Given the growing concerns over President Joe Biden’s apparent decline in cognitive capabilities, there has been speculation that first lady Jill Biden may be playing a greater role behind the scenes of the White House beyond just being a supportive spouse.
There may be some evidence to support that speculation as rumors are swirling that the administration could soon dispatch the first lady to Eastern Europe on a sort of humanitarian mission to address Ukrainian refugees fleeing the ongoing Russian invasion, the Washington Examiner reported.
There is a risk in doing so, however, according to presidential and first lady historians, namely that Jill Biden could be perceived as upstaging Joe Biden in a manner that will likely only embolden further questions about the elderly president’s capabilities and mental fitness for the job.
Developing plan for Jill Biden to visit Europe amid Ukrainian refugee crisis
The White House is reportedly working out the details of a potential trip to Eastern Europe for the first lady, most likely to Poland among other possible nations, where the bulk of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion of their homeland have sought refuge.
But presidential historian David Pietrusza said the first lady taking “center stage” amid the international crisis could prove “problematic” for the Biden administration and “only further fuel discussions of her husband’s suspected limitations” and leadership abilities at a crucial time when his previously plummeting approval numbers appear to have temporarily stabilized.
“Prior to Eleanor Roosevelt, first ladies were seen but not heard. But while Eleanor famously traveled to coal mines, she did not travel to Tehran or Yalta in lieu of FDR,” he told the Examiner in reference to former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s major diplomatic trips during World War II.
That said, it is a risk that some in the administration appear willing to take, in light of the fact that the first lady remains largely popular and uncontroversial and could potentially find success where others have fallen short in drawing American and international attention to the plight of refugees escaping Russian aggression.
Arranging direct communications with the first lady’s Eastern European counterparts
According to CNN, Jill Biden has in recent weeks seemingly taken on the role of “emotional emissary” for President Biden, in that she has recently traveled to different parts of the country and, among other things, talked up the grim humanitarian aspect of the current conflict gripping Europe.
That article noted that security concerns have thus far prevented the first lady from making direct contact with her Ukrainian counterpart, Olena Zelenska, though it is suspected that some level of communications has occurred.
Meanwhile, arrangements are reportedly being made to establish direct contact between Jill Biden and Polish first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda, given the outsized role Poland has played thus far in accepting refugees from Ukraine.
President headed to Europe for emergency summits next week
CNN further noted that the White House’s East Wing and National Security Council were still working out the details of a potential European trip for the first lady.
While nothing in that regard has been confirmed, the Associated Press reported that the White House announced Tuesday that President Biden would travel to Brussels next week for summits with NATO and the European Council, and it isn’t a stretch to suspect that the first lady’s trip could end up being arranged to conveniently coincide with that overseas visit.