Putin Pulls a Judo Move on Biden… and America
“You know Vladimir Putin,” said ABC News employee George Stephanopoulos to President Joe Biden in a recent televised interview.
“Do you think he’s a killer?” asked the media talking head.
“Um-hm,” nodded Biden. “I do,” he replied.
“You said (to Putin) you know he doesn’t have a soul,” added Stephanopoulos.
“I did say that to him, yes,” said Biden, eyes squinting and grinning broadly.
Keep on smiling, Mr. President. Screen grab, ABC News.
A day after ABC aired Biden’s comments, Russia recalled its ambassador to the U.S. Then a day later, and quite tellingly, Putin challenged Biden to a debate.
A segment of America’s leadership class immediately took a figurative deep breath, thinking in essence, “Uh-oh… Biden? In a debate? With Putin?”
All of which illustrates a couple of life lessons that Biden ought to know.
First, be careful getting into a row with a guy like Putin, a former Soviet intelligence officer who also holds a black belt in Judo.
And second, sometimes a U.S. president — no, especially a U.S. president — ought to just keep his big mouth shut. (Did we learn nothing from Donald Trump?)
Within the short attention span of a typical American news cycle, this Biden-Putin exchange may seem like a minor tiff, a taunt and counter-taunt.
But don’t miss the import here. This is a geopolitical disaster for the U.S., as I’ll explain below.
Rhetorically, Putin just Judo-flipped Biden. And Putin sent a powerful, embarrassing message to America and the world.
Let’s dig into it…
Joe Biden has been president for all of two months. And his biggest problem isn’t Russia or Vladimir Putin, let alone Putin’s soul (or lack of one).
Biden is president of a nation that’s deeply in debt, running up bills using numbers calculated in astronomical powers of ten.
And Biden holds office over a horribly divided nation, not least of which has to do with him sitting in that big chair in the White House.
Even casual acquaintance with daily news shows how horribly divided the country is along lines of social class, culture, race, education and much more.
So Biden has plenty on his plate without picking pointless fights, accusing his Russian counterpart of being a “killer” and lacking a “soul.”
What exactly was the thinking behind this name-calling? Perhaps Biden wanted to score some macho-points? Seriously?
It just makes you want to say, “C’mon, man!”
Perhaps some Americans are impressed by this gratuitous sort of presidential rhetoric. Maybe talking about people not having souls reminds them of Don Corleone in a famous scene from “The Godfather.”
But in diplomatic circles, heads of state do not openly talk smack about other heads of state. It’s undignified and totally unprofessional.
Then again, Biden has long had boundary issues. And these days, he often displays intemperate senior moments.
Just last week, for example, Biden openly forgot the name of his Secretary of Defense as well as the name of “that outfit” (his term) otherwise known as the Pentagon.
Now, Biden has descended to rank name-calling against the head of Russia, a well-armed nation that possesses thousands of nuclear warheads which could obliterate the U.S. in about 45 minutes.
On the bright side, at least Biden didn’t challenge Putin to an IQ comparison, as he has done to others in the past. Nor did Biden challenge Putin to a pushup contest, as he has done before.
The world can be thankful that Biden didn’t threaten to take Putin behind the gym and beat him up, as was the case when he talked about his antipathy towards former President Trump.
Of course, Putin comes across like someone who can deal with mere name calling.
Clearly, Putin is a bright guy and athletic to boot. Long ago, Putin attended one of the top universities in the Soviet Union, one with stringent entry requirements. Then he was invited to join the KGB, which was long known for selecting very smart people. (Indeed, having really good people in the national intelligence service is a Russian thing that goes back to the Napoleonic Wars.)
Meanwhile, Putin is in good shape for a 68-year-old man. He swims, runs, lifts weights, practices Judo and even plays ice hockey.
Putin on ice. Courtesy RIA Novosti and NBC News.
And so what did Putin say in reply to Biden’s jabs?
The Russian executed a near-perfect Judo move to take out his American counterpart with minimal exertion and no resistance.
That is, Putin wished Biden “good health.”
Then, Putin added an old Russian expression along the lines of how “it takes one to know one,” amplifying his view of Biden, that, “we always see our own traits in other people and think they are like how we really are.”
A day later, Putin offered to hold a debate with Biden. He said:
“I want to propose to President Biden to continue our discussion, but on the condition that we do it basically live, as it’s called. Without any delays and directly in an open, direct discussion. It seems to me that would be interesting for the people of Russia and for the people of the United States.”
Bullseye! Bomb straight down the smokestack!
He hit Biden right in the weak spot, which is the U.S. president’s evident, declining mental capacity.
In a few simple words, Putin absolutely nailed the sheer terror that U.S. leaders must feel when they take stock of the precarious predicament of both the nation and its current president.
Obviously, Russia and Putin have been watching…
They watched all through 2020, as the oldest presidential candidate in U.S. history ran a lazy, lame campaign.
They watched as Biden mostly hung out in his basement, emerging every now and again in a facemask to give a talk to small assemblies of hand-picked reporters and field fluffy, softball questions.
They watched the bitterly contested November election and its aftermath.
They watched the Biden inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, as the U.S. swore in its 46th president in a sparsely attended ceremony, held behind razor wire and two divisions of armed soldiers.
Small number of attendees witness Biden inauguration. Los Angeles Times.
And they have been watching how Biden executes his duties as president.
Doubtless, Russia takes note of Biden’s notoriously light schedule, of his few public appearances, of his lack of access to the press, of his few telephone calls with foreign heads of state.
And then, after Biden insulted Putin, the Russian president calculated that the time was right.
Putin yanked his ambassador, which is another way of saying, “We don’t really need to speak with you.”
This is a powerful message not just from Russia to the U.S., but from Russia to the world. And no doubt, the world is watching.
Then in a simple, near-impish fashion, Putin raised the idea of a “debate.”
Let me translate that for you: Putin mocked both Biden and the process by which Biden was elected and serves. With the debate challenge, Putin has called Biden’s mouthy bluff.
In a very unsubtle way, Putin just told Biden personally, and the world in general, that Russia considers the U.S. president unfit for the job.
And if Russia has this view of Biden, then it’s a safe bet that other nations across the world think along the same lines.
All that U.S. media spin and state-level propaganda of the past year has just blown up in a large fireball.
Debate Putin? Umm… Maybe not.
How does a U.S. president come back from a slam-down like this?
Well, I suspect that it won’t be pretty.
On that note, I rest my case.
That’s all for now… Thank you for subscribing and reading.
Managing Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder