WASHINGTON — Fighter jets weren’t the only things stirred up by the appearance of mysterious objects over North America this month, but American politics as well.

The shooting down of UFOs over American airspace represents a political phenomenon almost as unusual as the aeronautical one: major news with no partisan associations, no obvious culture war connections, and few historical reference points in the eternal political warfare.

«Everything fits into a partisan realm right now,» said Democratic strategist Jared Leopold. «No one has a political playbook for shooting down non-alien UFOs.»

Political battle lines in modern Washington are often clearly drawn, no matter what news they bring. School shootings ignite fights over gun policy. Hurricanes and forest fires spark the debate on climate change. The collapse of a footballer during a match encourages conspiracy theories about Covid vaccines. Advanced Placement tests, Grammy Awards, airline cancellations, egg prices and «The Little Mermaid» quickly become political flashpoints.

But while the UFOs shot down over the US and Canada may not be extraterrestrial, they are extrapolitical. Partisan critics who get up every day looking for ways to dazzle the White House have struggled to fit a mysteriously shaped peg: Octagon? saucer? – in the square hole of their partisan narratives.

At first, the Chinese spy balloon fit right in with conservative talking points about Democrats being too soft on China and weak on national security. But once the Biden administration shot down the balloon and then quickly authorized the takedown of three other mystery objects, the story ran out of the book.

In particular, former President Donald Trump appears to have dropped the issue entirely.

On his Truth Social platform, Trump has shared his thoughts on everything from the State of the Union to the Super Bowl: «Rihanna gave, hands down, the worst halftime show in Super Bowl history.» But of the dozens of messages Trump has posted in the four days since the United States shot down the second object over Alaska, none mentioned the incident.

Some have said President Joe Biden was too slow to shoot down the Chinese spy balloon, but he has «happyly gone off» with the other objects, as Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said on CNN Sunday, wondering if Biden is “just trying to change the headlines”.

Conservative commentator Glenn Beck said on his show Monday that it was “stupid and dangerous” for the administration to shoot down the new objects, warning that Biden could trigger a tit-for-tat escalation with China that could lead to nuclear war.

“We should have pulled the first balloon. But now, I don’t know,» Beck said. “Are we just putting out birthday party balloons? And then call it, like, ‘could be a hazard,’ because we’re trying to act tough? And if we are acting that way, why would we expect the rest of the world to act any differently? This is stupid and dangerous.»

«It’s a very different issue and it’s also kind of a new issue, so it doesn’t have a lot of baggage, which has helped it escape partisanship,» said Chris Mellon, a former senior Pentagon official in the Bill Clinton and US administrations. George W. Bush, who is now a leading advocate for more study of unexplained aerial phenomena.

The overwhelming reaction from Republicans and Democrats alike is to demand more answers from the administration about what exactly brought down the United States and why.

US Navy sailors recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Sunday.
US Navy sailors retrieve a surveillance balloon high up off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on February 5.Petty Officer 1st Class Tyler Thompson / US Navy

Rep. John James, R-Mich., a rising Republican star, said the UFOs are emblematic of how the Biden leadership has let things «get out of hand.»

«People who don’t wear tinfoil hats are talking about UFOs,» he said on Fox News on Monday. “We need to control these things. That is why we are doing everything we can to govern well from the Republican majority in the House to hold the Biden administration accountable and show that we can win back the Senate and win the White House.”

Others on the right connected UFOs to immigration.

“The American people have seen Joe Biden, in his first two years, fail to secure the southern border. Now they start to worry that he can’t secure our airspace,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said on Fox News Monday.

Representative Lance Gooden, Republican of Texas, tweeted: “Possible alien UFOs? Joe Biden knocks over the objects. More than 5 million illegal aliens cross the border? Joe Biden does nothing.»

Leopold, the Democratic strategist, said the scattered messages are «emblematic of the chaos of this moment that doesn’t fit into an orderly political box.»

“The Republican Party is prepared to attack Joe Biden, even if they aren’t sure how,” Leopold said. “If the sun comes out, they will attack you for being too sunny. If it is raining, they will attack you for raining.”

Prior to the recent shootdowns, unexplained aerial phenomena were a rare site of bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers from both parties crafting legislation to require the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community to better track and report unexplained aerial phenomena. Members such as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, DN.Y., were pushing the administration to take the issue more seriously and end the stigma that has prevented pilots and other officials from from the government talk about strange things. They see.

With the emergence of new technologies such as drones and hypersonic aircraft, lawmakers argue, it is more important than ever to keep an eye out for possible Russian and Chinese aircraft over American skies.

“There is a small group of people who are hawkish on this issue. And they’re being very pragmatic about this. It’s not about spaceships and laser beams; it’s about national security and scientific research,” said Ryan Graves, a former Navy aviator who helped lobby Congress on the issue. «From my perspective, everyone is working on the same team, whether it’s blue or red, left or right.»

Gillibrand, in an interview with NBC News, said he hopes the attention on the issue doesn’t politicize it.

“National security concerns are always bipartisan,” he said. “I think it can continue to be bipartisan. I think the way the president handled the Chinese globe became a political issue just because the Republicans want to make it political, but the way Biden handled it was appropriate.»

While UFOs have not been a political issue in the past, experts and lawmakers agree that they will crop up much more now that military radar systems are looking for them. So, Gillibrand said, the government must be more prepared for the next time.

«We can’t be running around every minute to decide if we’re going to shoot down an unknown device,» he said.