Under normal circumstances, I would have said that the exclusion from last night’s presidential debate of anti-Semitism was so significant as to merit our full attention. After all, it’s not merely a question of Jews feeling comfortable on campus or elsewhere; it’s a steady stream of violent riots that have taken a can of bear spray to American civic life.

And yet, it honestly feels silly even complaining about that—or anything else issue-based, for that matter. The feeling of crisis at this moment is so acute that all issues take a backseat—and that is a crisis all its own.

The crisis is international. Maybe even more so than it is domestic. And it’s worth talking about the repercussions and implications of that.

The homepage of the UK Telegraph this morning was filled to the brim with headlines like “Biden under pressure to quit after ‘painful’ debate performance”; “Biden is a danger to the world”; “The Free World must have a new leader”; etc. The Russians over at Sputnik were of course having their fun with President Biden’s “Debate Debacle.” Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald: “Democrats have other options after Biden disaster.” The South China Morning Post uses the follow quote as its headline: “Biden might have imploded.”

In the United Arab Emirates, The National tells its readers that “Biden faces calls to step aside after poor debate performance.” An opinion piece on the Toronto Star’s homepage puts it colorfully: “Joe Biden reportedly had a cold. After watching him perform, the whole world is feeling sick.”

Again, as of late morning Friday these were all on their respective newspapers’ home pages, and they were all headlines—not simply lines in a story. It is not great.

The pro-Hamas riot movement and Joe Biden’s poor cognitive performance are reminders of something else: Donald Trump’s presidency was also marked by domestic unrest, but the international arena was noticeably and undeniably quieter than it has been under Biden—which is, I believe, a large part of the global anxiety over last night.

That is not to say that there were no crises during Trump’s presidency. But there is a land war in Europe and the Middle East is aflame worse than it’s been arguably since the 1970s, and those two fronts were simmering but subdued during the four years before Biden took over.

There were, as the COMMENTARY crew pointed out last night on the post-debate podcast, issue-based frights for the Democrats during the debate as well. Biden’s Medicare blather and his blasé forgetfulness regarding Afghanistan were not ignored in the coverage. But the optics are what will most scare our allies and encourage our foes.

Biden’s critics have long compared the president to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who spent his final years in power hidden away from the public. His supporters have preferred to see him as Konrad Adenauer, the aging West German leader who once told Charles de Gaulle that he had “broken the age barrier” when the French leader wondered how Adenauer could possibly seem so spry in 1958. At the time of that conversation, Adenauer was 81—the same age Joe Biden was last night.

The lesson there is twofold: first, the Brezhnev comparison has triumphed over the Adenauer comparison, leaving Biden branded as a lost figure clinging to power. Second, the international community remembers well what that means. Cue the Kremlinology that, in a frightful twist, the Kremlin will be playing about the White House.

The rest of this election year will take place in a state of heightened public anxiety. Already Biden’s attempts to deter Russia from invading Ukraine and Iran from directly attacking Israel have failed. China looms, as does war in Lebanon. The Biden administration’s slow-rolling of Israel’s war in Gaza once looked foolish; it now appears utterly catastrophic.

And so waiting for a question about campus unrest and violent riots outside of synagogues by pro-Hamas thugs felt increasingly vulgar last night, as the debate wore on. And that is not because it is a petty side issue—it isn’t. It is, in fact, a central challenge to American democratic order at the moment. But it seemed insignificant last night, as the world as one became convinced the American ship of state is without a captain.

Watching our allies turn a whiter shade of pale at the spectacle of the non-Trump candidate made clear that everyone’s calculations are changing. Buckle up.

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