Monday, September 20, 2021

Risch: 'Who's calling the shots' for president?

Staff Writer | September 15, 2021 1:00 AM

A series of recent actions by President Joe Biden has the head of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee doubting the president’s decision-making authority. 

In a hearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, Idaho Sen. James Risch contended that someone other than Biden is “calling the shots.” 

Risch, who formerly served as Idaho’s 31st governor and twice-elected lieutenant governor, is in his third term in the Senate. 

On Saturday, Risch stated he had “grave concerns that President Biden’s disastrous pullout from Afghanistan will erase 20 years of hard-fought gains in the war on terror” and put the country at “great risk.”

As ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Risch said he has repeatedly asked that the administration develop a plan to “maintain our counterterrorism priorities.” In the Saturday statement, the senator said he had received no answers.

“The Biden administration’s disastrous handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan underscores the need for a commander in chief who leads and can speak at will, not one who is controlled by his staff,” Risch said in a statement Tuesday to the Coeur d'Alene Press.

During the hearing, Risch asked who was responsible for the President’s actions. The senator also stated that the president “can’t even speak without someone in the White House censoring it.”

On Monday, a White House broadcast filming Biden’s briefing on wildfires in Boise with federal and state officials ended unexpectedly. The president was mid-sentence when the feed ended. 

“The president is regularly cut off by White House staff when he is faced with tough questions or says something that his staff doesn’t like,” Risch told The Press. “There are numerous examples, the most recent of which happened yesterday in Boise.” 

Last month, the President’s audio feed also abruptly ended in a news conference regarding the administration’s military withdrawal deadline from Afghanistan. In March, the broadcast of a White House virtual event with Democratic lawmakers also concluded prematurely.

“My question is: Who is making these decisions?” Risch told The Press.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that “ultimately, the president makes the decisions.” Blinken added that “no such person” has the authority to cut off the president’s speaking ability and that Biden speaks “clearly and very deliberately for himself.”