Why is the Biden administration funding agitation against Hungary, a NATO ally with a pro-American population? It’s got nothing to do with national security. Hungary may sit strategically at the crossroads of Europe, but what irritates the liberals in the White House is that its government stands up for Western values.
That is unforgivable to the West Wing and the State Department, as it is to the large leftist funders at places such as Arabella Advisers and the Tides Foundation, the progressive think tank apparatus, the NGOs, and the activist organizing network—the glob that seems to drive so much policy these days.
As Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, “We’ve reached a point where foreign policy is domestic policy, and domestic policy is foreign policy.” Hungary is just another theater in the culture war.
It is this context that one must keep in mind to understand the recent trip Samantha Power, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, took to Budapest.
“Great to be here in Budapest with @USAmbHungary,” she tweeted on Feb. 9, “where @USAID just relaunched new, locally-driven initiatives to help independent media thrive and reach new audiences, take on corruption and increase civic engagement.”
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Why USAID is spending U.S. taxpayer money in Hungary, let alone on Hungarian media outlets, should boggle the mind. As someone who grants interviews to Hungarian media, both there and remotely from the United States, I can attest to the fact that there are both pro- and anti-government media in Hungary.
It is not clear who USAID’s local partners in Hungary will be—or if, as is often the case, USAID will be teaming up with George Soros’s many networks. Conservative Hungarians expect pro-Viktor Orban media outlets not to see a penny, and the anti-Orban press to get all the money.
Power’s itinerary confirmed as much. The USAID website says that Power met with representatives of several groups during her Feb. 9-10 trip to Budapest, including the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which calls Orban an autocrat; K-Monitor, which is equally hostile; Transparency International, another anti-Orban entity; and Eotvos Lorand University, which has complained of being affected by Orban’s ban on gender studies.
Power closed out the visit with meetings with some Hungarian ministers, with whom she had “a candid conversation”—which is diplomatic code for “both sides yelled at each other.”
Power also met with representatives of “LGBTQI+ communities, where they discussed the experiences of LGBTQI+ people in Hungary and their efforts to increase understanding, support marginalized groups, and improve the lives of LGBTQI+ people in Hungary.”
This is a very sensitive subject for many Hungarians, who dread having the Biden administration push the same type of gender ideology in Hungary that has produced so much opposition here in America. Bodily mutilations and the amputation of healthy body parts, especially among minors, can be expected to go over as well in conservative Hungary as it has here, even if it is cloaked under the euphemism the Left calls “gender-affirming care.”
U.S. Ambassador David Pressman has also chosen to take a bizarrely antagonistic line against the country that hosts him (which is, again, a U.S. ally).
On Feb. 11, just a day after Power decamped, Pressman posted a tweet blasting Hungary for “valorizing” Nazis. Miffed Hungarians point out that there were 50 extremists at the march he referenced—yes, 50 too many, but one-third the size of the 150 antifa fighters also on the scene.
Pressman has behaved as the political activist that he is. He was the personal lawyer of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who got President Donald Trump impeached over his call with Ukraine’s president, and works closely with liberal Hollywood icon George Clooney, who apparently calls him “Cuz.”
The problem is he’s now our ambassador. As Politico put it in a fawning profile in November, “In just two months on the job, the new American ambassador has become a household name in Budapest for his willingness to call out—and even troll—the Orban government.” Not exactly diplomatic.
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To top it all off, our U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield has offended Hungary by charging that a “Holocaust memorial was vandalized in Hungary.” Only that never happened in Hungary but in Sweden. Hungarians demanding an apology have gotten zip.
I asked Zoltan Koskovics of the Budapest Center for Fundamental Rights about all this, and he said that "the woke sect that has taken over the Democratic Party does not like the pro-Western stance of our government. We need a strong America in a dangerous international situation. But not a woke America.”
There are serious national security matters at stake. Orban sometimes does cozy up to Russia and China, two U.S. enemies. Yet trolling this ally, sadly, feeds the Kremlin’s propaganda machine on social media, which portrays the U.S. as a force for evil. And nothing USAID is doing addresses the foreign policy matters at stake.
About six years ago, Brian Hook, then director for policy planning, wrote in a memo what may be one of the best rationales for how to treat allies and foes. Hook wrote:
One useful guideline for a realistic and successful foreign policy is that allies should be treated differently—and better—than adversaries. Otherwise, we end up with more adversaries, and fewer allies. The classic dilemma of balancing ideals and interests is with regard to America’s allies. In relation to our competitors, there is far less of a dilemma. We do not look to bolster America’s adversaries overseas; we look to pressure, compete with, and outmaneuver them.
Perhaps this is a better approach than the “Sullivan Doctrine” of continuing our culture wars overseas.
This piece originally appeared in the Washington Examiner