the moral outrage are the actual policy statements. As many noted, there was no mention of Iran. That’s not surprising, as the administration’s position is not to mention Iran.
Here, however, is a policy moment that cuts against the thrust of the speech. Policy, unlike rhetoric, is all about specifics.
“My administration has consulted closely with Congress throughout this crisis. And when Congress returns, we’re going to ask them to take urgent action to fund the national security requirements of our critical partners.”
Notice anything odd there? Partners. Plural.
What partners? This speech is about supporting Israel in its fight against Hamas. Who are these other partners?
This one isn’t hard to guess. Biden ran into problems getting aid to Ukraine approved in the House. There was talk that he wanted to link aid to Israel to aid to Ukraine. Take that little added “s” as a strong signifier that it’s going to happen.
So what that really means is pressuring pro-Israel people to lobby House members to approve an aid package for Ukraine or military aid to Israel gets delayed at a crucial juncture. Which means Biden is using Israel to set a trap for House Republicans. So despite his assertion that “this is not about party or politics,” assume that it is.
That’s a lot to hang on a single ‘s’, right? Biden misspeaks all the time.
Maybe, but we were warned that this was coming. According to The Washington Post on Oct. 9:
“The White House is considering a move to attach Ukraine funding to a request for urgent aid to Israel, according to several people familiar with the deliberations, in the hopes that such a pairing would increase the chance that Congress would approve aid to Kyiv despite growing opposition from House Republicans.
“No final decisions have been made on whether to link the requests, said two senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. One of the officials said such a move could make sense because it ‘jams the far right,’ which is firmly opposed to more Ukraine aid but strongly supportive of aid to Israel.”
That extra “s” suggests that Biden has moved closer to a final decision. And really, why not? Much like the government shutdowns, it puts the onus on House Republicans. If the package succeeds, Biden gets a win, if it fails, he can use it to attack Republicans. Israel gets exploited as bait for this trap by a guy who pretends to care, but actually doesn’t.
Ukraine-Israel aid linkage means that Israel, facing its most significant war in a generation, gets taken hostage to secure a win for Biden and Ukraine.