IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

UK's Johnson: With Biden, US back as 'leader of the free world'

It's a quote that was no doubt welcome in the West Wing and the State Department. It's also a quote that seems likely to drive Trump into fits of rage.
Image: Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual event with the Munich Security Conference in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 19, 2021.Patrick Semansky / AP

When it comes to restoring the United States' leadership role on the international stage, today was a pretty good day.

For example, the White House began the day by formally rejoining the Paris climate accord. The administration also moved forward with multilateral diplomacy on Iran's nuclear program.

This afternoon, President Joe Biden attended a virtual version of the annual Munich Security Conference and assured the international audience, "America is back."

To that end, the new U.S. president recommitted the nation to the NATO alliance -- explicitly vowing to "keep faith with Article 5" -- and stressed his support for democracy and democratic institutions around the globe. Biden also participated in a G-7 meeting, which unlike his predecessor, did not include lobbying in support of Russia joining the international group.

"We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future direction of our world. Between those who argue that — given all of the challenges we face, from the fourth industrial revolution to a global pandemic — autocracy is the best way forward and those who understand that democracy is essential to meeting those challenges," Biden told G-7 members.

He added, "We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people. That is our galvanizing mission."

It was, for all intents and purposes, the opposite of the message the United States pushed to an international audience over the last four years. It's also a message that resonated with our allies. Reuters reported:

Joe Biden has put the United States back as leader of the free world in a fantastic move that has helped the West to unite, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday. "As you've seen and heard earlier, America is unreservedly back as the leader of the free world and that is a fantastic thing," Johnson told the Munich Security Conference, referring to a speech by the U.S. president earlier on Friday.

That is a quote that was no doubt welcome in the West Wing and the State Department. It's also a quote that seems likely to drive Donald Trump into fits of rage.

Biden's predecessor was preoccupied, to an almost comical degree, with the idea that the United States was an international laughingstock for decades, until the Republican arrived in the White House and single-handedly restored the nation's global stature. He spent much of his term repeating the line constantly, seeing it as one of his most important accomplishments.

Indeed, in his strange farewell address, Trump found it necessary, one last time, to boast to Americans, "The world respects us again." In an apparent message for Biden, the outgoing president added, "Please don't lose that respect."

As was too often the case, Trump had reality backwards. As regular readers know, Trump did drastic harm to our international reputation. It's precisely why the British prime minister was not merely relieved to see and hear Biden today, it's also why Boris Johnson was celebrating what he sees as the return of the United States as "the leader of the free world."

Implicit in the comments was that, in the very recent past, it was a title the United States had lost.