America’s path forward on the global stage for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden begins by looking backward.
The former vice president’s inner circle on international affairs and national security is populated heavily by familiar Obama-era officials and recognizable names in what has become the Democratic Party’s 21st-century foreign policy establishment.
While holed up in Delaware, Mr. Biden is routinely holding foreign policy discussions with former top officials who served alongside him during his eight years as vice president, according to sources familiar with the Biden campaign’s strategy.
Unlike President Trump, who built his presidential bid in 2016 by pitching a fundamentally new view of what America’s role in the world should be, Mr. Biden is crafting something of a hybrid approach that is open to new ideas but is largely reliant on a return to many of the policies and principles in place during his time in power.
Sources with knowledge of the Biden campaign’s plan say “evergreen” principles are a central pillar of how the longtime senator from Delaware will frame his foreign policy pitch to voters during the home stretch of the presidential race. Most polls give Mr. Biden a sizable lead over Mr. Trump just over four months before Election Day.
While they stress that Mr. Biden is fully aware that the world has changed over the past decade, the headline of his foreign policy platform will be an escape from the wrenching break with tradition that Mr. Trump ushered in.
Political analysts describe the platform as “restoration,” with Mr. Biden assembling a team that can help him best articulate how he would reverse the perceived damage Mr. Trump has caused over the past four years and rebuild bridges with traditional allies in Western Europe and East Asia, while repairing strained relationships with key international organizations such as the United Nations, NATO and the World Health Organization.
Unlike Mr. Trump in 2016, Mr. Biden would come to the job with a long and varied record on foreign policy, including three stints as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee during more than three decades in the Senate.
Mr. Biden’s bet, specialists say, is that a strong plurality of voters will warm to the idea of returning to the more predictable foreign policy of 2009 to 2017. Although voters tend to reward new ways of thinking and bold ideas, Mr. Trump’s unique approach may have radically changed the dynamic.
“I think the Trump foreign policy … has been such an outlier that any new president just has huge scope for pretty dramatic change by doing things that people would have taken for granted five, 10, 15 years ago,” said Thomas Wright, a senior foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively on Mr. Biden’s foreign policy approach.
“Normally, when a presidential candidate in an election year says ‘I want to do more with allies, strengthen our alliance,’ it sounds a little trite. Every candidate, with the exception of our current president, says that,” Mr. Wright said. “Bush said it. Obama said it. Normally, it doesn’t mean much. But this time I think it means quite a lot.”
Mr. Biden’s restoration of foreign policy could include a return to the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate pact, a reluctance to use tariffs as a policy pressure point, and a much less antagonistic attitude toward traditional allies such as Germany.
To do that, Mr. Biden is assembling a familiar cast. Former Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken; Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s former national security adviser; Elizabeth Rosenberg, former Treasury Department undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence; and a host of other Obama administration officials are among key voices in the former vice president’s ear.
Much of Mr. Biden’s national security brain trust is centered within several powerful left-leaning think tanks and advocacy groups in Washington, such as National Security Action, which describes a central part of its mission as “restoring American leadership” and reversing what it calls damage done by Mr. Trump.
Mr. Sullivan is a co-chairman of the organization, as is Ben Rhodes, who was deputy national security adviser to Mr. Obama.
Still, Democratic insiders argue that the world has changed dramatically over the past four years. Mr. Biden can make the deepest inroads on foreign policy, they say, by marrying attacks on Mr. Trump’s leadership with a clear path forward that recognizes where the U.S. stands today and where it needs to go.
“America has been represented by an empty chair” during the Trump presidency, said one source with knowledge of Mr. Biden’s campaign strategy. “Even when you have these evergreen strategies and approaches, rebuilding alliances and leveraging partnerships around the world, those are going to have to adapt to the present reality. And it’s a reality that doesn’t look anything like the reality he saw when he was vice president.”
Perhaps the clearest example of that dual strategy is with China. Mr. Biden favors a more collaborative working relationship with China on issues such as climate change, but he also seems keenly aware that Mr. Trump to some degree has successfully cast Beijing as a villain in U.S. popular opinion.
Mr. Biden seems willing to ramp up his rhetoric toward China’s Communist Party leadership to an unprecedented level.
“This is a guy who doesn’t have a democratic-with-a-small-‘d’ bone in his body,” Mr. Biden said of Chinese President Xi Jinping during a Democratic primary debate in February.
Mr. Biden also labeled the Chinese leader a “thug.”
Global competition with China also could push Mr. Biden toward Mr. Trump’s positions in other arenas, specialists say. The need to increase American military presence in the Pacific, they say, could lead Mr. Biden to more emphatically back the Trump doctrine of ending U.S. participation in “endless wars” in the Middle East and Asia.
“Would you see some people [in the Democratic foreign policy realm] saying the China challenge is so important that we need to actually do less and pull back?” said Mr. Wright.
