Twice now President Joe Biden made the decision to visit active war zones not under U.S. military command. These trips, to Kyiv in February and to Tel Aviv this week, are without precedent in modern American history. It’s easy to take these visits in stride: It’s the President of the United States! Surely, he has quite a circle of protection. But I think it’s worth reflecting on the vigor and guts—and principle—it took to meet American allies in person to demonstrate American support, despite genuine danger.
Of course, there are other times American presidents have entered combat zones involving U.S. military. As one story goes, Abraham Lincoln came under enemy fire in a visit to Fort Stevens in the District of Columbia on July 12, 1864 when Confederate soldiers began shooting at the tall, recognizable figure. Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled to Casablanca, Morocco, during WWII in 1943—the first president to fly in an airplane—to meet British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and French commander Charles de Gaulle and to drive by American soldiers. Others have visited troops in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
But Biden’s February visit to Kyiv, secretly traveling nine hours by train from Poland to the Ukrainian capital to spend five hours on the ground with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is another thing. All in all, he was in this war-torn territory for 23 hours (including the train ride back after the whole world knew he was there). This was on the 362nd day of Russia’s brutal invasion. “One year later, Kyiv stands,” Biden said after meeting Zelensky. “And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”
The physical risks of Biden’s visit to Tel Aviv on Wednesday was made more clear on Monday when Secretary of State Antony Blinken was forced to take shelter during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as air raid sirens warned of incoming rockets. But that didn’t change Biden’s mind to make the one-day journey. “I come to Israel with a single message: You are not alone,” the president said, adding this: October 7 had become “the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust…The world watched then—it knew, and it did nothing. We will not stand by and do nothing again. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”
These two trips inspire me. They have raised the bar of what a president can do if he believes strongly enough that risks must be taken to demonstrate American commitment and values to democratic allies. But these two trips also lay waste to any notion that an 80-year-old man lacks the necessary vigor to do what’s needed. And I think these journeys to war zones with uncertain conditions showcase his courage.
What do you think? Has Joe Biden proved his vigor and guts? Have his visits to war zones influenced your thinking about his presidency now and his prospects for success in the next four years?
As always, I look forward to reading your observations and the opportunity for this community to learn from each other. Please do be respectful in your remarks.
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*Photo: President Biden arrives at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport on Oct. 18. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images.
Looks like Biden is a brave humanitarian. That’s my take. Nice to have a president with a straight moral compass and the strength to walk the walk.
I'm all in on President Biden, who seems handcrafted for this moment in history he's meeting.
Not only have President Biden's trips to Ukraine and Israel during wars in those country shown his vigor and guts, these trips have shown the world his moral compass, his commitment to Democracy, his commitment to our security has shown that he takes the office of President of the US seriously, that he knows he is the leader of the free world, that this job is not about him, the this job is jot about bringing attention or glory or fame or fortune to him. President Biden has shown that being President of the US is a serious matter, that especially in difficult times he will rise to the occasion for the betterment of the US and the world. He is the correct person for this job; and he has shown the world the greatness, compassion and statesmanship that are the hall marks of the USA. I am so proud to be an American and to have Biden as my President.
Of course he did and in opposition, TFG wouldn't get his nest of hair wet to honor fallen soldiers. He would NEVER make such a trip because he cares for no one but himself. Biden is a true President, diplomat, negotiator, consoler-in-chief. TFG couldn't if he wanted to but he doesn't want to.
Let's take a minute to chat about Joe Biden. The guy's a true-blue, stand-up politician. You know, he's been at this for years, and what's always struck me is his knack for bridging gaps. He's that rare breed who crosses the aisle, shakes hands, and gets the people’s business done. Remember the Violence Against Women Act? That was him, leading the charge. And who could forget his role in the 1994 Crime Bill? Whatever your stance, it's hard not to acknowledge the effort he put in.
Here's what really impresses me. The man's faced some of the harshest personal tragedies imaginable. Losing his wife and daughter in that awful car accident, and later, Beau's passing... Yet, through it all, he’s shown this resilience that’s honestly inspiring. It's like his personal hardships made him even more connected, more human.
