There is a brand-new game: decipher the rhetoric of Joe Biden, former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
American politics has never had a top politician who (apparently suffering from dementia) makes such wandering, incoherent, garbled comments. The game he has inspired has two simple rules: (1) prune the gibberish and (2) add what is needed to make sense.
Here is an example on an important topic, taken from a long interview with New York Times editors on December 16, 2019. Speaking about Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Biden said:
He has to pay a price for whether or not we're going to continue to sell certain weapons to him. In fact, if he has the air defense system that they're flying F-15s through to see how they can try to figure out how to do it.
Come again? Sure, read a second and even a third time. I'll wait. A bit murky, no? But with the magic of the above two rules, it does make sense. I dropped the fluff and added the implicit bits (in square brackets), resulting in an intelligible new version:
He has to pay a price for [acquiring Russia's S-400 missile system and we must decide] whether or not we're going to continue to sell certain weapons[, in particular, our most advanced F-35 aircraft,] to him. In fact, if he has the [S-400] air defense system that [the Turks are] flying F-15s through to [test how well it works, we must not sell F-35s to Turkey].
Condensed: Erdoğan purchased the S-400, so we must not sell him F-35s.
Applying this methodology to Biden's entire statement on Turkey in the NYT interview, it emerges that Biden:
- Claims he can influence Erdoğan, who much appreciates Biden;
- Considers Erdoğan an "autocrat";
- Demands he treat Kurds better;
- Hopes to embolden the parliamentary opposition to remove him from office;
- Urges allies to isolate Ankara for its illegal gas and oil drilling in the Mediterranean Sea; and
- Has "concern" about U.S. access to the Incirlik air base and other military facilities.
Coming from a politician generally squishy on foreign issues, this unusually robust stand predictably has Erdoğan's lapdogs howling.
One might mischievously speculate that, as the anti-Trump, Biden's hard line on Turkey exists simply to be the opposite of Trump.
Whatever the impetus, should Biden win in November, let us hope he has sufficient influence on his own administration to implement this sound policy. Let us also hope that his advisors (will Jill Biden be the new Edith Wilson?) manage to decipher Bidenese into English.
Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.