The Biden campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Facing his record
Other analysts say a heavy focus on the past could invite scrutiny of Mr. Biden’s mixed record on foreign policy. Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who served as Pentagon chief in the early years of the Obama-Biden administration, has said Mr. Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” including his opposition to the 1991 Persian Gulf War authorization, his vision for Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein and his positions on the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan.
President Trump revived that critique in his address to a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday night, and his allies have been preparing on that front.
The Republican National Committee this month circulated an email blasting Mr. Biden’s support for the 2003 Iraq invasion, his initial opposition to the 2011 raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other foreign policy issues.
The email cited numerous news articles and columns that have cast Mr. Biden’s foreign policy platform as “opaque,” unclear and as less of a priority than many of his domestic proposals.
Specialists say Mr. Biden’s relatively safe foreign policy approach also could frustrate the liberal wing of his party, which wants decreased military spending and a more determined move away from interventions in conflicts abroad.
“He’s going to frustrate the Democratic base, but he could win over, I think, independents, moderate Republicans, people of a more mainstream persuasion,” said Stephen Zunes, a professor at the University of San Francisco who studies the intersection of politics and foreign policy.
“Biden is really going to have to distance himself from his support for the Iraq War. … Biden is really going to have to remake himself as an anti-interventionist,” Mr. Zunes said. “The good thing for Biden is he’s really good at remaking himself on foreign policy. He’s gone basically where the wind blows on foreign policy.”
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Hunter Biden Burisma payments detailed in Treasury Department reports
Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden flatly denied at Tuesday night’s debate that his lawyer son took huge sums of money from corrupt oligarchs and Chinese communists during his vice presidency, but Treasury Department reports show that Hunter Biden did receive the money. President Trump chose to make an issue of Hunter Biden’s cash haul…
Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden flatly denied at Tuesday night’s debate that his lawyer son took huge sums of money from corrupt oligarchs and Chinese communists during his vice presidency, but Treasury Department reports show that Hunter Biden did receive the money.
President Trump chose to make an issue of Hunter Biden’s cash haul from Russia, Ukraine and China with the implication that unsavory figures were trying to buy Vice President Biden and the Obama administration.
“When somebody gets 3½ million dollars from the mayor of Moscow,” Mr. Trump said.
“That’s is not true. That report is totally false,” Mr. Biden said.
A Senate Republican report by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee says Mr. Trump is right, though it was not Moscow’s mayor, but his wife, whom the U.S. suspects of corruption in attaining billionaire status.
Hunter Biden received a single wire transfer of $3.5 million from Elena Baturina. The Senate report said she became a billionaire through illegal construction contracts awarded by her husband, since deceased.
This is based on Treasury Department reports received by committee Chairman Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican.
The Senate narrative is not specific, but the types of transaction records match the description of confidential suspicious activity reports that the Treasury issues when it suspects illegal activity.
The Senate report says, “On Feb. 14, 2014, Baturina wired $3.5 million to a Rosemont Seneca Thornton LLC (Rosemont Seneca Thornton) bank account for a ‘Consultancy Agreement.’ Rosemont Seneca Thornton is an investment firm co-founded by Hunter Biden that was incorporated on May 28, 2013 in Wilmington, Del.”
Russia invaded Crimea in Ukraine the month Ms. Baturina sent the money.
“Why did he get it?” Mr. Trump asked.
“That report was written for political reasons,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Trump asserted, “Once you became vice president, he made a fortune in Ukraine, in China, in Moscow and various other places.”
Mr. Biden responded, “That is not true.”
According to the senators’ Treasury records, it is true.
In April 2014, President Obama made Mr. Biden the point man in Ukraine, after the Russian invasion, to persuade leaders to rid the country of rampant corruption.
The next month, Hunter Biden showed up on the board of directors of the energy company Burisma Holdings, which the State Department considers corrupt, as it does its oligarch owner, Mykola Zlochevsky. Hunter Biden’s business partner, Devon Archer, already had secured a spot.
Over the years, Burisma paid the two more than $4 million. Treasury records show that 48 wire transfers from May 2014 to February 2016 totaled $3.4 million. The money went to Rosemont Seneca Bohai, a shell company run by Mr. Archer in partnership with a Chinese investment fund.
In 2014 and 2015, Burisma sent $700,000 directly to Hunter Biden. After Mr. Archer was arrested on fraud charges, Burisma sent Hunter Biden another $752,000.
On China, Vice President Biden promoted closer ties to the communist regime on many fronts. He traveled to China in 2013 on Air Force Two and took along Hunter, who met with Chinese businessmen.
“China ate your lunch, Joe,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday night. “And no wonder your son goes in and he takes out billions of dollars. He takes out billions of dollars to manage. He makes millions of dollars.”
Mr. Biden said, “None of that is true.”
