Democrats ‘evenly divided’ on Biden as US announces new diplomatic initiative with Australia


Washington: A key Democratic congress member says that the party is split on whether to replace President Joe Biden and has no practical way to do it, even as the US announces a new diplomatic initiative including Australia.

The most important congressional advocate for the AUKUS partnership, Joe Courtney, said that US democracy and national security would be at risk if Donald Trump were to win the presidential election.

From left: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, US President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House on July 10.

From left: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, US President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House on July 10.Credit: Bloomberg

“Right now they are both risk factors because of the poor debate [performance by Biden],” he said.

“On the other hand, you know, the logistics and mechanics of switching a candidate really just weeks away from the nomination process just has some real pragmatic issues that have to be sort of thought through.”

Two weeks after the debate between Biden and Trump, the Democratic leadership dilemma continues to dominate US political debate.

With Biden refusing to quit and the party continuing to agonise publicly over his mental function, the Democrats were left searching for an “executable, pragmatic pathway” to win the November 5 election, Courtney said in an interview.

“That’s something that was talked about a lot yesterday when we had our caucus,” he said about the meeting of the House Democrats, a closed-door deliberation for the party’s legislators.

Congressman Joe Courtney says the Democrats are divided over the future of Joe Biden.

Congressman Joe Courtney says the Democrats are divided over the future of Joe Biden.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Asked about the balance of opinion within the caucus on Biden’s viability, Courtney said no vote was taken in the meeting and the 20 to 25 people who spoke “seemed pretty evenly divided”.

The paralysis in the party was no hindrance to the Biden administration’s diplomacy, said US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

Campbell said that despite the Democrat leadership dilemma, a four-nation grouping of Indo-Pacific democracies – Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea – would now be launched as a new, standalone diplomatic entity and partner for the US.

The leaders of this group, the so-called Indo-Pacific Four or IP4, have been invited to join NATO summits in recent years, acknowledging that they share some of the same concerns as the NATO allies.

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Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles plus the leaders of the other three IP4 countries are in Washington this week for NATO’s 75th anniversary summit.

Campbell said that the group of four had developed into a new entity.

“What you’ll see is a clear set of guidelines and initiatives designed to embed the IP4 into this nascent architecture that is emerging in the Indo-Pacific,” Campbell said.

“We fully expect the IP4 to join AUKUS and the Quad as fundamental features of the diplomatic and military architecture and dialogue of the Pacific.”

He listed other new, small groupings – so-called “mini-laterals” – that have emerged in the region in the last few years under Washington’s encouragement. One is the US-Japan-South Korea group, a breakthrough in overcoming bitter historical animosity between Tokyo and Seoul. Another is US-Japan-Philippines.

These groupings have been described as forming a “latticework” of relations to bind regional democracies and balance against the increasing intrusiveness of Beijing.

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The IP4 was developed in response to the Russian attack on Ukraine, said Campbell.

“What we’ve seen over the course of the last couple of years is some of the major countries that have stepped up to support Ukraine for the first time include not just European states, but Indo-Pacific nations, Japan, South Korea, Australia.”

Courtney, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, expressed frustration at Biden and his office.

“I do think he’s got some work to do in terms of shoring up the confidence factor in our caucus,” he said.

He added that a clear conclusion of the House Democrat caucus meeting this week was that the White House had to do better communicating with the congressional Democrats.

“The letter they sent to the caucus was eight or nine days after the debate. The White House really needs to raise its game in terms of communication.”

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