Biden’s call for Putin’s removal while in Europe

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Argh, he did it again: President Joe Biden made his biggest mistake yet of his European trip Saturday, ad-libbing the line, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” The White House rapidly walked back his call for Vladimir Putin’s removal, but the damage is done.

While Biden’s age and general cluelessness are part of the problem here, the real issue is that nothing he says ever means much: He’s spent most of his public life managing never to be held to a promise, threat or expressed intention.

Yes, most of the planet is rooting for Putin’s ouster (preferably fatal), but demanding it isn’t US policy for a bunch of good reasons. (America’s not going to make it happen, for starters, and Ukraine’s overwhelming priority is simply for the Russians to stop their slaughter and leave.)

The president just got caught up in his prepared remarks, a summons to the West to unite not just against Putin’s invasion but against all tyranny (i.e., China), and said what fit emotionally.

He’s not the first prez to go badly off-script, but he is the first to do it so routinely: This follows his gaffes threatening to use (nonexistent) US chemical weapons if Putin uses his (all too real) chems and telling American troops they’d be going into Ukraine.

That’s three huge public bungles in three days, on a trip that was supposed to be sending a disciplined message of firm-but-limited support for Ukraine.

The White House immediately issued an apology saying Biden did not mean it.
The White House immediately issued an apology saying Biden did not mean it.
EPA/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV / KREMLIN / SPUTNIK / POOL

We expect Biden sheepishly apologized to his staff (again) for having to do damage control, and to the allies for undermining them and for handing Putin some first-rate propaganda grist. But at 79 he’s not going to stop — again, he’s been doing this his entire adult life.

Of course, the press is happy to play mop-up. Some were calling this Biden’s “tear down this wall” moment before the White House’s embarrassing walkback. The Washington Post writeup gently, and comically, referred to Biden’s “sometimes inarticulate rhetoric.” Sometimes??

Yet the problem here isn’t his confusion, but his fundamental insincerity.

The president just got caught up in his prepared remarks, a summons to the West to unite not just against Putin’s invasion but against all tyranny.
The president just got caught up in his prepared remarks, a summons to the West to unite not just against Putin’s invasion but against all tyranny.
REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

As a senator and vice president, Joe Biden got away with saying whatever felt effective in the moment, whether it was promising orderly Supreme Court confirmation hearings, vowing to pass a given bill or committing to not letting his family merchandize his role as veep.

But he was time and again just telling his audience what he thought it wanted to hear, so he could move on to his next round of pitching bull. Because senators and veeps don’t actually have much individual power, he got away with it.

The president of the United States, however, is the most powerful guy on the planet; his words matter. The job’s a terrible fit for a career con man.



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