If you’re of a certain age, you remember the 1978 movie “Midnight Express,” which was the terrifying (though highly dramatized) account of the arrest and incarceration of American Billy Hayes for a drug offense in Turkey. The harrowing portrayal of Hayes’ ordeal introduced the term “Turkish prison” into the American vernacular as a synonym for “hellhole run by sadistic degenerates” and scared a whole generation straight, at least when it came to overseas hashish trafficking. It probably didn’t do much to help the Turkish tourism industry, either.
Being left to rot in a nightmarish prison in an America-hating country for a minor offense is more than a ’70s movie trope; it’s a current reality for American WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has languished in Russian custody since February for possession of a small amount of cannabis oil. Griner has pleaded guilty to drug charges and faces up to 10 years in a Moscow prison.
Let’s set aside any temptation toward feelings of schadenfreude toward Griner. In spite of her quite apparent disdain for the U.S. national anthem and other celebrations of American greatness, she is now in a position of begging her country for help. Let’s examine how this incident underscores the differences between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and how this situation is being handled. Does anyone doubt that, if Trump were still president, Griner would be safely home and free to denigrate the U.S. at her leisure? Or that his opponents would be using his success as a cudgel to bash him as Putin’s pal?
One of the conveniently forgotten successes of the Trump era came in a similar situation. Three UCLA basketball players were arrested in China in 2017 on shoplifting charges; Trump demanded their release during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who granted the request.
The players thanked Trump (who had wondered publicly if they would do so), but the usual suspects used the occasion to assert Trump’s cozy relationship with dictators, and claim that Trump had nothing to do with the players’ release. Of course, it didn’t help that Trump proceeded to get in a social media slap fight with LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of one of the players, for being insufficiently grateful – the kind of petty stuff that has long been baked into the Trump soufflé, for better or worse.
Setting aside Trump’s unseemly appetite for credit, the point is this: His brand of diplomacy — equal parts bluster, cajolery, and craftiness — is ideal for dealing with today’s brand of strongman, while Biden’s authentic D.C. gibberish has never been more clearly laid bare as utterly ineffectual.
This is a developing story, and there’s always a chance that the administration could save face through some sort of prisoner swap involving notorious arms trafficker Viktor Bout (talk about a Pyrrhic victory). But that’s cold comfort for Brittney Griner, who is now in her fifth month of incarceration thanks to one of Joe Biden’s many glaring failures.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Daily Wire.