Joe Biden is rushing to assure voters of his credibility on foreign policy issues as the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump raises questions about his son’s wheeling and dealing overseas.
The former vice president, who has seen his fundraising numbers shrink and his position in the polls falter since the start of the inquiry, went on the offense Tuesday with a series of actions designed to showcase his foreign policy background. Most notably, Biden’s campaign announced the launch of a new television ad in Iowa highlighting the candidate’s tenure on the world stage over the past 40 years.
The ad, which is entitled “Moment,” attempts to portray Biden as the only political figure able lead during this “dangerous” period in which “dictators and tyrants are praised,” while “our allies [are] pushed aside.”
The ad states over photos of global crises intermixed with images of the former vice president over the span of tenure in the Obama administration:
This is a moment that requires strong, steady, stable leadership. We need someone tested, and trusted around the world. This is a moment for Joe Biden, a president with the experience to lead on day one.
The 30-second ad, which started airing across Iowa’s broadcast markets on Tuesday, is part of a previously announced $4 million media buy in the state. To accompany its launch, the campaign also released a list of endorsements from more than 130 former foreign policy and national security officials.
Listed among the endorsers are a bevy of career bureaucrats from the administration’s of former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Many of those backing Biden had signed letters in 2016 warning that Trump’s election would be a disaster for America’s national security.
The former vice president’s campaign stated when announcing the endorsements on Tuesday:
The size and breadth of today’s cohort of endorsers highlight both the extreme threat that Donald Trump poses to our nation and our world, and the widespread belief among those who’ve devoted their lives to keeping America safe that Biden is the candidate best prepared to step in as commander in chief.
It is unclear, though, if either the ad or the newfound support will be enough to reverse the damage done to Biden’s campaign. From the moment it became public that Trump suggested the Ukrainian government probe Hunter Biden’s business dealings in the country, the former vice president has struggled to explain the appearance of conflicts of interest.
At the center of the controversy is how the younger Biden secured an appointment to the board of directors of Burisma Holdings, a Ukranian oil and gas conglomerate. As Peter Schweizer, senior contributor at Breitbart News, detailed in his book Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, Hunter Biden secured the position, which paid as much as $83,000 per month, despite having no background in energy or Ukraine.
Adding to the appearance of impropriety is the fact that Hunter Biden joined Burisma at a time the company was seen as actively courting western leaders to prevent further scrutiny of its business practices. The same month the younger Biden’s appointment was announced, the government of Great Britain froze accounts belonging to Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky under suspicion of money laundering. Zlochevsky, a former Ukrainian minister of natural resources, would later be accused of corruption for using his office to approve oil and gas licenses to Burisma.
Not only had Zlochevsky had his assets frozen in Great Britain, but the former Ukrainian minister of natural resources was also facing suspicions of public corruption at home. Zlochevsky would later be charged with corruption for using his ministerial office to approve oil and gas licenses to companies under his control.
A Ukrainian official with strong ties to Zlochevsky admitted in October the only reason that Hunter Biden secured the appointment was to “protect” the company from foreign scrutiny. The claim has credence given that at the time Joe Biden, as the sitting vice president, was tasked with leading the Obama administration’s policy towards Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
It is in the context of Burisma and Zlochevsky’s legal troubles that Joe Biden’s political influence has raised the most red flags. The former vice president has particularly drawn questions over his conduct in demanding the Ukrainian government fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in 2016.
Joe Biden, who has publicly bragged about the firing, reportedly threatened to withhold more than one billion dollars in U.S. aid if the Ukrainian government did not remove Shokin. He has claimed the demand came from then-President Barack Obama, who had allegedly lost faith in the prosecutor’s ability to tackle corruption.
Unofficially, though, it was known that Shokin was investigating both Burisma and Zlochevsky for public corruption. It is uncertain if the probe extended to Hunter Biden, although Shokin has recently admitted that prior to his ouster he was warned to back off the matter. Regardless of what occurred, Shokin’s successor, who is now himself being investigated for public corruption, dropped the investigation into Burisma and Zlochevsky.
The shadowy history, accompanied by revelations that Burisma sought to leverage its ties to Hunter Biden for access to the Obama-era State Department, has impacted the former vice president’s credibility on the world stage. In the case of most candidates, that would not matter much, as a majority of those running for the Democrat nomination have barely any foreign policy experience. For Biden, however, his time on the international stage is a central selling point of his campaign.
Biden, who once chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has trumpeted himself as the only candidate ready to manage national security and geopolitics on his first day in office. In countless Democrat presidential primary debates, the former vice president has used his foreign policy experience to one-up his Democrat rivals. Biden was also the first 2020 Democrat to elaborate on how his global vision differs from Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda.
The former vice president said in July during a widely publicized foreign policy address:
The challenge of following this disastrous presidency will not be just to restore the reputation of our credibility. It will be to enact a forward-looking foreign policy for the world as we find it today and as we anticipate it will be tomorrow and years to come.
All of that, however, has evaporated in the face of the impeachment inquiry and the spotlight on his son’s foreign ties, forcing the former vice president to try to salvage his image through measures like those witnessed on Tuesday.