L to R: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and President Joe Biden during a virtual meeting in the White House, April 11, 2022 (Getty)
I joined the BBC World Service’s Newshour on Sunday to analyze the controversy over the hospitalization of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, with the lapse of “joined-up Government” at a critical time in global affairs.
I explain the breakdown when Austin suffered complications from a minor medical procedure, putting him in intensive care. He and his inner circle to inform President Joe Biden and the Pentagon, including Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, of his whereabouts for three days.
I go through the possible motive, including the misguided attempt to portray stability and continuity, amid Israel’s attacks on Gaza; spiralling consequences across the Middle East and Iran; and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Recognizing the gravity of the situation, I temper the reaction, “The US system still works. In this case, the individual didn’t.”
The Government must not only be transparent with the American people. A Government has to be transparent with itself: if you don’t keep people in the loop, if you don’t keep people informed, then you have breakdowns that lead to the impression of vulnerability.
And I knock back the propaganda of some Republican politicians and activists, entering the 2024 Presidential campaign, that Austin’s health scare is a portent of Biden’s condition.