Did Joe Biden lose his temper with Zelensky?

This is a story that supposedly took place back in June but we’re only finding out about it this week. That’s probably because the “most transparent administration ever” has turned out to be one of the most secretive ones that we’ve ever seen and they’ve managed to stop almost anything from leaking out. (Okay, most of the media probably isn’t asking very many uncomfortable questions, so that doesn’t help either.) 

The report in question involves one of the regular phone calls that Joe Biden has with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, or however we’re supposed to be spelling his name this week. Every time Biden approves another tranche of taxpayer money to fund the proxy war in Ukraine, those two get on the phone so Zelensky can continue to bow and scrape and tell Uncle Joe what a great, generous guy he is. 

During the call in June, Zelensky reportedly forgot his place in the relationship and began listing a whole pile of other support that he wanted and wasn’t getting. And if this report is accurate, Biden started to lose it and had to put the former comedian in his place.

From NBC News:

It’s become routine since Russia invaded Ukraine: President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speak by phone whenever the U.S. announces a new package of military assistance for Kyiv.

But a phone call between the two leaders in June played out differently from previous ones, according to four people familiar with the call. Biden had barely finished telling Zelenskyy he’d just greenlighted another $1 billion in U.S. military assistance for Ukraine when Zelenskyy started listing all the additional help he needed and wasn’t getting. Biden lost his temper, the people familiar with the call said. The American people were being quite generous, and his administration and the U.S. military were working hard to help Ukraine, he said, raising his voice, and Zelenskyy could show a little more gratitude.

Administration officials said Biden and Zelenskyy’s relationship has only improved since the June phone call, after which Zelenskyy made a statement praising the U.S. for its generous assistance.

On the one hand, while I rarely get the opportunity to agree with Joe Biden these days, it’s good to hear that he felt the need to tell Zelenski that he needed to “show a little more gratitude.” As we’ve noted here repeatedly, the United States has been flushing more money, humanitarian aid, and weapons systems into Ukraine than all of our other allies combined. If Zelensky starts acting as if the world owes all of this generosity to him, he very much needs to be reminded precisely which goose is laying all of these golden eggs.

At the same time, however, Biden and his party have set themselves up for this sort of treatment. The Democrats have gone whole hog into basing our foreign policy on fighting this proxy war no matter what the cost. And that proxy war wouldn’t continue for more than a week or so without these endless injections of cash and other aid into Zelensky’s coffers. In some ways, it’s actually Zelensky who is doing Biden a favor by continuing to accept all of this help and allowing his people to keep dying in this war to dethrone Vladimir Putin rather than seeking some sort of compromise that would bring the fighting to an end.

Of course, it’s still possible (though perhaps not probable) that the gravy train may start drying up in a couple of months. There have been increasing calls among Republicans to take a fresh look at this endless flow of cash and arms to Ukraine while so many problems are going unsolved here at home. Others feel that the GOP isn’t really serious about cutting back the funding, but they may use the threat of doing so to leverage some compromises from Democrats under the anticipated new House GOP majority. That’s certainly possible and I haven’t heard much out of either McCarthy or McConnell lately that would suggest they are ready to force our foreign policy in a different direction.

That’s a big part of the problem as things stand today. Everyone seems to have just been nodding their heads and agreeing that anyone who questions this endless fountain of cash for Ukraine must be “a Putin stooge” or a “Russian disinformation agent.” Daring to ask whether the country is really on board with being pushed closer and closer to a potential nuclear war leads to accusations of isolationism. But we really need some adults in the room in Washington who are willing to ask those questions. The midterm elections won’t give us any sort of indication because almost nobody from either party has been running on a platform of defunding the Ukrainian war. But we deserve to have those answers and we need them quickly.

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