Kyle Smith meets Tokyo Joe


National Review has posted Kyle Smith’s article “Wrong-Way Biden” behind its premium paywall. The article is published in the magazine’s September 21 issue and it is excellent. I appreciated the first-person opening of Smith’s article in which he meets “Tokyo Joe” coming through on “a mischievous enemy radio station.” Smith writes:

In January of 1991, I was a second lieutenant in the 178th Personnel Service Company, an administrative appendix to the buffed body of the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment. My troops and I had landed in the Gulf town of Dhahran a week before Christmas and gradually made our way inland by long, grim, nearly silent convoys — creeping, 20-mph slogs across the one two-lane highway, then off the road and across the sands to set up camp.

In mid January, after maybe twelve hours of deliberate, dusty driving, I climbed out of a deuce-and-a-half and stretched my limbs as the soldiers began unloading, somewhere beneath the triangle where Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia meet. A radio was playing in someone’s truck. Radio options were limited in this landscape; occasionally you could find the signal for the Armed Forces Network, if there was a large enough base nearby, but sometimes you couldn’t. AFN, Stars and Stripes, and occasional copies of a surprisingly good English-language broadsheet called “Arab News” were our sole media diet apart from whatever magazines we subscribed to, which would arrive weeks late in the mail. All three of our main sources were, of course, pro-U.S., which was fine by me. I had no idea what we were in for. I wanted only the most optimistic spin on things.

Which is why it was so startling to hear an American voice raining hellfire warnings on us over the radio. At first I assumed I was hearing AFN, but AFN didn’t let speeches go on like this uninterrupted, except maybe presidential addresses, and was strongly averse to downbeat messages. It dawned on me that we were listening to a mischievous enemy radio station that was blasting out unnerving propaganda to sap our morale like Tokyo Rose. Except the speaker hitting Saddam’s talking points was not a foreigner. It was Senator Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. Tokyo Joe.

“What vital interest of the United States of America justifies sending young Americans to their death in the sands of the Arabian peninsula?” Biden asked, in his speech announcing his vote against the war resolution on January 12, 1991. “The appeasers of the past are now ready to vote to spill my son’s blood and his generation’s blood to satisfy and salve their consciences,” he declared. (I don’t know why he specified his son, as neither of his boys was in the military at the time; Beau eventually signed on, but that was twelve years later.) Biden gravely informed us that we did not enjoy America’s backing: “President Bush, . . . I implore you to understand that even if you win today, 46 to 54, you still lose. The Senate and the nation are divided on the issue. You have no mandate for war, Mr. President. . . . The impatience you feel, the anger you feel are all justified, but none of them add up to vital interest and none of them — none of them — justify the death of our sons and daughters.”

He called the proposed attack “dangerous folly.” He predicted it “could cost tens or hundreds of thousands of lives,” meaning U.S. ones. He predicted “loss of American international support in the future.” He asked, “Who do we think we are? What do we think of our capabilities to do what has seldom been done in history without total occupation of the entire region?”

Smith’s article winds up with a compelling conclusion that cuts through the fog of war:

Those who fret that the current president is not always being forthright should note that Biden, who suffered two brain aneurysms in 1988, which required a seven-month break from his Senate duties and which were so grave he was given only a 50 percent chance of survival by doctors, has not released any medical records in twelve years, when he first ran for veep and revealed that he suffered from an irregular heartbeat. Studies link aneurysms to decreased life expectancy, which for a man of Biden’s age is already less than ten years. Biden will, on Election Day, be exactly as old as Ronald Reagan was on his last day in office and a couple of weeks shy of his 78th birthday. Every day his administration lasts he will set a new record for the oldest chief executive in the history of the United States.

Alas, Abraham Lincoln is not on the ballot this year. Two flawed men present themselves for our inspection. Biden may promise “hope and light and love,” but that is merely the accepted euphemism for greatly expanded federal powers to reshape everything from the energy sector to girls’ locker rooms. The distractions of personality foibles, Twitter wars, and misadventures in assertions of truth aside, the crux of this election is that we are confronted as usual with one party that says, “Let’s get to work reshaping everything in the United States” and another party that says, “Let’s not.”

While Smith does not do justice to the merits of Trump’s record, the focus of his article is on Biden and he nails the “crux of this election[.]”



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