Biden made headlines recently for traveling to Saudi Arabia straight from Israel, and greeting Mohammed bin Salman — the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince and head of the brutal regime in Saudi Arabia — with a fist bump.
There was a lot behind this.
Biden’s approval numbers are at record lows, polling with a 31% approval rating as of last week, the lowest of his presidency. A big part of this disapproval is due to the out-of-control inflation, which has far outpaced any wage increases, and is hitting working people very hard. But also, the Biden administration has not delivered on much of their campaign promises, not the environment, not the economy or student loan debt or reproductive rights — nothing really. It’s not easy to get people’s approval when nothing has been done for them.
At the same time, one of the worst parts of this record inflation has been the sky-rocketing oil prices. As oil companies have been making record profits, the Biden administration has been powerless to make any real headway in bringing down prices through increased oil production. First, he practically begged oil companies to increase production, imploring them to increase drilling on federal lands. And once that didn’t work, he decided to beg Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production.
The difficulty was that while running for office in 2020, Biden had something different to say. In 2020 it was already clearly established that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. And so, on the campaign trail, Biden said the following:
“[Jamal] Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered, and I believe on the order of the crown prince. And I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them, we were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are. There’s very little social redeeming value of the — in the present government in Saudi Arabia.”
But once in office, Biden quickly approved a deal to sell $650 million of weapons to Saudi Arabia in December 2021. And now with Russia’s war in Ukraine, the disruption to the oil supply, and record prices at the pump, Biden is desperate to see if he can make a dent in the oil prices.
So, Biden chose to make it clear to the Crown Prince that he has moved on from criticizing the torture, dismemberment, and murder of the journalist and U.S. citizen, Jamal Khashoggi.
That was the purpose of the fist bump: a nice friendly greeting between pals, who both know very well that what they say publicly has nothing to do with how they relate privately. Lying, torture, murder, weapons sales, waging war and killing innocent people, protecting the rich, exploiting the poor, these are all things President Biden — just like all presidents of the U.S. — have in common with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. What better way is there to acknowledge that than a fist bump?