Did you think you were done with balloon news on Saturday after the U.S. military shot down the Chinese weather/spy balloon that had been floating across the country? (The balloon was targeted only after it drifted offshore near South Carolina, officials said, to prevent anyone on the ground from getting hit by debris.) Ha ha, you stupid idiot. You rube! This is American politics, where nothing is too inconsequential for partisan litigation—particularly if it calls into question whether someone is Projecting Weakness by Letting Foreigners Have Their Perverted Little Foreign Way With Us.
First, it became borderline mandatory for right-wing elected officials to tweet during the Sinoballoon’s reign of terror that its presence was another (?) example of President Joe Biden failing to protect U.S. “sovereignty” from Chinese Communist aggression. (China is communist for purposes of patriotic rhetoric but not communist when you’re taking a job lobbying on its behalf or pursuing a business partnership with its state-owned firms.) Interestingly, many of these tweets spelled balloon with only one o, revealing potentially humiliating evidence of latent Frenchness.
In a related development, some Republicans posted photos of themselves holding guns as if prepared to shoot down the balloon themselves. Of these, the most noteworthy was perhaps Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, if only because Vance had days earlier endorsed Donald Trump on the purported basis of their allegedly shared belief that foreign policy “statesmanship” should involve “great restraint”:
You hate to imagine how things would have gone for China’s precious weather device without all the restrained statesmanship being demonstrated in that photograph! (For what it’s worth, a bullet fired upward out of Vance’s rifle would have come about 10 miles short of reaching the balloon, which we acknowledge is not the point.)
On Saturday, perhaps having been successfully provoked by these GOP provocations, a “senior defense official” told the press that other balloons had “transited the continental United States briefly at least three times during the prior administration.” Tables turned! Donald Trump, soft on balloon crime! Trump responded immediately (LOL), telling Fox News that a balloon overflight “never happened with us under the Trump administration and if it did, we would have shot it down immediately.”
On Sunday, though, a “senior administration official” from the Biden administration responded and twisted the knife even further, telling Fox that Trump didn’t know about the balloons because his pathetic national security team hadn’t even noticed them:
The official told Fox News that “this information was discovered after the [Trump] administration left.”
“They went undetected,” the official told Fox News Digital.
On Sunday night, a (still anonymous) Biden official went further again, telling reporters his colleagues were “prepared to offer key officials from the Trump administration briefings on [China’s] surveillance program,” a briefing that would presumably include a very patronizing segment about the many Chinese balloons that crisscrossed the American homeland on their watch, which—do we even need to repeat ourselves?—were not shot down with a space bazooka even once. The anonymous officials haven’t explained how it’s possible to piece together evidence of a balloon flight retroactively.
That’s all, for now, although the right-wing media is currently trying to whip up a story about military brass/Deep State operatives committing “treason” against Trump by not telling him, at the time, about the balloons that flew over the country during his term. The “evidence” that this happened, in its entirety, is that a Republican congressman told a Fox Business channel host that he’d heard “speculation” that it could have happened—from Trump administration officials themselves. Which is to say, expect some hearings in the House of Representatives to dig into the matter soon!