Amid heated discussion and debate over his administration's handling of the Chinese spy balloon incident, President Joe Biden made an agitated, off-script reference to President Xi Jinping during his State of the Union address Tuesday, leaving observers scratching their heads to decipher its meaning, as the Daily Caller notes.
As he weighed in on the topic of America's current relationship with Beijing, Biden asserted, “Autocracies have grown weaker, not stronger.”
From there, things grew murky, with the president angrily hollering and wagging his index finger for added effect, “Name me a world leader who'd change places with Xi Jinping! Name me one! Name me one!” WATCH:
— Bloomberg (@business) February 8, 2023
Notably, the president's rhetorical flourish was not part of an official transcript of the speech provided earlier that evening by White House officials, according to the Daily Caller.
Reactions to Biden's words ran the gamut from bemused to baffled, though Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin leveled a more substantive critique of the president's apparent premise.
“There are dozens of world leaders who would happily change positions with Xi Jinping, unfortunately,” Rogin tweeted, adding, “Biden shouldn't have blurted out that confusing and bungled ad-lib on China,”
Rogin's assessment was perhaps based in part on Xi Jinping's constitutional ability to remain president for life as well as his position atop an ascendant global power, factors Biden apparently failed to include in his own thought process.
Other members of the Twitterverse seemed flummoxed on a more fundamental level, with one user opining, “I still don't know what this was about...lol. The yelling just came out of left field.”
A social media user with the handle @Red_Queen2024 gave voice to what a growing number of Americans may have been thinking during the jarring outburst, noting, “Irrational anger is a sign of dementia.”
Unsurprisingly, Chinese officials were quick to take issue with Biden's odd interjection.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning offered a succinct riposte, as the Wall Street Journal noted, saying, “The Chinese side has always believed that China-U.S. Relations are not a zero-sum game, in which you lose, when I win, in which you flourish when I weaken.”
The government official continued, suggesting that the U.S. should not view its relationship with China completely through a competitive lens, despite Beijing's unwavering determination to defend what it deems its own interests and security needs.
Unfortunately for Biden, the episode only bolsters calls from lawmakers like Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), who recently called on the president to undergo a cognitive examination, saying, “The American people want to know that their commander in chief is fully capable of performing at the highest level to protect the safety and security of the nation.” However, such a favorable determination – particularly in light of Tuesday's spectacle – may prove to be a tall order.