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Balloon Mind State

The balloon has become a brilliant political foil: Republicans painted Joe Biden as weak on China for not immediately blasting the thing out of the sky; when his administration did, it allowed Democrats to show their boss as cool and in control.
The balloon has become a brilliant political foil: Republicans painted Joe Biden as weak on China for not immediately blasting the thing out of the sky; when his administration did, it allowed Democrats to show their boss as cool and in control. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP
Julia Ioffe
February 7, 2023

About that balloon. On Saturday afternoon, an American F-22 jet shot a Sidewinder missile at a Chinese spy balloon to the patriotic cheers of the people on the ground in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It had enjoyed quite a trip, this balloon, first entering U.S. airspace on January 28 over some Alaskan islands, then flying into Canada, then down into the continental United States, which it traversed, unbothered, for five days. It would have likely been a quiet trip, too, if not for an amateur photographer in Billings, Montana, who spotted it flying overhead on Wednesday, February 1, which was also the day the balloon flew over one of America’s nuclear missile silos. 

The local photography buff raced to get his camera and used it to snap a photo that quickly went viral. “I had posted a couple of photos just to social media, just joking, like I thought I saw a UFO,” the photographer, Chase Doak, told the local news station. “It was just right here. I was literally just right here in the vicinity of my driveway.”