Former Vice President Joe Biden has trashed President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy, but used the slogan in an interview published Wednesday in the New York Times.
Biden spoke to columnist Thomas Friedman, whose article is titled “Biden: ‘We’re Going to Fight Like Hell by Investing in America First’.” He used the term in an economic sense — echoing President Trump, though claiming that Trump had not gone far enough in investing in American industry.
When dealing with China, Biden concluded, it is all about “leverage,” and “in my view, we don’t have it yet.” Part of generating more leverage, though, is developing a bipartisan consensus at home for some good old American industrial policy — massive, government-led investments in American research and development, infrastructure and education to better compete with China — and not just complain about it. Both Democratic and Republican senators have draft bills calling for such a strategy. The U.S. semiconductor industry in particular has been lobbying for such an approach.
“I want to make sure we’re going to fight like hell by investing in America first,” said Biden. He ticked off energy, biotech, advanced materials and artificial intelligence as areas ripe for large-scale government investment in research. “I’m not going to enter any new trade agreement with anybody until we have made major investments here at home and in our workers” and in education, he said.
Biden’s foreign policy team has attacked the “America First” idea, claiming that it means alienating U.S. allies. Last month, the Times reported: “President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. makes no secret of the speed with which he plans to bury ‘America First’ as a guiding principle of the nation’s foreign policy.”
However, under Trump, the U.S. has defeated the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS); brought peace negotiations to the Middle East; replaced NAFTA with the USMCA; kept North Korea quiet; strengthened relations with U.S. allies in Eastern Europe; constrained Russia; and confronted China. All of that was accomplished without going to war, as Biden voted to do in Iraq, and as the Obama-Biden administration did in Libya without congressional authorization, with destabilizing consequences.