Biden’s Dangerous Words

I apologize for being off line. I had a health scare, a “TIA,” which is like a stroke only temporary. I’m fine now. But I spent 24 hours in hospitals getting MRI’d and CAT scanned and electrocardiographed and I don’t know what all, and I’m really tired. You’ll know I’m back to normal when I start cranking out long posts again.

So President Biden is being criticized for speaking the truth.

Biden broke his long streak of message discipline during a speech in Poland today, when he added an apparently unscripted ending: “For God’s sake, this man”—meaning Putin—“cannot remain in power.”

Tom Nichols continues,

What Biden was doing, of course, was being Joe Biden. He was speaking for all of us, from the heart. One of the more endearing things about the president—at least for those of us who admire him—is that he has almost no inner monologue and regularly engages in the kind of gaffe where a politician says something that is impolitic but true.

This was not the time for such a moment, and even those who think Biden has exhibited sterling leadership during this crisis should admit that the president’s remarks were an unforced error. Putin has already made himself a pariah in the West, and though Biden has been right to call Putin a thug, a butcher, and a war criminal, it is another thing entirely to use language that could be misconstrued by both the American public and the Kremlin as a suggestion that the United States is interested in changing the Russian regime.

Right now, I’d say a large part of the population of planet Earth is “interested” in changing the Russian regime, but at the moment nobody intends to follow through on it.

An international crisis requires steadiness and prudence, and though Biden has shown those qualities in spades, his ad-libbing in Warsaw is a reminder that even small slips pose major risks during tense times. It is especially challenging to stay on message in a 24/7 media environment in which far too many commentators and pundits have already shown an unseemly interest in courting a new world war. When John F. Kennedy was making his way through the Cuban missile crisis, he had only to contend with more easily controlled newspapers and three short newscasts each evening. Biden, by comparison, is living with a Greek chorus of millions offering their commentary and advice—some of it breathtakingly reckless.

The no longer sensible Glenn Greenwald actually thinks the U.S. is using Ukraine as a “proxy war,” kind of ignoring the actual nature of the war. Greenwald continues,

The central question for Americans from the start of the war in Ukraine was what role, if any, should the U.S. government play in that war? A necessarily related question: if the U.S. is going to involve itself in this war, what objectives should drive that involvement?

It’s like geopolitics is way over his head now. The role of the U.S. government is to stand with NATO; not getting involved with whatever NATO is doing is not an option.  The objectives driving our involvement are, first, preventing escalation; second, helping Ukraine maintain its independence within the limits of preventing escalation; and third, addressing the humanitarian crisis resulting from Putin’s invasion. This is blatantly obvious. I have to assume anyone not seeing this is brain damaged.

The White House immediately issued a “clarification”

“The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbours or the region,” a Biden administration official said on background. “He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”

I appreciate that the remark was dangerous. It may have put ceasefire negotiations in jeopardy. However, I doubt the ceasefire negotiations were going to bear fruit anytime soon, anyway.