And let's do talk about the age factor. To me? It's an asset. We're talking about decades of experience here. This isn’t just any experience, but the hard-won, gritty, in-the-trenches kind. He's built relationships, cultivated trust, and learned the ropes in a way few can claim.
One of the many things I've always admired: when Joe says he's on it, he’s *really* on it. The man’s not all talk; he takes action. No hardheadedness, just a genuine commitment to the task at hand.
We have a President who's been through the wringer, come out stronger, and is backed by years of solid experience. Visiting war zones? He is the best of us. Pretty damn impressive if you ask me.
He’s proved his heart is in it to keep this country of our strong and sane. Anyone choosing to reject the evidence of their own eyes will remain blind to his courage and decency.
He did not need to prove it to me but I hope all the nay sayers are paying attention and honestly looking at this and reassessing their views.
Why exactly does Biden have to keep proving any damn thing. He’s facing a criminal with four indictments and 91 felony counts against him. Maybe people should look more for the qualifications of the criminal or lack thereof?
President Biden not only made the plane trip to Israel, but he conferred with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Cabinet, but the President conferred with both the Egyptian President and the Palestinian Authority President. Then, he flew back to the US and gave a televised address to the American public. All that would be physically exhausting to a person 20 years younger than Biden is.
He is remarkably physically strong for an 80-year old -- and intellectually strong and far-sighted, too.
The moment arrives, and President Biden Meets it, head on.
I can't help but thinking in terms of the psychology of "proof." For the "Always Bidens," his trips to war zones burnish previously held, unshakable confidence in his vigor and guts. To the "never Bidens," no proof will ever be sufficient. As usual, it's the middle slice of people who may, just may, be able to think critically, weigh information, have the capacity to change pre-exisiting beliefs, and accept "proof." Personally I'm not sanguine about that being a large slice of people. But I could be convinced :-)
The only tired and worn out thing about Biden is the Fox/Republican talking point about the President’s age, acuity, and ability.
Compared to the GOP front runner Biden is twice the man with at least half the fat.
As a Canadian with deep roots in the US, I share your sentiments as well as the responses to your essay. As I said yesterday, in response to another substack essay, Biden was the man of the hour. He demonstrated to the world his genuine care for the people of Israel and those in Gaza. He exudes knowledge, trustworthiness and statesmanship. He is withstanding the stress associated with his important role in world politics, even in his soon to be 81 years. I won’t bother repeating the rest of my previous comments as to not deter readers from your excellent review of President Biden’s extremely important trips to 2 war-torn countries.
I'm tired from going to two stores today and waiting in line at both of them. I'm also 15 years younger than the President. So, yeah, I'd say President Biden has everything needed to run our country, including stamina. This is a good human being. I am so grateful for him.
Pretty clear to those who don’t wontonly disregard reality.
Biden will be remembered as a fully competent President. On the list of the Good and Honorable Guys. The comparison to the RNC leader is really unfair. DJT has no competency in leadership or administration or honor. Remember George Carlin's observation: by definition, half the population is below average IQ. Fraudulent appeals to people with low reasoning ability can be very successful. ("I love the undereducated!") Especially successful if the con and his co-conspirators have no scruples.
I never doubted his vigor and guts!! He more than showed his courage, physicality and politically. He was in charge from the beginning. As if he was born for this time of The Ukraine and Israel. His speech from the Oval Office was momentous, and history will recognize it as such. Will people, especially Democrats, stop talking about his age?!!!!
I don’t believe he had anything to prove. However he certainly showed his mettle and his vision of America and democracy
500% agree w All first 8 responses .
So much for hiding in his basement or for being sleepy.
I was fearful for Joe making each of these trips but my God did he make America proud. His deep experience and fine mind brought so much to the table in front of the world. And he gets it done! The GOP folks fussing about his age and cognition should finally shut up. But of course they won’t.
Prediction: History will judge Joe Biden as one of the best presidents who served in one of our worst times. Democracy has never faced worse than the current dangers and he knows it. TFG almost destroyed this country, and now we all need to unite with our president and each other.
President Biden is a true American patriot who stands for the common good. His wealth of experience shows in positive decisions.
