An Air Force F-22 Raptor was scrambled to shoot down an errant Chinese weather balloon over US airspace on Saturday, putting an end to days of drama and confusion as Americans helplessly watched the alleged “spy” craft float aimlessly over the country. Beijing slammed Washington for attacking the “civilian airship.”
Republicans are fuming with the Biden administration’s delayed response to popping China’s weather balloon, with at least one lawmaker calling for the president and vice president to resign in disgrace.
“The catastrophic Chinese Spy Balloon Spectacle clearly threatened American families from Alaska to my home community in South Carolina and confirms President Biden and Vice President Harris should resign,” House Armed Services Committee member Joe Wilson of South Carolina wrote in a multi-part Twitter thread Saturday night.
“My call for their resignation was valid in August 2021 due to the surrender and disastrous withdrawal in Afghanistan, creating a safe haven for terrorists to attack American families,” Wilson wrote, listing off his outstanding beefs with the Biden administration. “Resignation now is further reinforced as their open border policies have allowed hundreds of identified terrorists into America to commit mass murder, the lawmaker fumed.
A few pro-Biden media personalities rushed to defend the White House, with infamous Russiagater Keith Olbermann calling Wilson an “a**clown” and suggesting the lawmaker should “stop, resign,” and “leave the country.”
However, other lawmakers, even including a few Democrats, similarly piled on Biden over his perceived late response to the incident. The Chinese unmanned airship reportedly entered the US air defense zone off Alaska on January 28, and proceeded east and south, traveling over Idaho and Montana, including over military bases which host US nuclear missile silos.
“Why was this allowed to go clear across the country for so many days? You know, you look at this, national security is one of the biggest things that any country can do. It is a core function of government,” GOP Congressman Russell Fry complained.
Representative Mike Ezell, a Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security, called the White House’s decision “to allow this Chinese spy balloon to peacefully float across the United States, especially near major military bases…a joke,” and said the US “cannot continue to demonstrate weakness in the face of Chinese aggression.”
Andrew Garbarino, another member of the Homeland Security Committee, also attacked the administration. “Not only was the Homeland Security Committee not informed of this CCP [Chinese Communist Party, ed.] provocation before it broke on the news, but it has since come to light that officials were monitoring the balloon before it entered US airspace and could have been shot down over the water before ever reaching our shores. This was the CCP testing their boundaries and President Biden failed in his response,” Garbarino said.
Senate Arms Services Committee Republican Roger Wicker suggested the balloon’s trip across the US was a “clear” indication “that standard protocol for defense of US airspace was ignored,” and accused Biden of trying to “hide this incident from the American people from the start.”
Hawkish Texas Republican Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, slammed the administration over its “embarrassing display of weakness.”
Congressional Democrats did their best to defend the president, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expressing “strong condemnation” of “President Xi [Jinping’s] brazen incursion into American airspace,” and commending Biden’s “leadership in taking down the Chinese balloon over water to ensure safety for all Americans.”
“All of us who serve here spend time and care on national security. It is possible to express concerns about surveillance and other issues without the Chinese Communist Party without trying to create unnecessary panic for political gain,” Democratic Representative Don Beyer of Virginia tweeted.
However, Montana Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat, joined his GOP colleagues in demanding “real answers” from Biden, dubbing the balloon story “a clear threat” to US national security. “I will be pulling people before my committee to get real answers on how this happened, and how we can prevent it from ever happening again,” he said. Tester is chairman of a Senate defense panel in charge of the Pentagon budget.
The balloon story has had diplomatic repercussions – including Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelling a planned trip to China, but has also given amateur comedians on social media plenty of opportunities to arouse a few laughs, with former President Donald Trump’s son Don Jr posting a series of balloon-related memes to his Instagram* page. Elon Musk did some joking of his own, posting a photoshopped image of a US fighter blowing up the house from Disney/Pixar’s 2009 animated film Up.
“What can the Balloon teach us about White Rage?” MAGA Republican Matt Gaetz tweeted, referencing the Biden administration’s penchant for identity politics policies and attributing many of America’s political and socio-economic problems to white people. “The Department of Defense would like to know the Balloon’s pronouns,” Gaetz quipped in another tweet.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson devoted an entire segment to the balloon story on his Friday broadcast, suggesting the craft’s ability to travel clear across the US was a sign of potential shady behind-the-scenes activities involving payoffs to President Biden’s family by Beijing.
“Consider how would we respond if Putin were doing this, if this were a Russian spy balloon? Well you’d have the world’s shortest news story: ‘Russian spy balloon spotted off US shore, entire US Air Force mobilized, balloon reduced to vapor in seconds.’ So there would not be a lot of debate about what to do about a Russian spy balloon. We’d kill it instantly, as you would any hostile foreign intrusion. But things turn out to be a little different when it’s a Chinese spy balloon. As far as we know Vladimir Putin has never sent cash to Joe Biden’s crackhead son. He probably should have. That would have been a very wise investment in retrospect,” Carlson said, referring to revelations from Hunter Biden’s lost laptop of alleged pay-to-play deals with foreign interests involving his powerful father, and Hunter’s personal struggle with drug addiction.
Bunch of Hot Air?
Chinese officials slammed the US for its destruction of the dirigible, assuring that the “spy balloon” was really just a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological purposes” and that it had “deviated far from its planned course,” which resulted in it making its way into US airspace.
Meanwhile, Chinese social media users mocked Americans’ overreaction to the incident, asking why the US was “making a big issue over nothing,” christening the airship “the wandering balloon,” and suggesting “the US should respect” it. “The Lantern Festival is around the corner. The balloon is actually a sky lantern we sent over to wish Americans a happy Lantern Festival,” one user quipped. “Who cares if Antony Blinken will come or not? America always bills itself as No.1 in the world but it got spooked by just a balloon,” another wrote.
Some American social media users joined in the mockery.
how cable news is treating the balloon pic.twitter.com/AEXMtIjpPL
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 3, 2023
An Air Force F-22 Raptor was scrambled out of Langley Air Force Base in Virginia to pop the balloon on Saturday afternoon using a single air-to-air Sidewinder missile, with the airship’s remains touching down in waters off South Carolina. The US military plans to study what’s left of the balloon, presumably to search for any surveillance equipment in support of Washington’s claims that the balloon was not merely a meteorological craft.