President Joe Biden faced scrutiny about his fitness for office on Tuesday afternoon after one of his administration’s top officials said that Biden “literally” did not know about a recent foreign crisis involving a top U.S. ally.
White House climate envoy John Kerry told a French news organization this week that Biden “literally had not been aware of what had transpired” in regards to a conflict that arose late last month between the U.S. and France. Tensions rose after Australia had dumped a multi-billion dollar contract with France for submarines, then made a deal with the U.S. and the U.K. instead.
The move by the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. caused France to cancel a gala in the U.S. and to recall its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia. French leaders described the incident as a betrayal and said that they had been lied to by the Biden administration.
“He asked me. He said, ‘what’s the situation?’ and I explained exactly, uh. He wasn’t, he had not been aware of that,” Kerry said. “He literally had not been aware of what had transpired and I don’t want to go into the details of it, but suffice it to say, that the president, my president is very committed to strengthening the relationship and making sure that this is a small event of the past and moving on to the much more important future.”
The interview, which went viral earlier in the day, drew scrutiny from U.S. politicians, national security experts, and journalists.
- Marshall S. Billingslea, former Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing at the United States Department of the Treasury: “How on earth was the President unaware? The French made a row over the submarine deal, even going so far as to recall their Ambassador.”
- Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL): “Since assuming office, Joe Biden has been an absent president. But for a President not to be made aware of a technology transfer of this severity and the fallout with a longstanding ally is not only alarming, but raises valid concerns: What else is POTUS in the dark on?”
- Victoria Coates, former senior U.S. official: “I really did think the one thing we could trust this administration to do was to competently manage the alliance with France.”
- Ian Bremmer, columnist: “This is surprising. Both that Biden wasn’t aware and that Kerry would admit it. Comms from Biden Admin have been locked down—Klain not going to be happy about this interview.”
- Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN): “. @ClimateEnvoy John Kerry says @POTUS isn’t consulted on reactions of key US Allies. This could explain disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal & Biden Admin selling out Eastern European allies in NATO & Ukraine while waiving sanctions on Nord Stream 2 pipeline.”
- Matt Whitlock, Republican strategist: “WOW — Kerry sort of throwing Blinken and the entire administration foreign policy arm under the bus here and making Biden look completely disengaged.”
- Rebeccah Heinrichs, Manhattan Institute: “It’s amazing obviously because he reveals that Biden was clueless on such a major decision w/ big implications for an important ally. It’s also amazing that Kerry just… said it.”