At least one Republican lawmaker is convinced that, contrary to fear-mongering from the Pentagon, his constituents in Montana wouldn’t mind it if the U.S. military shot down the Chinese spy balloon currently hovering over the United States.
“What the Pentagon has said was we didn’t want to shoot it down because of the chances of civilian casualties. This is a balloon that didn’t get here overnight. It was over the Aleutian chain, which is one of the most sparsely populated places on the planet,” Rep. Ryan Zinke told Fox News.
He added that, one, there’s “no doubt” the Pentagon could shoot down the balloon without harming any Americans, and two, his constituents in Montana would love to see the balloon be shot down out of the sky.
“In Montana, Petroleum County, for example… the least populated county in the lower 48, I guarantee you, the fine citizens of Petroleum County would enjoy having it shot down over their county, and probably there would be a line to shoot it down,” he said.
His remarks to Fox News came after Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters that the administration isn’t interested in shooting down the balloon because of the risks:
“How big is the balloon that you’re tracking? And is it, have you guys picked up, is it leaving anything in its wake like sensors?” a reporter can be heard asking Ryder in the clip above.
“We do continue to monitor the balloon. We do know that it is a surveillance balloon. In terms of the size, I’m not able to get into the specifics other than to say that it is big enough that, again, in reviewing our approach, we do recognize that any potential debris field would be significant and potentially cause civilian injuries or deaths or significant property damage,” the press secretary replied.
“So, again, this is part of the calculus in terms of our overall assessment. But again, we’ll continue to monitor it. We’ll continue to review our options and keep you updated as able,” he added.
As of Saturday morning, the balloon had reportedly moved past Montana.
“The balloon, which China claims is a civilian reconnaissance airship that inadvertently drifted off course, has moved from Montana airspace into the central U.S., leaving many to question why the Pentagon did not take action to remove the balloon from American airspace while it remained over a sparsely populated region of the country,” Fox News reported late Friday.
Meanwhile, more and more voices on the right were calling for the Biden administration to stop tucking in its tail and take some action.
Leading the outcry was former President Donald Trump.
“SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON!” he wrote on Truth Social early Friday morning:
Following closely behind Trump was outspoken Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
“Biden should shoot down the Chinese spy balloon immediately. President Trump would have never tolerated this. President Trump would have never tolerated many things happening to America,” she tweeted Friday afternoon.
The former president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also got in on the action by posting a tweet encouraging Montanans to shoot the balloon down themselves.
“If Joe Biden and his administration are too weak to do the obvious and shoot down an enemy surveillance balloon perhaps we just let the good people of Montana do their thing… I imagine they have the capability and the resolve to do it all themselves,” he tweeted.
If Joe Biden and his administration are too weak to do the obvious and shoot down an enemy surveillance balloon perhaps we just let the good people of Montana do their thing… I imagine they have the capability and the resolve to do it all themselves.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 3, 2023
However, there’s a slight problem with his idea.
“Engaging a slippery balloon above 60,000 feet requires a precise air-to-air missile shot lofted up to the balloon’s altitude. Or, the F-22’s 20mm, six-barrel Gatling gun could shred the balloon,” IRIS Independent Research president Rebecca Grant wrote in an op-ed for Fox News.
In other words, Montanans would need access to military hardware to take out the balloon.
And so this is presumably why most Republicans, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, are calling for answers first:
China’s brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent.
I am requesting a Gang of Eight briefing. https://t.co/KarTCUzbOS
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) February 3, 2023
Included among these Republicans is Montana Sen. Steve Daines, who penned an angry letter to the Pentagon.
“The fact that this balloon was occupying Montana airspace creates significant concern that Malmstrom Air Force Base (AFB) and the United States’ intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fields are the target of this intelligence gathering mission,” he wrote in the letter.
“Given the serious nature of the event, I am requesting a full security briefing from the administration on this situation. It is vital to establish the flight path of this balloon, any compromised U.S. national security assets, and all telecom or IT infrastructure on the ground within the U.S. that this spy-balloon was utilizing,” he continued.
I am demanding answers from the Biden administration about the spy balloon that flew over our airspace.
The administration failed to protect our border and now has failed to protect our skies. pic.twitter.com/68ZRDhgwK9
— Steve Daines (@SteveDaines) February 3, 2023
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