The myth of Biden’s empathy

Somewhere along the line, Joe Biden got a reputation for being empathetic. I’m not sure how this happened.

It’s true that Biden seemed to empathize with the unborn, but that was before he seemed to empathize with pregnant women who want to destroy their unborn babies. He seemed to empathize with the victims of crime, but later seemed to empathize with the criminals who harm them.

Actually, Biden cares only about himself and his family. Like all politicians, Biden wants to advance. Unlike many, he doesn’t have enough going for him to spare a thought for anyone else.

Here’s a case in point — one of particular relevance to today. Biden was among the least enthusiastic members of Congress when it came to evacuating our Vietnamese allies when Saigon was about to fall.

Jerry Dunleavy wrote about this for the Washington Examiner in 2019:

Hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese allies were in danger of recriminations from the Communists, but Biden insisted that the United States has no obligation to evacuate one or 100,001 South Vietnamese.

Republican President Gerald Ford said: The United States has had a long tradition of opening its doors to immigrants of all countries. We’ve always been a humanitarian nation. We felt that a number of these South Vietnamese deserved an opportunity to live in freedom.

Biden objected and called for a meeting between the president and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to voice his objections to Ford’s funding request for these efforts. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who led the meeting, told the senators that the total list of the people endangered in Vietnam is over a million and that the irreducible list is 174,000.

Biden said U.S. allies should not be rescued: We should focus on getting them [the U.S. troops] out. Getting the Vietnamese out and military aid for the GVN [South Vietnam’s government] are totally different.

Kissinger said there were Vietnamese to whom we have an obligation, but Biden responded: I will vote for any amount for getting the Americans out. I don’t want it mixed with getting the Vietnamese out.

Ford was upset with Biden’s response, believing that failing to evacuate the South Vietnamese would be a betrayal of American values: We opened our door to the Hungarians. Our tradition is to welcome the oppressed. I don’t think these people should be treated any differently from any other people the Hungarians, Cubans, Jews from the Soviet Union.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommended that the bill be passed by the full Senate by a vote of 14 to 3. Biden was one of just three senators on the committee who voted nay. The conference report also passed the Senate as a whole by a vote of 46-17, where Biden again voted against it.

There has been some pushback against Dunleavy’s piece. Something called VietFactCheck rates Dunleavy’s claims false. However, the accompanying article is more a defense of Democrats, who almost all supported evacuating and resettling Vietnamese refugees, than of Biden, who was ambivalent at best about evacuating them. (You can detect his ambivalence in this memorandum of the conversation President Ford, Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger had with Biden and other Senators on April 14, 1975.)

The fact check highlights Biden’s vote for appropriating money to resettle Vietnamese refugees. However, it does not appear to dispute Dunleavy’s statement that Biden was one of only three Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee to vote against appropriating money for evacuation, and one of only 17 in the full Senate to so vote.

The vast majority of Senators apparently had more empathy than Joe.

This time around, Biden favors of helping Afghans who assisted the U.S. in the war against the Taliban. Yet, his administration showed little urgency in getting these people special immigrant visas.

I suspect that Biden’s position on Afghan refugees is driven more by pressure from fellow liberals and organs like the Washington Post than by empathy.

The main lesson Biden drew from our flight from Vietnam has nothing to do with evacuating and resettling refugees. Biden concluded that Richard Nixon (who was no longer president when Saigon fell) and Henry Kissinger got away with the humanitarian debacle associated with that pullout. Apparently, this convinced him he could get away with a repeat performance in Kabul.

Not much empathy in that calculation.

Nor much patriotism. We can debate whether Nixon and Kissinger “got away” with taking a loss in Vietnam. America didn’t.

We spiraled downwards after that defeat. Little went well in foreign policy for the remainder of the decade, which culminated in an even greater humiliation in Iran.

America’s standing improved in the 1980s, but mainly because Ronald Reagan helped cause the Soviet Union first to waver and then to topple. If a future U.S. president can help topple Red China, our standing will be restored this time, too. But I don’t see that happening. Do you?

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