President Joe Biden faces the biggest test to his leadership to date.
In the past two weeks, his financial requests to Congress have almost caused a government shutdown – not helped by Republican infighting – while his son has been criminally charged with a gun crime. More still, he’s been forced to extend predecessor Donald Trump’s border wall – a policy he vowed never to continue – while discontent over funding for Ukraine continues to mount.
On top of all that, Hamas has launched a terrorist offensive against Israel in which thousands of people are confirmed dead. The U.S., Israel’s largest ally in a region surrounded by hostile nations somewhat sympathetic to Palestine, has already seen 11 of its citizens murdered in the conflict, with more expected to have been taken hostage.
For Biden, this is a defining moment. His response to the crisis – the horrifying events of which are widely shared on social media – will set the course for his presidential election campaign next year. A U.S.-led de-escalation could convince Americans that the incumbent is the best choice to safeguard the country in an increasingly hostile world.
Yet, surprisingly, Biden had been largely in the shadows since Saturday morning.
White House Plays Down Absence
Deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates noted Israel’s public gratitude to the U.S. response on Monday amid questions about the President’s whereabouts.
“President Biden’s decisive, experienced leadership and deep relationships have mobilized rapid support for Israel in the face of a hideous terrorist attack and rallied the world against Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine while delivering historic job growth and strong progress against inflation,” he said. “This is a moment to double down on the mainstream values and the clear-eyed, stable leadership he is providing as commander in chief.”
However, praise from an ally in conflict does not translate into popular voter support – Ukraine being a prime example. Biden’s steady, calm response so far may be needed in a time of uncertainty, but the atrocities seen on social media suggest the President may need to consider alternatives to just a strong condemnation of Hamas.
Congressional Troubles for Joe Biden
For now, the Biden administration has not sought a legislative response through Congress. Perhaps no surprise, given that the House of Representatives is currently without a speaker.
A bipartisan measure, albeit not necessary at the moment, was discussed over the weekend. Ukraine and Israel will need different munitions, but supplies are not infinite, and war fatigue may only deepen with the U.S. involved in two conflicts in separate regions.
For the Biden administration, that’s not an easy task. Right-wing Republicans are adamant against further funding for Kyiv, and legislation for additional U.S. military support may be difficult to pass in the chaotic Congress.
However, it’s a task that’s essential. Israel is in the midst of a conflict on a level not seen for decades. Whatever it takes, Biden must do it. It could be his last chance to prove himself as a leader on the world stage before next year’s election.
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.