I wrote yesterday about Joe Biden’s Warsaw speech in which, at the end, he called for regime change in Russia: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” Predictably, that seemingly unscripted outburst has provoked a crisis in international relations. The Washington Post headlines: “How Biden sparked a global uproar with nine ad-libbed words about Putin.”
Because the WaPo story is behind a paywall, and because Ann Althouse’s comments on the incident and WaPo’s coverage are interesting, I am going to quote from Ann’s site, identifying the Post’s reporting (WP) and Althouse’s comments (AA) for clarity. The Post writes:
WP: It was a remarkable statement that would reverse stated U.S. policy, directly countering claims from senior administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who have insisted regime change is not on the table. It went further than even U.S. presidents during the Cold War, and immediately reverberated around the world as world leaders, diplomats, and foreign policy experts sought to determine what Biden said, what it meant — and, if he didn’t mean it, why he said it.
The Post assumes that Biden is a sentient being whose intentions are worth discussing. Many would think, on the contrary, that this kind of imprudent outburst is merely a symptom of his dementia.
Ann makes a comment that occurred to me as well:
AA: Watching the video, I can’t understand the basis for labeling the statement “ad-libbed.” Biden seems to be reading a speech, a bit robotically and on the edge of stumbling, and he slows down a bit and gets quite emphatic. He seems to build up toward that conclusion and fully intend it as a conclusion. I don’t see how it’s “an unwanted distraction to… otherwise forceful remarks.” It’s delivered in a manner that is more forceful than the surrounding remarks.
That is true. Is it possible that someone wrote a speech for Biden that included a significant change in American foreign policy, and he read it off the teleprompter? One of Ann’s commenters writes, “Release the teleprompter script!”
The WaPo story describes how both White House aides back in Washington and the reporters themselves scrambled to pick up after the president:
AA: Some White House official — who? — reacted almost immediately and tried to make it go away with an incredibly lame argument that Biden just meant that “Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region.”
So, the evidence that it was “ad-libbed” is merely that unnamed associates of the President are saying that after the fact. The WaPo writers assist the White House:
WP: Biden’s line was not planned and came as a surprise to U.S. officials, according to a person familiar with the speech who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive situation.
Sensitive indeed! Back to the Post, then Ann’s comments:
WP: In the immediate aftermath of the remark, reporters rushed to find Biden aides and seek clarity on the president seemingly supporting a regime change in Russia. But Biden aides demurred, refusing to comment as they scrambled to craft a response.
AA: Reporters rushed and aides scrambled. This sounds like a description of the in-person scene. One of the article-writers, Pager, was there in Warsaw. I presume he witnessed chaos. This next part sounds like it’s the scene back in Washington. The other article writer, Viser, reported from Washington.
WP: White House officials were adamant the remark was not a sign of a policy change, but they did concede it was just the latest example of Biden’s penchant for stumbling off message. And like many of his unintended comments, they came at the end of his speech as he ad-libbed and veered from the carefully crafted text on the teleprompter.
AA: Do you believe that? I don’t. There is mind-blowing incompetence whether it’s true or false. How can you have a United States President, giving the most high-profile speech on the most dire matter, and accept that he stumbles off message. It’s his penchant. They had a “carefully crafted text,” but he veered.
More at the link. Likely we will have more to say about this matter in the days to come, but for now I will just observe that we are paying the price of having a president and a White House that are utterly incompetent.
UPDATE: Upon arriving back in Washington, a chastened Biden answers “No” when asked whether he was “calling for regime change.”