Two things can be true at once, and often are. I believe Joe Biden when he explains that the controversial ad-libbed final nine words of his Saturday address in Poland were simply his opinion, and a personal expression of his outrage at Vladimir Putin’s criminal actions. I have no reason to doubt that, and the scenario is consistent with everything we know about Biden.
But I also think it was a classic Biden gaffe, and a particularly sloppy one. And if there’s one thing the country and the world don’t need from the American president right now it is sloppiness.
Biden says he’s not “walking anything back.” But his White House was backpedaling faster than Jalen Ramsey within ten minutes of the time Biden left the podium. It had to be an “aww f%$%” moment for the White House Communications office and the State Department.
So, it is simultaneously true, in my view, that Biden 1) was not advocating regime change or American policy change, but that 2) he nevertheless screwed the pooch.
He handed Putin a gift. Vlad The Inhaler of Territory can now tell the Russian people, that, see, I told you the United States wants to topple our government! That nine-word off-the-cuff addendum drew attention away from a speech that up to that second had been brilliant, and brilliantly effective.
Now Putin, however dishonestly, can cast this as an “existential threat” to justify use of even more terrible weapons and–if he wants to–draw the U.S. into direct military confrontation.
Biden based his presidential campaign in large part on his decades of foreign policy experience in critical situations. That’s all the more reason he should have known better.
Effective communication is precise communication that is incapable of being misinterpreted or twisted.
Biden handed Putin a “twisty.”
And that’s on Biden.