Biden Even Fumbled his Foreign Policy Strengths


On foreign policy at a time when wars are raging and autocrats rising, President Joe Biden should have shone in defending U.S. policy in support of democracy in Ukraine’s battle against Russian aggression, Trump’s abandonment of the Paris climate pact, the Iran nuclear deal, and the delicate balance of supporting Israel while denouncing IDF atrocities in Gaza.

As with Biden’s incoherent comments on domestic issues from abortion to the economy, the president sent bolts of panic among supporters and campaign strategists focused on international issues. Biden’s tongue-tied, scrambled responses on the Russia-Ukraine war and U.S. standing with NATO and European allies failed to distract from Trump’s bold-faced lies about his own dubious relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other dangerous adversaries.

My DirecTV connection went down ten minutes before the start of the debate, sending me into a panic of the intensity experienced by viewers able to watch without technical difficulties. I was forced to listen to the first 90 minutes of the debate on the radio and was perplexed as to who this scratchy-voiced person was speaking when the broadcast was supposed to have started. When I realized a minute or two into his opening remarks that this was Biden, my heart skipped a beat, and a cold sweat consumed me.

I listened with held breath as Trump and Biden volleyed over abortion and inflation, with Trump’s hyperbole overwhelming Biden’s defense of his policies that fell flat due to his raspy voice and inarticulate enunciation. It was no less alarming when his time to postulate his support for Ukraine against the greatest threat to democracy posed by Putin came out equally rambling and unintelligible. 

Trump made no headway with his unrelated and spurious claims that Putin only invaded Ukraine because he could see how weak the Biden administration was after the chaotic U.S. retreat from Afghanistan. Biden tried to point out that Trump did nothing to extricate the United States from the misguided 20-year occupation of Afghanistan, a missed opportunity to debunk Trump’s cover story for why he aligns with Putin instead of American diplomatic and national security advisors.

Biden’s gravely disappointing performance allowed Trump to avoid answering vital questions: Would he accept or refuse Putin’s terms for a peace deal in Ukraine which demands surrender of 20% of the independent country’s territory occupied by Russia. Trump replied that Putin would never have invaded if he was in the White House and that he could end the war if he is elected in November even before taking office. 

Asked if he would accept the results of the November election, Trump digressed into everything from border security to what a terrible job he thought Biden was doing.

Debate sponsor CNN’s panel of analysts unanimously deemed Biden a crushing disappointment, reporting unnamed Democratic campaign officials as saying there was a scramble underway to reconsider the current president as the party’s nominee for the November election. A CNN instant poll of debate viewers found 57% of respondents having no confidence in Biden’s ability to win re-election.

While few analysts found Trump’s performance impressive due to his obfuscation and refusal to answer direct questions, the disappointing performance of Biden allowed the Republican likely nominee to emerge as clear winner of the first, and possibly last, head-to-head debate between the two major parties’ candidates.

But what do we do now? I refuse to accept there is no alternative to a second Trump presidency. I prefer to muster a Hail Mary rerun of the nomination process and throw the race open to all the good candidates we burned through in 2019. I like Biden but tonight was the first time I thought he couldn’t handle another four years. I never thought Trump could handle four years after 2016 and feel vindicated in that as he has been a disaster for the US and the world. I still think he’s beatable, just not by Biden.

Carol J Williams
Carol J Williams
Carol J. Williams is a retired foreign correspondent with 30 years' reporting abroad for the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press. She has reported from more than 80 countries, with a focus on USSR/Russia and Eastern Europe.


  1. Yep, if you were a Democrat (or a Never-Trump Republican), tonight’s debate was brutal — three ways. Biden was visibly and audibly ill, he mumbled and fumbled his points, and Trump’s glib breast-beating exercise of mendacious nonsense actually sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

    (Of course he did, because he was mainly talking about HIMSELF. As usual. Still….)

    O dear, and here was I, up until 6:05 PST thinking we could enjoy a nice, uneventful summer paying no attention to all the campaign news because it would just be the same old same old thrust, counterthrust, etc. etc. we’ve been hearing for the past 8 months.

    Now, there may actually be a reason for having a Democratic Convention (other than the hospitality rooms hosted by lobbyists). I guess my summer project of cracking past page 40 of “War & Peace” will have to wait until next year.

  2. Holdu p now. Trump offered far more than hyperbole, refusing to answer questions. He lied repeatedly.
    Why is the conversation all about Joe Biden? O dear is right. But the tut-tut’s are misapplied. Here just a few whoppers:
    1. Trump lied about the number of insurrectionists that stormed the Capitol.
    It wasn’t a “relatively” small number as he claimed; it was thousands.
    2. Trump lied when he said he offered 10,000 National Guardsmen to Nancy Pelosi, who turned him down. Big fat whopper there. As the Insurrectionists, whom Trump later thanked, stormed the Capitol, Pelosi and Mitch McConnell called for National Guard Troops.
    3. Trump said that immigrants are stealing Black jobs and Hispanic jobs. Huh?
    4. Trump claimed that hundreds of thousands of immigrants that Biden allowed in are responsible for a violent upsurge in crime. Violent crime is way down.
    I could go on and on, but the question is: Why are journalists so continuously and relentlessly soft on Trump? I disagree that Biden was “incoherent” and I’m gob smacked at your silence on Trump, beyond a sentence or two about his digressing into other claims. Even Biden’s raspy voice brought more condemnation from you than anything Trump said.

  3. Trish, I agree I should have said more about Trump’s circumvention of everything he was asked about the big foreign policy issues facing the next president. But I thought Biden missed several golden opportunities to counter Trump’s bogus claims of being able to stop the war in Ukraine before he even takes office (in the hopefully still unlikely event he wins). Biden should have grabbed that opening to point out Trump’s horrific alliance with Vladimir Putin and whatever leverage Putin has on Trump that is to the detriment of US and Western security and peace on earth.

    • I think you missed the point. If you repeat a lie often enough, people will begin to believe it. Trump had 4 or 5 things to say and stayed on message, repeating them over and over again, no matter what the question was. When redirected back to the question, he gave it short shrift for a few seconds and then went back on message (worst administration, ruined the country, worst president, etc). Biden tried to answer the questions, but wasn’t prepped or prepared for what he encountered. Trump lying was beside the point. The questions were beside the point. The message was everything. This “debate” was unworthy of an advanced Democracy such as ours. The Democrats have underestimated Trump and continue to do so.


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