Sunday shows: Joe Biden's downed China spy balloon deepens political fight ahead of State of the Union
WASHINGTON – Politicians who planned to use Sunday talk shows to discuss President Joe Biden's State of the Union address found themselves instead arguing about the shoot-down of a Chinese surveillance balloon.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Biden showed strength and patience in taking down the spy balloon after it had drifted over the ocean; Republicans said the entire balloon incident reflected Biden weakness toward an increasingly aggressive China.
"The president allowed this to go across our most sensitive (military) sites," said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee speaking on NBC's "Meet The Press."
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., chair of the newly established House select committee aimed at increasing the United States' competitiveness with China, said on Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" that the balloon was akin to "a robber on your front porch and inviting him in."
Buttigieg, who appeared on CNN, NBC, and ABC, said that shooting down the huge and heavily equipped balloon over land would have been risky for aircraft and people on the ground; so, the U.S. waited until it drifted out over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.
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"There's reporting now that the debris field that was created by this balloon when it was shot down was about 7 miles long," Buttigieg said on CNN's "State of the Union."
He added, "The U.S. has made clear this is an unacceptable intrusion into American sovereignty."
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Discovery of the balloon prompted Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to cancel a diplomatic trip to Beijing. Meanwhile, relations between the U.S. and China continue to worsen as Xi Jinping's government steps up threats to an independent Taiwan.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the balloon's timing with Blinken's now postponed trip and Biden's upcoming State of the Union address was "not a coincidence."
"It's not just the balloon," Rubio said of China on CNN's "State of the Union." "It's the message they're trying to send the world that 'We can do whatever we want and America can't stop us.'"
China is expected to be a topic when Biden delivers his prime-time State of the Union speech Tuesday.
Promoting the speech during his Sunday show interviews, Buttigieg said Biden would use the State of the Union to argue that his economic policies are working.
Biden has indicated that he plans to seek reelection next year, though Buttigieg declined to discuss the president's 2024 plans.
"That's out of my lane," Buttigieg said on ABC's "This Week."
Democratic lawmakers defended Biden over the balloon incident.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaking on NBC's "Meet The Press," said "the military made a thoughtful decision" in waiting until the balloon was beyond U.S. territory and a possible threat to people.
Booker also noted that Chinese surveillance balloons also appeared in American skies during the Donald Trump administration.
Republicans said country's standing is shaky, given uncertainty of the economy and an apparent Cold War with China.
"If we can't detect a balloon, we're in a world of hurt as far as defending this country," said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Downed Chinese spy balloon deepens rift ahead of Biden's SOTU