Amongst other things, age can bring wisdom and the application of long experience. Amazing how some folks just a couple of years younger bring nothing but hatred and word salads.
President Biden criticized for not going to the border with Mexico. When he does, Republicans cry 'photo op!'
When he risks his life going to Israel to pledge support & call for help to endangered/injured Palestinians, yep, 'photo op!'
Media & so much of world seem to forget Israelis still being bombed/killed.
Doesn't seem to register all he is doing, not only for Ukraine & Israel, polls have 57% of Americans disapproving of him.
I think they can't get past the high grocery bill or the immigrants trying to enter.
People are still vital in their 80s. If they weren't, they wouldn't have made it that far. Others should only hope to do the same.
But I'm still worried 😕.
I have lived through 6 presidents. Joe Biden has out done them all! His stamina is stunning. He knows the right angle to approach a problem and he has the courage to go at it full steam! I am proud to call him my President.
For comparison: Trump cancels WW1 memorial at U.S. cemetery in France due to rain
Biden is proving his critics wrong every day. We're luck we have him as President, not the former guy.
President Biden is a National Treasure. And, still going strong. I pray for his safety, and look forward to anything he has to say. What a difference having a professional in this office makes.
President Biden is a statesman. He brings to the world table a wide and well-thought-out perspective. (Thank God in Heaven the Orange Demon is not in the White House!) I admit that Biden's age does concern me. I am one year off from him. We are not as clever and clear-thinking at this stage in life. What concerns me more is VP Harris. Is she strong enough and seasoned enough to become president if that occasion were to arise? Personally, I have my doubts. With that in mind, I believe that President Biden must give serious and deliberate consideration about his selection of a vice president for 2024.
Thank you Steven. This is a message that I feel needs to be repeated over and over, and gets down to the heart of the controversy. Not only are his actions those of a fit and vigorous person, I feel his statesmanship and moral character prove he serves guided by the reflection of our greatest leaders of all time, Abraham Lincoln and FDR.
President Biden has once again confirmed who he is. His ability - his goal - to bring people together and find solutions is bolstered not only by his experience but by trust he has built up over the years. Biden knew how to offer public advice without the sting. Not as an ‘arrogant American’ but someone whose country made mistakes. Something you don’t often hear leaders admit.
I found it interesting that after his trip there were headlines like the one in Haraatz: “After Biden’s visit, Hamas resumes rocket attacks from Gaza Strip”
I am a huge Biden supporter and think he is one of the best presidents we have ever had . That said his support of Israel comes with a double edged sword for me. As a direct descendant of a holocaust refugee, what happened to the Jews in Israel is horrid and unacceptable. Hamas is a terrorist group that needs to be dealt with . But Israel has committed serious crimes against humanity and have been operating under apartheid conditions. Israel and many Jews commit crimes against Palestinians that are incomprehensible! Have we not learned from the past!? So honestly I wonder if this trip to Israel by Biden was altogether wise. The hatred the US has garnered supporting an anti democratic Israeli government has lead to greater terrorism in the Middle East and here in the US.
Come on... I'm 87 years old, and I've handled everything life has thrown at me so far. It's been tough at times, but I'm still here. Joe Biden seems young in comparison. Go Joe! You can handle this. Sure, we make mistakes sometimes, but you've got great advisors, great cabinet leaders, and a vice president who is learning from the best president she could have.
Just posting a not directly related comment, as I seek to reach thoughtful people about the never ending tragedy in the Middle East:
Historians, not history bites and political rhetoric, should do a bigger job than teach at universities or write statements for the U.N.. They should be the men and women who set the stage at peace talks.
Joe Biden did us proud -- he walked the walk. Impeccably
"Trump, a degenerate ambulatory crime scene, came along at the right time for both the republican decision-makers and Vlad Putin. Both of whom were out to destroy American democracy." I LIKE it! I will borrow it!
