This message is brought to you by the RNC, NRCC, and especially the NSCC. Can anyone come up with a worse plan to deal with the confidence-crisis cascade than to let Joe Biden continue to be Joe Biden? Washington Post analysts Ashley Parker and Tyler Pager report that some Democrats are getting annoyed by White House staff constantly walking back Biden’s remarks, but … what choice do they have?
This is about the only passage in a long Post analysis that doesn’t include some ghastly missteps by Biden while trying to speak off the cuff:
Biden is a self-described “gaffe machine” who once, in 1987, found the need to explain to reporters, “I feel very capable of using my mouth in sync with my mind.” But as president, his rinse-and-repeat cycle of veering off-script — followed by his team’s now well-honed cleanup efforts — has at times complicated U.S. policy goals and even undermined Biden himself.
“There are times when presidents being human misspeak and the staff being responsible has to clarify, but I think in this, and other recent cases, Biden is just speaking plainly what we all understood to be the case anyway,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), who served as an assistant secretary in the State Department during the Obama administration. “In such cases, it’s generally best to let the president’s words stand rather than walking things back in ways that raise further questions.”
Or as Tommy Hicks Jr., a co-chair of the Republican National Committee, put it less charitably in a tweet Monday: “Another clean-up job from the Biden spin room. He cannot go overseas without saying something that his team has to walk back minutes later. It’s reckless and embarrassing.”
Somehow, I don’t think Hicks was complaining about the clean-ups on Aisle Joe. The problem Hicks highlights comes from the need to perform clean-ups in the first place. Malinowski and other Dems resentful of the embarrassment of the walkbacks are mistaking the cure for the disease.
That becomes even more clear while reading through the many such incidents by Biden and the patterns that emerge. Last week’s “gaffe” on Taiwan and strategic ambiguity wasn’t a singular event. Even as president, Biden has repeatedly misstated actual US policy on Taiwan and still seems to be ignorant of it:
Bonnie Glaser, the director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said she has counted five times the president has spoken about Taiwan, and each time she says he has misstated America’s foreign policy.
“The issue here is President Biden has usually added statements that mischaracterize U.S. policy toward Taiwan,” Glaser said. “He has said several times we have a commitment to defend Taiwan. Under the Taiwan Relations Act, we do not have such a commitment. We do not have an obligation to defend Taiwan.”
At the very least, we don’t have any public commitments to defend Taiwan. While that’s also a matter of strategic ambiguity, it’s also a hard fact that Biden keeps getting wrong. To change that, the Senate would have to ratify a mutual-defense pact with Taiwan that would establish such a legal commitment, and Biden hasn’t even proposed such a treaty, let alone executed it.
The most ironic of these “gaffes” came with Biden’s call to conduct a coup against Vladimir Putin … at the end of a speech promoting democracy. “For God’s sake,” Biden ad-libbed, “this man cannot remain in power!” Parker and Pager note that the White House tried walking it back immediately, insisting that Biden “was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia or regime change,” when the clear and explicit meaning of Biden’s comment discussed both — in the context of supporting democracy, no less.
Biden then tried executing a non-walk-back walk-back:
Two days later, back in Washington, Biden seemed to walk back the walk-back, saying, “I’m not walking anything back.”
Yet in the same breath, he also contended: “But I want to make it clear: I wasn’t then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change. I was expressing the moral outrage that I feel, and I make no apologies for it.”
Yeah, that certainly is clear as mud. Biden spends most of his time venting his spleen rather than thinking strategically, so we didn’t really need an explanation for the obvious. Biden’s lack of strategic thinking and utter reliance on reaction has become a hallmark of his presidency, even apart from his incoherence and flat-out lies and demagoguery. The ghastly debacle in Afghanistan made that entirely clear for the first time to American voters, and the results of Biden Being Biden have been plain ever since:
I’ll have more on this later, too. Suffice it to say that letting Biden be Biden might be the best strategy possible … for the GOP.
Update: Speaking of letting Biden be Biden, when was the last time the White House left him alone in a room to do a one-on-one with a reporter? It’s been over a hundred days, and even then, it was the softball, traditional Super Bowl presidential interview on February 11th. And Biden couldn’t handle that one, either:
Joe Biden had some stumbles in his pre-Super Bowl interview with Lester Holt, segments of which aired Thursday: He came off as defensive at times, especially in discussing criticisms of the United States military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and he made headlines for ribbing the NBC News anchor as a “wise guy” during an uncomfortable line of questioning on rising inflation, which has now hit a 40-year high.
The White House won’t even let Biden do regular interviews, likely because they know what it means to have Biden be Biden.