The Bidens have adamantly denied reports that Hunter Biden’s investment firm received a $1 billion infusion.
But the Senate report documents extensive ties between Hunter Biden and various Chinese entities that produced millions of dollars in wire transfers.
In one example, China’s CEFC Infrastructure Investment wired $5 million to HudsonWest LLC, a New York company jointly owned by Hunter Biden and Chinese interests. HudsonWest then sent $4.7 million to Hunter Biden’s law firm. The next year, another $1 million was delivered.
Hunter Biden sent 20 wire transfers totaling $1.3 million to Vice President Biden’s brother James for consulting services. Treasury flagged the transfers as potentially criminal, the Senate report said.
When the bank contacted James Biden’s wife, Sara, to learn details, she refused to cooperate, the Senate report said.
“Hunter Biden has extensive connections to Chinese businesses and Chinese foreign nationals that are linked to the Communist government,” the Senate report said. “Those contacts bore financial fruit when his father was vice president and after he left office.”
The Senate report also said Hunter Biden sent money to Ukrainian and Russian women. The Treasury reports said the transactions are linked to “what appears to be an Eastern European prostitution or human trafficking ring.”
Mr. Johnson, the Senate homeland security panel chairman, wrote in a FoxNews.com column Tuesday that liberal news media have ignored his report showing disturbing ties between the Biden family and corrupt people.
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Joe Biden: Trump ‘looks down on us’
Joseph R. Biden leaned into his recent populist messaging Wednesday as he kicked off a train tour of eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, saying President Trump looks down on Americans who might be struggling. “I think it’s more than ignoring us,” Mr. Biden said in Cleveland. “I look at things from [a] Scranton perspective —…
Joseph R. Biden leaned into his recent populist messaging Wednesday as he kicked off a train tour of eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, saying President Trump looks down on Americans who might be struggling.
“I think it’s more than ignoring us,” Mr. Biden said in Cleveland. “I look at things from [a] Scranton perspective — he looks at it from Park Avenue. I think he basically looks down on us.”
Mr. Biden spoke the day after his first debate with Mr. Trump that was dominated by name-calling and interruptions.
“The question is does he see you where you are and where you want to be? Does he care? Has he tried to walk in your shoes to understand what’s going on in your life?” Mr. Biden said. “Or does he just ignore you and all the folks all over America who are in a similar situation?”
Mr. Trump said Wednesday that Mr. Biden flopped the previous night and that the former vice president’s performance probably cost him support from the far left.
“Second Amendment is DEAD if Biden gets in! Is that what you want from a leader? He will destroy our Country! VOTE NOW USA,” the president said on Twitter.
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Joe Biden blasts Green New Deal after defending it
The Green New Deal was back on the front burner Tuesday after Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden said that he doesn’t support the ambitious climate plan, immediately both before and after defending it. During the presidential debate, Mr. Biden said, “The Green New Deal is not my plan.” But a moment later, he said:…
The Green New Deal was back on the front burner Tuesday after Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden said that he doesn’t support the ambitious climate plan, immediately both before and after defending it.
During the presidential debate, Mr. Biden said, “The Green New Deal is not my plan.”
But a moment later, he said: “The Green New Deal will pay for itself as we move forward. You’re not going to build plants that in fact are great polluting plants.”
Moderator Chris Wallace interrupted, saying, “You support the Green New Deal?”
Mr. Biden replied: “No, I don’t support the Green New Deal.”
President Trump jumped in with, “Oh, you don’t? Well, that’s a big statement,” predicting that Mr. Biden had just lost “the radical left.”
Mr. Biden explained, “I support the Biden plan that I put forward, which is different than what [Mr. Trump] calls the radical Green New Deal.”
The exchange deflated environmentalists on social media who champion the Green New Deal, although Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat who sponsored the House resolution, insisted that, “This isn’t news.”
“Our differences are exactly why I joined Biden’s Climate Unity Task Force — so we could set aside our differences & figure out an aggressive climate plan to address the planetary crisis at our feet,” tweeted Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. “Trump doesn’t even believe climate change is real.”
In 60 seconds Joe Biden said he doesn’t support the Green New Deal… then he DID support the Green New Deal.
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) September 30, 2020
This isn’t news, Kellyanne.Our differences are exactly why I joined Biden’s Climate Unity Task Force – so we could set aside our differences & figure out an aggressive climate plan to address the planetary crisis at our feet.Trump doesn’t even believe climate change is real. https://t.co/Bj8SMD9Syf
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 30, 2020
Mr. Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, is a cosponsor of the Green New Deal resolution in the Senate, the companion to the measure introduced by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez in the House.
The Biden campaign website says, “Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face,” although Mr. Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan is less ambitious than Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s plan.
Mr. Biden’s plan calls for limiting but not abolishing hydraulic fracturing; replacing fossil fuels on the electrical grid by 2035, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) September 30, 2020
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