by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
We all knew that President Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia was going to be, at best, a deeply frustrating and humiliating exercise in kissing the ring — or in Biden’s case, bumping the fist. Biden left Riyadh with no deal on oil production beyond some vague pledges, sending the world’s oil prices rising again. Members of the Washington Post editorial board were always going to hate this trip, but when it was over, their anger over their slain colleague, Jamal Khashoggi, enabled them to declare that the emperor had no clothes and that Biden had been taken to the cleaners:
“For the most part, though, Mr. Biden gave more than he got. He made no wider critique of Saudi Arabia’s repressive policies in public; there were no releases of political prisoners or clemency for other regime opponents — including dual U.S. citizens — who have been denied freedom to travel. Instead, Mr. Biden touted an already existing truce in Yemen and modest steps toward better relations with Israel. He seemed to invite deeper U.S.-Saudi ties by announcing a new project to test U.S. 5G technology in the kingdom.” …
… Adding to the humiliation, the Saudis publicly contended that behind closed doors, Biden had not confronted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of Khashoggi. We’ll just have to take Biden’s word that he was an in-your-face tough guy when no one was watching.
Unsurprisingly, Biden was in an irritable mood when he returned to the White House:
Q: Is the Saudi foreign minister lying, President Biden? The Saudi foreign minister says he didn’t hear you accuse the Crown Prince of Khashoggi’s murder. Is he telling the truth?
THE PRESIDENT: No.
Q: Do you regret the fist bump, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Why don’t you guys talk about something that matters? I’m happy to answer a question that matters.