As for Russia and the GOP, I am reminded of the Republican entourage that visited Russia on 4th of July, 2018. Surely, that specific date was not by accident and a clear slap in the face of our nation. Those Members of Congress are the enemies domestic. Yet, they carry on without punishment or shame. Image, if you will, the rage and anger I feel on a regular basis as a Veteran who served with USAF Intel overseas as a young Sergeant in the 1960s. That once-felt rich idealism has been long gone. Our country is being hobbled by the very people elected to protect her. Sadly, no one has the guts or fortitude to make them pay for their disloyalties. They should pay severely, enemies of our republic. Yet, I am not entirely naive on this. Each Party weighs a certain calculus before taking decisive and honorable action, just in case that Party wants to be equally as deviant at some time in the future. On the chessboard of life, the average citizen is the pawn.
Let's talk about his age.
These trips unequivocally demonstrate that an almost 80-year-old individual is more than capable of addressing what's needed. I firmly believe that his visits to war zones, marked by their unpredictable conditions, serve as a remarkable testament to his courage and stamina.
Despite the skepticism many have about one's capabilities in their advanced years, Biden's accomplishments defy such notions. He remains an emblem of perseverance, serving the nation with steadfastness.
Take a moment to absorb just how long our President has been a servant of the United States of America.
Breaking it down:
(I was 19 years old when he began his political career.)
- New Castle County Council: 2 years (1970-1972)
- U.S. Senate: 36 years (1973-2009)
- Vice President: 8 years (2009-2017)
- President: 2 years (2021-2023
Summing up his elected roles from 1970 to 2023, Biden has dedicated 48 years to public service. That, ladies and gentlemen, is undeniably damn extraordinary.
But then…there was Jordan. The country. Not the useless fuckstick legislator from Ohio.
Let’s go to Israel to solve an Arab Israeli issue (alphabetical precedence), but not meet or visit any Arab countries. Mmmm….
What a relief?
No constructive explanation to why the Jordan trip was cancelled. None needed? Is it that sadly obvious to all what side US narcissistic strategic foreign policy is on?
Some of us will blindly believe security won the decision cycle for the Arab portion of Biden’s Marvel-esque Middle East sojourn. I call bullshit. Just as it’s a bullshit premonition to blindly imply adulation for a POTUS war zone visit to a super ally, though not officially part of CENTCOM’s portfolio, operationally-wise it may as all be. Also don’t forget, Ukraine may not be a resident NATO sibling, but they sure do eat from the fridge on weekends and pirate the Wi-Fi 🤪
It’s all good for Joe. His frequent flyer miles points are still good for DIM airlines. Hell, even Roosevelt succumbed to the complaisant lull of lying to Arabs in 45 about the Palestinian Mandate. Or at best fashioned the earliest form of a Carter band-aide.
Can’t ignore that Biden continues paying American currency into the Hamas strategy; regardless of his intestinal fortitude or energy. Biden is adding more credibility to BiBi’s legacy…because we know best in the US that a war for distraction always makes the problems disappear…from immediate sight at least.
The nation of Israel, who only a few months ago had mass citizen demonstrations to send BiBi home and a defense minister on the chopping block for questioning autocratic tendencies framed to adjust a nations justice system. But now? All Israelis are lock stepped behind BiBi like our nation was behind a post 9-11 W.
Is that about the right level of complacency to solve the issue? But we can only manage a problem instead of addressing it for so long.
Israel. The gingerbread house of US Middle Eastern foreign policy. Birthed from tragic plight, whose narrative provides an edible delight. But we know how the fairy tale ends.
The US taught Israel well. The most ardent student of strategic narcissism. Honor graduates.
We’ve all seen our rewards for invading Iraq. Just imagine what door prizes the Israelis are going to receive.
The Middle East final championships or world cup. It’s like watching children play cricket with a football bat. It’s as if we have learned nothing from the mistakes made by gReat Britain.
Then again, Saudi? Really? Are they seriously also consulted by diplomats when, like Gaza, they also have their own open air prison in Yemen? Qatar, considered a serious peace broker though they are the capital for human rights mismanagement of third country nationals?
So scripture continues.
Israel has nukes and accidentally on purpose is a proven axiom.
Sleep with one eye open, gripping your…..
Well. We should all know the rest.
Worry not. I will be voting for Biden. We all should. Not because it’s Biden. It’s the choice we are morally obligated to.
The only choice we are left with.
Just please don’t pee on my back and say it’s raining.🤪🤣