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A tale of two perfect phone calls

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

It is within a year of an election in America and the president has just withheld military aid from an ally across the ocean. He does so to try and improve his re-election chances at home. News is published about it.

Whether or not there is outrage for this story depends on what year it is and who is sitting in the Oval Office. Were it 2019, President Trump would be impeached for ‘Abuse of Power’ for allegedly asking Ukraine’s Zelensky to inquire about his political opponent’s corruption in Ukraine.

Alas. It is not 2019. It is 2024 and Biden is in the Oval Office. This time, reports have been confirmed that the American government has actually withheld military aid to a foreign ally after a phone call with its leader.

Today that country is Israel. Per The Times of Israel:

The Biden administration on Tuesday night confirmed reports that it had recently held up a large shipment of 2,000- and 500-pound bombs that it feared Israel might use in a major ground operation in the densely populated southern Gaza city of Rafah.

This is the first time since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war that the US has held up a weapons shipment for the IDF, which it has been supplying on a near-constant basis since October 7.

This decision comes after 88 members of his party applied more pressure by signing a letter declaring “serious concerns regarding the Israeli government’s conduct of the war in Gaza.”

It is possible Biden is doing so to improve his poll numbers in communities that are increasingly rejecting the president and his steadfast defense of Israel through public comments and financial support. And if he is, is this truly a repeat of 2019?

To answer, let’s consider the context when comparing the two instances of both men. The argument that Trump ‘abused his power’ by trying to use aid as leverage in an election year but Biden has not is laughable on its face. Why would Biden not continue providing support to Israel if not to prevent angering his voter base in swing states like Michigan?

Biden has to tread a thin line between two factions within the Democratic Party. The first is traditional Democrat voters who voted for Clinton in the 90s and see Israel’s war with Hamas as what it is – and who remain largely in favor of an ally’s right to defend itself.

But the second is the young and increasingly loud and pro-Palestinian faction headed by the party’s famous ‘Squad’ — notably Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib. Together they yield influence over the electorate in the state with large Muslim and pro-Palestinian sympathies.

Per AP in February:

Dearborn and two other Michigan cities with large Arab and Muslim populations turned against President Joe Biden in the state’s primary after Democratic leaders there warned for months that voters were angry about his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

While Biden won the state with more than 623,000 votes, the results in Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Hamtramck highlight the challenge his reelection campaign faces in a swing state that each major party has said they must win to take the White House in November. More than 100,000 Michigan Democratic primary voters cast ballots for “uncommitted” in the race, enough to pick up two delegates.

To combat this split, Biden’s response has been to conduct the very act that then-President Trump was impeached for attempting to do: withhold aid to try to influence a foreign nation’s behavior and ultimately sway the election in his favor.

There are no ifs or buts about it: this is also an abuse of power and therefore an impeachable offense. By blocking aid to an ally overseas in times of war, President Biden is both abusing his power as president and once again cowering to the desires of Hamas sympathizers. It’s just whether or not our media or our electorate care enough to hold him accountable in time for November.

Or it’s not. And so President Trump didn’t deserve to be impeached at all. But to see such conflicting responses to such similar acts by American presidents in potentially their final years in office shows the hypocrisy in our media for how they report on it, as well as the public’s denial to acknowledge their similarities at all.

This isn’t even the first time Biden has done something like this. In 2018, he admitted on camera to a quid pro quo as then-vice president for threatening to withhold aid to Ukraine unless Ukrainian State Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who was looking into his family’s finances, was fired. The very thing Trump wanted investigated.

Per Fox News:

 

His strategy in fixing The Michigan Problem doesn’t end there. That’s just one of the consequential states up for play for the Democrats in November. Let us not forget about another significant voting bloc: The Jewish-prominent Pennsylvania. Trump remains consistently ahead in the polls for the state which went to Biden in 2020, despite loud Democrat support for Israel from its freshman senator John Fetterman. Since October 7 he has often broken with his own party in terms of commenting on Israel’s handling of the war.

Per The Hill:

He has been a staunch critic of the ongoing pro-Palestinian college demonstrations happening at college campuses across the country, accusing them of “working against peace in the Middle East.” He also called them “pup tents” for Hamas in a separate interview.

It appears that President Biden is splitting his words and actions across two swing states in order to achieve electorate success come November: He is leaving Pennsylvanian Jews to its local senator for soundbites and public statements, all while appeasing the hardline pro-Palestinian progressives in Michigan by capping Israel’s defense abilities.

Meanwhile, Trump is reduced to conducting his campaign from outside a New York courtroom for an alleged hush-money case using a tabloid strategy called ‘Catch and Kill’. It is a practice where journalists purchase or withhold the rights to unflattering stories about candidates in order to prevent their publication. I find it hard to believe he is the first president to benefit from such a scheme. In fact, he’s not.

Per Talking Points Memo in 2018:

A journalist announced last week that he will publish a photograph of then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (D) and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan that he took in 2005 at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting, but did not make public because he believed it would have “made a difference” to Obama’s political future.

How long may it be until we discover that the current president is shown once again to act similarly to his predecessor in a scheme to secure and maintain office? If we do, it might already be too late.

About the Author
James Spiro is a journalist and editor at CTech by Calcalist, where he reports on Israel's tech sector and moderates conferences across Europe, North America, and Asia. He has a background in journalism and public relations and can often be found Tweeting his thoughts: @JamesSpiro
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