“What did the president know, and when did he know it?”
That was the question asked of Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal of the 1970s. The presumption, of course, was that the 37th president knew more about the scandalous activities than he was letting on. And, of course, Nixon was ultimately forced out of office because of Watergate.
Today, I’d like to ask the same question of Joe Biden about the China Spy Balloon-gate scandal. Of course, the matter of the Chinese spy balloon is lot more serious than the Watergate break-in because it potentially affects the safety and well-being of 335 million Americans.
Yes, President Biden finally oversaw the shoot-down of the spy balloon on Saturday, but only after it had spent days floating over the United States’ landmass from Alaska to South Carolina. Is that the right way to handle an intrusion from a rival — even adversarial — superpower? Should we allow their surveillance machines to traverse our country and only deal with them after they’ve finished their American tour?
Important questions need answers. So, without further ado, here are ten questions for the 46th president:
1. Mr. President, Bloomberg News reports that your administration first knew about about the balloon on January 28. And yet the public didn’t become aware of it until six days later, on February 2, when The Billings Gazette published amateur video of the balloon in the sky. Only then did it became big international news. Why the lag in awareness? Was this a cover-up? And is it true, as Bloomberg News suggests, that your administration sat on the balloon news so as not to disrupt Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing, which has now been postponed? As Bloomberg puts it, “with such a high-profile trip at stake, keeping it on the down-low was key.” Is that how your team saw the balloon incident? As a story to be kept on the “down-low”? And if so, why? The Chinese knew about the balloon—why shouldn’t Americans?
2. We know that liberals often pride themselves on preferring negotiation to confrontation. And of course, your senior climate envoy, John Kerry, has argued that the most important global issue is engaging with China on climate change. Indeed, you yourself have used the phrase “existential threat” many times in regard to climate change — a stark phrase that you have never used about China. So, has your administration’s desire to work with China on the “existential threat” of climate change affected your stance on the spy balloon? Did these concerns — as you define it, the fate of the planet — give you any feeling that you should slow down your reaction to this Chinese aggression? Might that explain why you let the spy balloon exist over American airspace for a week?
3. Donald Trump said, “shoot down the balloon.” Interestingly, your fellow Democrat Leon Panetta, who served as secretary of defense alongside you in the Obama administration, has said the same thing. Were Trump and Panetta correct? Could it be said that you were following their lead?
4. Bloomberg News also reports, “In an effort to keep things calm, administration officials stressed this was not the first such incident and that similar activities had been observed over the past several years, including during the prior administration.” What, precisely, is being said here? Are your anonymous briefers to the media saying that an earlier balloon flew over the United States and the Trump administration did nothing? That’s quite an assertion! Would your people affirm that statement under oath in testimony before Congress?
5. As a follow-up, Chad Wolf, the former acting secretary of Homeland Security in the Trump administration, declared, “Bottom line, a Chinese spy balloon would NEVER happen under an America First admin.” Is Wolf wrong? Is he misinformed about his own administration?
6. If it is the case that Chinese surveillance balloons have flown over, or even near, the United States prior to your administration, could you please outline the security policies that you put in place once you took office and had this knowledge? Were these policies followed in the case of this particular spy balloon? Is it the policy, for example, to let the balloon enter American airspace and fly all the way across the country before taking any action? And on Saturday afternoon, you indicated that you had given orders back on February 1 to shoot down the balloon when it was over water as opposed to land. That declaration would seem to suggest the existence of a substantial paper trail of your executive decision-making. Would you be willing to open all those deliberations to the relevant Congressional oversight committees? And perhaps to the public as well?
And as a follow-up, sir, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) has declared, “It’s clear the Biden administration had hoped to hide this national security failure from Congress and the American people.” He is suggesting that you only chose to shoot down the spy balloon after its existence became known. Is Rep. Rogers wrong? If so, are you willing to release the documents to bolster your assertion that he’s wrong? Surely such full disclosure would be the best way to convince the public that you didn’t simply bow to pressure once the balloon’s intrusion became known.
7. Bloomberg News further notes, in a story credited to a total of six of its reporters, “The Biden administration knew it had to exercise extreme caution especially in what was a heated political environment ahead of 2024 elections, with Republicans agitating on which party could strike a harder or tougher line on China.” Is this how you see the Chinese spy balloon issue? As a political matter? As a source of potential vulnerability in your possible re-election campaign? If so, has concern over 2024 affected your actions on the spy balloon?
8. Has the $54.6 million in donations from sources in China that poured into your “think tank,” the Penn Biden Center, affected your thinking on China at all? Or the thinking of your Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was the former managing director of the Penn Biden Center when it raked in all that cash from Communist China? And is there anything you want to tell us about the influence of your son Hunter Biden’s many and various Chinese business partners? In fact, do you have anything at all you would like to tell us about the $31 million that members of your family scored in five business deals with individuals who have direct ties to the highest levels of the Chinese intelligence apparatus?
9. We now see reports of a second Chinese spy balloon flying over South America. What will the U.S. do if this balloon also enters American airspace? Or do you plan to stop it this time before it enters American airspace? Will you, and how will you, communicate to China that this is unacceptable in all cases at all times? Will you enunciate an overall policy on such incursions?
10. It has been reported that the Chinese spy balloon deliberately avoided Russian airspace, which suggests that the People’s Republic of China had tight control over the spy balloon and used that control to avoid doing anything to upset the Russians. Why do you think the Chinese chose to treat America differently? And speaking of Russia, what will the U.S. do if the Russians send over a spy balloon? Or the North Koreans? Or the Iranians? Will you let such spy balloons to fly over the nation first and only then shoot them down? What if it’s some other kind of aircraft or spacecraft? And what new defense systems might we need to deal with this threat?
So, those are my ten questions on the spy balloon. Thanks in advance, Mr. President, for your full and complete answers!
Oh, and one last thing, sir.
You were in the U.S. Senate during the Watergate scandal, so you no doubt remember the famous question, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”
In that same spirit, I’d like to ask you about all the classified documents that keep popping up in the Penn Biden Center, your home, and elsewhere. And sir, with all due respect, if you don’t mind, I’d like to have your answers under oath.