Congressional Republicans are currently having an “I told you so” moment.
Recall that last week a Chinese spy balloon appeared over U.S. airspace and congressional Republicans rushed to demand that President Joe Biden shoot it down.
To his credit, the president eventually ordered the balloon to be shot down, but only days after the balloon was spotted flying over Montana.
Fast-forward to Friday, when yet another unidentified object appeared over U.S. airspace. This time the president didn’t wait to pull the trigger.
“I can confirm that the Department of Defense was tracking a high altitude object over Alaska airspace in the last 24 hours. The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby announced Friday.
“Out of an abundance of caution and the recommendation of the Pentagon, President Biden ordered the military to down the object. And they did. And it came in inside our territorial waters,” he added.
Later during the briefing, Fox News White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich asked whether, given what just happened, the president regrets not having shot down the first object — the Chinese spy balloon — much more quickly.
Kirby tried to claim the president didn’t.
“I can tell you that the president doesn’t regret the way that we handled the first balloon. First of all, apples and oranges here in terms of size. As I said, this was the size of a small car, and it was over a very sparsely populated area, but also more critically, it was over water space when we ordered this down. But a completely different size, and the debris field for this, we expect to be much, much smaller than would have been for the other one. That’s difference one,” he said.
“Difference two, we knew for a fact that the PRC balloon that we shot down last week was in fact a surveillance asset and capable of surveillance over sensitive military sites, and that it had self-propulsion and maneuver capabilities. There’s no indication that this one did. The other one, the first one, was able to maneuver and loiter, slow down, speed up, it was very purposeful, that flight path, with inside the — inside the jet stream,” he added.
But if they knew the balloon was a “surveillance asset,” then wouldn’t that have been reason enough to shoot it down immediately instead of waiting?
Congressional Republicans certainly believe so.
“Biden’s refusal to shoot down the Chinese spy balloon sent a message to all of our foreign adversaries that America’s skies are as wide open as our southern border,” Rep. Jim Banks told Fox News.
He added that “Joe Biden’s failed foreign policy has left America much weaker than before he took office.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Cory Mills said the decision to shoot down the latest object “is exactly what the U.S. should have done last time.”
“Why is it only now, when the administration was caught in a blunder just days before, did we take this strong action? Either Biden doesn’t know how to play offensive or he’s slow to learn,” he added.
Rep. Andy Biggs believes he has the answer. In a tweet posted Friday, he speculated that Biden was motivated to immediate action this time thanks to the criticism his previous actions elicited from the bulk of the American people.
Though by the “American people,” he likely only meant conservative Americans, as they were the ones who’d made the loudest noise about the Chinese spy balloon.
Biden’s response to foreign instruments flying over our airspace vastly changed in a matter of days due to the American people.
Your pressure convinced him to no longer allow these devices to fly freely across our great country.
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) February 10, 2023
Rep. Roger Marshall also got in on the criticism.
“So we can shoot down suspicious objects BEFORE they get over our border… Just as I suggested,” he tweeted.
The most thoughtful criticism came from Rep. Mike Waltz, a former Green Beret and a current member of the House Intelligence, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees.
“I think it’s gonna continue to beg more policy questions. So this one was at 40,000 feet. The president determined it was a safety of flight risk. Does that then imply if this one had been at 60-65,000 feet, like the first balloon, we would have let it continue to traverse into Canada and possibly the United States? Is that the new criteria now? Some type of interference with civilian aircraft?” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
He also questioned whether the president would have done anything about last week’s Chinese spy balloon had it not been spotted by citizen journalists.
“I still have the question if it had not been for some enterprising photographers in Montana, whether we would be taking this more decisive action at all, was it really the public outcry, the violation of our sovereignty and airspace, that’s driving this change of policy?” he said.
Republican Congressman @michaelgwaltz tells @jaketapper the U.S. should shoot down any possible surveillance aircraft that flies into U.S. airspace pic.twitter.com/M8I00ghH3c
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) February 11, 2023
As previously reported, the Biden administration became aware of the Chinese spy balloon days before it was spotted by journalists in Montana and quickly transformed into a national story.
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