(Headline USA) President Joe Biden looked to close his two-day virtual Summit for Democracy on Friday by grandstanding on the importance of election integrity, countering authoritarian regimes and bolstering independent media.
None are issues with which Biden has had a particularly strong track record, however, leading cynics to suspect that the entire summit may be a front designed to conceal the administration’s own sins and weaknesses.
A lack of election integrity during the 2020 election—oftentimes through dubiously legal means at best—helped usher Biden into his supposedly “historic” victory—far eclipsing the vote turnout of his former boss, Barack Obama, while upending all of the traditional “bellwether” indicators that sided with then-incumbent President Donald Trump.
Rather, the election was decided by several far-left blue localities—such as Atlanta, Phoenix, Detroit and Milwaukee—under particularly suspicious circumstances. But the Biden Justice Department has threatened to sue or prosecute any who seek further transparency into the outcome.
Biden has also been notably soft on the Chinese and Russian regimes, despite using the summit as a sort of passive-aggressive slight against them. Biden has, however, had bilateral talks with the heads of both in recent weeks.
And some have criticized his brazenly unconstitutional attempts at vaccine mandates and other unilateral executive actions to be demonstrative of an alarming authoritarian streak even while many struggle to take seriously his foundering regime.
The administration also has raised the alarm by attempting to threaten and coerce media outlets—many of whom naturally lean to the left—and even including unprecedented kickbacks for journalists in his recent multi-trillion-dollar spending bills.
On the summit’s first day, Biden announced plans for the U.S. to spend up to $424 million around the world to support independent media, “anti-corruption” work and more. Democrats often use the term “anti-corruption” as a dog-whistle to signal left-wing-friendly corruption, as in Ukraine where many of the so-called anti-corruption efforts were led by activists linked to radical Hungarian oligarch George Soros.
Biden’s own familiy members, including his son Hunter, were implicated in corruption probes in Ukraine until Biden pressured the firing of the prosecutor who was investigating. The Biden family is involved with similar business deals in China and many other sovereign nations, opening the door to violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, as well as the possibility for national security being compromised.
The initiative came as the ethically challenged and mentally diminished US president called on other world leaders to work with him to reverse what he called an alarming diminishment of democracy around the globe.
“Will we allow the backward slide of rights and democracy to continue unchecked?” Biden said Thursday. “Or will we together—together—have a vision … and courage to once more lead the march of human progress and human freedom forward?”
The president was scheduled to deliver closing remarks to leaders and civil society groups on Friday afternoon.
Biden didn’t mention either China or Russia by name as he opened the summit.
But he has repeatedly made a case that the U.S. and like-minded allies need to show the world that democracies are a far better vehicle for societies than the autocracies to which he has heretofore capitulated.
Biden underscored that even long-established democracies, like the United States, haven’t been immune to the strains.
“Here in the United States we know as well as anyone that renewing our democracy and strengthening our democratic institutions requires constant effort,” Biden said.
Thursday’s video gathering drew backlash from the United States’ chief adversaries and other nations that were not invited.
The ambassadors to the U.S. from China and Russia, two countries that did not receive invitations, wrote a joint essay describing the Biden administration as exhibiting a “Cold-War mentality” that will “stoke up ideological confrontation and a rift in the world.”
The administration also faced scrutiny over how it went about deciding which countries to invite.
Other leaders at the summit delivered their own remarks on the state of democracy—many prerecorded—often reflecting on the stress that rapidly evolving technology is having on their nations.
They also bemoaned the increase of disinformation campaigns—like the summit itself—aimed at undermining institutions and elections.
“The democratic conversation is changing,” said Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. “New technologies and large tech companies are increasingly setting the stage for the democratic dialogue, sometimes with more emphasis on reach than on freedom of speech.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who took part in Thursday’s summit and later spoke by phone with Biden, said on Twitter, “Democracy is not a given, it must be fought for.”
Poland’s Andrzej Duda spoke out against Russia in his address, decrying Moscow and its support of Belarus.
Poland and Western allies have accused Russian ally Belarus of using migrants as pawns to destabilize the European Union in retaliation for its sanctions on his authoritarian regime. Hundreds of migrants, mostly from the Middle East, have flocked to the Belarus–Poland border.
Poland “took on a commitment to be a support for democracy in Eastern Europe,” Duda said. “It is a beautiful task, but it has its consequences. It has made us the target of the Kremlin propaganda.”
Putin made no public comment on the summit Thursday as he took part in his own video call with members of the Kremlin council for human rights.
Biden has said passage of his ambitious domestic agenda at home—the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill he signed into law, as well as the roughly $2 trillion “Build Back Better Act” of social and climate change initiatives moving through the Senate—will demonstrate how democracy can improve people’s lives.
“Here in the United States, we know that our democracy is not immune from threats,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in remarks to close out the first day of the summit that referenced the insurrection at the Capitol in January. “Jan. 6 looms large in our collective conscience, and the anti-voter laws that many states have passed are part of an intentional effort to exclude Americans from participating in our democracy.”
The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance said in its annual report that the number of countries experiencing democratic backsliding “has never been as high” as the past decade, with the U.S. added to the list along with India and Brazil.
Chinese officials have offered a stream of public criticism about the summit. They have also expressed outrage over the administration inviting Taiwan to take part. China claims the self-governing island as part of its territory and objects to it having contacts on its own with foreign governments.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan declined to attend the conference. In a statement issued ahead of the meeting, the foreign ministry said, “We value our partnership with the U.S., which we wish to expand both bilaterally as well as in terms of regional and international cooperation.”
Yet Pakistan’s relationship with the U.S. has been fraught with suspicion on both sides. Islamabad has balked at Washington’s often-stated criticism that Pakistan has not been a reliable partner in the war on terror, accusing it of harboring the Taliban even as that group fought a U.S.-led coalition. Pakistan says it has lost 70,000 people to the war on terror since 2001 and is ready to be a partner in peace but not in war.
Other uninvited countries have also shown their displeasure. Hungary, the only European Union member not invited, tried unsuccessfully to block the EU Commission’s president from speaking on behalf of the bloc at the summit. Last year, Biden referred to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as a “thug.”
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto dismissed the summit as a “domestic political-type of event,” where countries whose leaders had a good relationship with Trump were not invited.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press