- The Washington Times - Friday, June 14, 2024

President Biden arrived at the Group of Seven summit in Italy determined to show that his leadership and strength on the global stage warrants him a second term in office, but a series of awkward encounters with world leaders has overshadowed his statesmanship.

The three-day summit of the seven wealthiest nations was held at a resort and was supposed to be a showcase for Mr. Biden. His ambitious agenda included bolstering the U.S. alliance with Ukraine by signing a bilateral security agreement, inching closer to a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war and developing a set of standards to reduce potential harms from artificial intelligence.

Instead, a spotlight was shone on a series of bizarre actions by Mr. Biden that included appearing to put his face in the hair of the Italian prime minister, appearing to wander away from other leaders during a sky diving demonstration and snapping at a reporter in a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The missteps prompted some high-level diplomats from other countries to complain to European newspapers that the 81-year-old commander-in-chief was “embarrassing.”

International newspapers focused on Mr. Biden’s missteps as much as his diplomatic initiatives. The Guardian, a British newspaper, described Mr. Biden as “moving gingerly” as he arrived at the opening ceremony in a “raw display of mortality.”

Corriere Della Sera, an Italian newspaper that has been published since the 1880s, raised questions about Mr. Biden’s “rigid movements.”

The Sun, a British tabloid, quoted diplomatic insiders who attended the summit raising questions about Mr. Biden’s performance.

One diplomat said the president is “the worst he has ever been,” while another attendee described Mr. Biden’s awkward encounters as “embarrassing.”

Former President Donald Trump’s campaign seized on the bad press.

“From Italy to the United Kingdom to New York, millions of people around the world woke up to headlines about Crooked Joe Biden’s cognitive decline on full display at the G7 Summit,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt said in a statement.

Biden was seen staring off into the distance and wandering around like a brain-dead zombie, and even had to be ushered by Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Our adversaries like China, Russia, and Iran are no doubt watching Biden’s obvious decline and plotting how they can continue to take advantage of our weak and incompetent Commander-in-Chief. America cannot afford another four years with Crooked Joe at the helm,” the statement said.

White House senior deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said the Sun report was “lies” and boasted about Mr. Biden’s “successful leadership overseas advancing our national security.”

Mr. Bates insisted media outlets had distorted a video of Mr. Biden walking away from a sky diving demonstration. He said the president was giving “a thumbs up” and congratulating a sky diver who was out of the video’s frame.

In the awkward video, Mr. Biden appears to wander off from his fellow world leaders, turning in the opposite direction and appearing to be saying something to an officer packing a parachute.

Ms. Meloni then grabs Mr. Biden’s right arm and leads him back to the group. The rest of the leaders awkwardly gather around Mr. Biden for a photograph for which he put on his signature aviator sunglasses.

“As if Meloni doesn’t have enough on her hands, now she’s stuck playing chaperone to Grandpa Joe,” conservative commentator Dan McLaughlin wrote on X.

Hours earlier, Mr. Biden weirdly greeted Ms. Meloni by putting his face in her hair as they embraced upon his arrival at the summit. Before walking away from the stage where Ms. Meloni was standing, Mr. Biden raised his right hand and awkwardly saluted her.

He was roughly 20 minutes late for the meeting, causing Ms. Meloni to joke that he shouldn’t keep a woman waiting.

Later in the day, at a press conference with Mr. Zelenskyy, Mr. Biden snapped at a reporter to ask an off-topic question.

Bloomberg’s Josh Wingrove asked Mr. Biden about the U.S. efforts to end the Israel-Hamas war, prompting a stern rebuke from the president.

“I wish you guys would play by the rules a little bit. I’m here to talk about a critical situation in Ukraine. You’re asking another subject. I’ll be happy to answer in detail later, but the bottom line is that we made an agreement,” Mr. Biden responded.

The irritated answer prompted a rare statement from the White House Correspondents’ Association criticizing the president.

“The White House Correspondents’ Association believes it is in the public interest to make clear that at a presidential press conference, at home or abroad, there are no preconditions regarding question topics,” the statement read. “While the White House does determine the number of reporters the president will recognize, it is up to professional journalists to decide what to ask.”

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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