Vice President Joe Biden is in China and as usual, he took the opportunity to try to insert his foot in his mouth. China may be veering towards its own brand of capitalism simply because it's a manufacturing powerhouse, but it's still a long way from being an open country in any other respect.
Biden's pep talk to some Chinese citizens gathered at the US embassy included this "empowering" exhortation.
“Innovation can only occur when you can breathe free, challenge the government, challenge your teachers, challenge religious leaders.”
All well and good, I suppose. Of course, it's much easier said than done, and Biden's contribution only included the "saying" part. These sort of challenges have actual repercussions in China, which still wishes unruly citizens into high-walled political
But what's even more irritating about his blithe statement is the fact that his own administration isn't really keen on being challenged by its citizens.
Case in point: the NSA leaks. For a long time, the administration stood firm
in its support of the agency. It only stepped back when it realized the situation was going to get a whole lot worse before it got any better and that the NSA itself wasn't just lying to the public
, but to the president and the rest of the government as well. It also smelled blood in the water after amendments and bills targeting
the NSA and its programs began gathering bipartisan support and wanted to be as far away from the massacre on the horizon.
This administration has also prosecuted more whistleblowers
than all other administrations combined
. This is what happens to people who challenge the administration. They end up broken by the system
, the same system that tells them it wants to be "open" and "transparent."
The administration has also shown a fondness for shutting out inquiring minds with the overuse of state secret exceptions
. Sure, information may want to be free, but its overseers won't let it roam without being covered in black ink. Its track record on civil liberties has eclipsed the awfulness of the Bush administration, which at least had the courtesy to be openly evil in its intentions.
Even the press has grown disillusioned with Obama's administration, recently complaining that it controls the narrative by handing out approved promo shots rather than allowing press photographers to do their jobs
Now, I realize that as vice president, Biden doesn't truly
represent the administration. He may be second-in-command, but the reality of the job demands someone who can stay out of the way while whipping up support for the administration's policies and pet legislation behind the scenes. It requires him to make appearances on behalf of the administration but kindly asks him not to embarrass it while doing so. Biden has failed to hold up his end of the bargain with his statements.
Here he hands Chinese citizens advice they can't possibly use while simultaneously highlighting the hypocrisy inherent in the administration's treatment of criticism. "Challenge your government," he tells people who can be ripped from their families for doing so before retreating to the safety of an administration that actively seeks out and punishes those who challenge its methods and actions. With this mindless bit of "go team!" posturing, Joe Biden is hurling stones from the balcony of the administration's glass house.