“For God’s sake,” Biden said in the final words of a Saturday speech in Warsaw, Poland, “this man cannot remain in power.”
What has happened since Saturday, over the course of three days, has been a bizarre, tennis match-like display of foreign diplomacy: At first “walking back” those comments only for America’s commander in chief to insist he was not “walking back” anything but was expressing “moral outrage.” He then insisted to reporters that nobody - literally nobody - believed he was calling for Putin to be deposed only to say, again, he was expressing outrage that Putin is still in power.
Biden reportedly ad-libbed those nine words Saturday about Putin, creating instant troubles in the White House because they were not part of the speech he delivered about Ukraine and Russia, The Associated Press reported.
According to the AP, White House officials were forced to immediately “clean up” Biden’s alleged gaffe to insist the president of the United States did not call for Russia’s president to be deposed from power.
President Biden “was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change,” an unnamed White House official told NBC News.
One day after Biden’s remarks, on Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia, or anywhere else, for that matter.”
The same NBC News story pointed out Biden, on the same trip through Poland, seemingly told U.S. Army troops they would soon see the war in Ukraine first hand.
“Look at how they’re stepping up,” Biden said of Ukrainians. “And you’re going to see when you’re there – and some of you have been there – you’re you’re going to see.”
Gary Bauer, a veteran of D.C politics who leads the Campaign for Working Families, tells AFN that Biden’s trip through Europe was a “disaster” for America’s credibility and foreign policy.
“And in the most delicate area that a president deals with, of war and peace,” he warns, “where words literally mean life and death. He made one mistake after another."
It was a "colossal mistake" for Biden to call for removing Putin, Bauer adds, because "that is a mistake that could lead us to nuclear war."
And then came Monday.
At a White House press conference, where Biden came prepared with reporters’ questions and written answers, he caused more problems when reporters peppered him with questions over his nine words.
“Do you believe what you said – that Putin can’t remain in power – or do you now regret saying that?” one reporter asked. “Because your government has been trying to walk that back. Do your words complicate matters?”
“Number one, I’m not walking anything back,” Biden said, reading from his notes. “The fact of the matter is I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward the way Putin is dealing, and the actions of this man.”
The reporters weren’t done with Biden, however. Minutes later, a second reporter delivered a back-handed compliment: Since Biden has more “foreign policy experience” than any other U.S. president, she said, he should understand why some are alarmed that a U.S. president’s call for Putin to be removed is a “statement of U.S. policy.”
Responding to the question, Biden unhappily called it “ridiculous” for anyone to suggest he was calling for Putin to be deposed as Russia’s president.
“Nobody believes we’re going to take down --- I was talking about taking down Putin,” he said. “Nobody believes that.”
Biden continued his answer by defensively insisting he is preventing nuclear war with Russia – as if he is not getting the credit he deserves for doing so – but he then called his ad-libbed words from Saturday an “aspiration” that Putin should not remain in power.
“People like this should not be ruling countries but they do,” he concluded. “The fact they do doesn’t mean I can’t express my outrage about it.”
On his Fox News show Monday night, Tucker Carlson summarized what has happened from Saturday to Monday: After the White House “walked back” Biden’s comments, the president said he was not “walking back” his own comments only to insist he never said them.
Tucker then played the brief clip of Biden telling a reporter it was “ridiculous” to suggest he had called for Putin to be removed from power.
“All right, joke’s over. Too much is at stake,” Carlson concluded. “If there was ever a time, if there was in U.S. history ever a time to invoke the 25th Amendment, it is now.”
This story has been updated to attribute a March 26 speech in Warsaw, Poland to President Joe Biden.