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When a Balloon Hits Your Sky and It’s There Just to Spy…

... blow it away.
February 10, 2023
A Ballon Of Hysteria: Biden Vs. China | Not My Party with Tim Miller

[Editor’s note: Watch Not My Party every week on Snapchat.]

Tim Miller: Last week the Chinese sent a spy balloon over the U.S. and Dark Brandon shot it down. But did he act fast enough and were we tough enough?

Joe Swanson (from Family Guy): We showed ’em. We showed ’em all!

Miller: This is “Not My Party,” brought to you by The Bulwark. Hysteria ensued when the cable news gods provided something more dramatic than your typical legislative fare.

Dana Perino: “Communists’ eye in the sky,” that’s what they’re calling it.

Russell Fry: If you’ve ever seen the movie Independence Day . . . really reminded me of that.

Maria Bartiromo: Has our homeland been damaged by this balloon?

Woman: I have a fear of balloons.

Miller: If only they had the cherry on top: a boy on board.

Ben Davis (Tom Pelphrey on Ozark): Can’t get it all.

Miller: This national nightmare came to a jingoistic ending when we blasted that little balloon bitch from the sky for all the world to see.

Kyle Broflovski (from South Park): Go America.

Miller: You’d think this would be a rally-around-the-flag moment for a divided nation. Nah.

Brett Velicovich: Significant damage has been done by this.

Ted Cruz: This entire episode telegraphed weakness.

Marco Rubio: Why did it take so long for them to disclose this to the American public?

Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard on Happy Days): Very patriotic.

Miller: A quick recap of what happened: The Chinese have been flying these reconnaissance balloons around the world pretending that they’re monitoring the weather.

Groundskeeper Willie (from The Simpsons): Oh, that’s real creative.

Miller: Now remember, both countries already spy on each other a lot with these things called “satellites,” but this breach of our airspace was uniquely brazen. We spotted the balloon over the Aleutian Islands west of Alaska, and allowed it to gently float through Canada and across the continental United States, before taking care of it off the coast of South Carolina.

Homer Simpson (from The Simpsons): Wow, what kind of mileage does it get?

Miller: So might there be some fair criticism of the Biden administration’s slow response here? Yeah, I mean for instance, maybe they could have blown that thing up quicker. I’m open to that critique. Mitch McConnell and Obama defense secretary Leon Panetta argued as much. But I presume that the Defense Department experts monitoring this thing were better suited to make that call than the amateur spycraft savants who popped up on social media demanding vigilante balloon strikes.

Crowd in warehouse (from The Office): Kill the balloon! Kill the balloon!

Miller: So here’s what we’ve learned from the government experts in the Blob. The government claims they were able to block the balloon from gathering intel, either by jamming the sensors or by moving sensitive equipment. And a plugged-in Washington Post journalist argued that we actually gained intelligence on what they were up to through the balloon.

“Fast Eddie” Felson (Paul Newman in The Color of Money): That would be nice.

Miller: From that point of view, it made sense to avoid blowing it up over the U.S., given the seven-mile debris radius that could have caused damage.

Pete Buttigieg: The metal equipment there is larger than a bus. . . . When they did shoot it down, the debris field was about seven miles.

Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano in Sky High): Oh, that could have been messy.

Miller: Also, we learned that the Chinese have flown other balloons over the U.S. before, including thrice during the Trump administration.

Beth Smith (from Rick and Morty): Fake news.

Miller: Even Fox News has acknowledged that those balloons went over Florida and Texas. Now there is some difference, apparently those balloons didn’t traverse the entire country. But if we listen to the Ivy League wannabe-Rambo Republicans aiming their guns at the sky, should that have really mattered? Isn’t one inch too much?

Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday): On this team we fight for that inch.

Miller: Listen to how the most hawkish Republicans tried to spin this. Here’s Tom Cotton.

Tom Cotton: What began as a spy balloon, has become a trial balloon testing President Biden’s strength and resolve. And unfortunately, the president failed that test. . . . The president was paralyzed for an entire week by a balloon.

Steven Keaton (Michael Gross on Family Ties): Interesting way of looking at it.

Miller: And of course there’s the miniature keyboard general Marco Rubio, who hilariously went so far as to claim that the slow balloon response meant that the U.S. is an empire in decline. And also that—

Rubio: If they’re not gonna do anything about a balloon over U.S. airspace, how are they gonna come to the aid of Taiwan?

John Wick (Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum): Guns. Lots of guns.

Miller:  So the one big problem with this, as the interviewer points out, the balloon was shot from the sky. We smoked it. What are you talking about, Marco? The Taiwanese are worried about our resolve? The same country that is funding the Ukrainian ass-kicking of the Russians, because we waited to let a balloon float over water before we dropped it?

Bernie Kropp (from The Incredibles): I think not.

Miller: In a sane world we’d be able to unite in our victory over the balloon overlord, and with cooler heads debate how to best deal with China’s spying going forward, whether it be overhead or on our TikTok. Alas, that ain’t our world, this is:

Bartiromo: You think that the CCP has so much on the Biden family, on Joe Biden, that he’s just afraid?

Bojack Horseman (from Bojack Horseman): Well that’s stupid.

Diane Nguyen (from Bojack Horseman): Yeah.

Miller: We’ll see you next week for more “Not My Party.”

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.