The media and, of course, the Republican Party and even some Democrats are having conniption fits over President Biden’s statement about Vladimir Putin at the end of his speech in Poland: ““For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
Media reports indicate that this was an ad lib, not uncommon for this, or any other, president. Secretary of State Blinken, for example, “clarified” that,
We do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter…. In this case, as in any case, it’s up to the people of the country in question. It’s up to the Russian people. [https://nyti.ms/37UHZjc]
To clarify Blinken’s clarification, the United States strategy today is not to take overt actions to push Putin out of power or other terminate his leadership position in Russia. Fine. It has been clear to anyone watching closely that this was the case all along. Neither the United States nor NATO is going to attack Russia to force Putin out. Biden didn’t necessarily say otherwise.
There are several “non-conniption fit” interpretations of Biden’s remark that are worth consideration. One example,
Julianne Smith, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Mr. Biden’s remarks were “a principled human reaction” to the Ukrainian refugees he had met in Warsaw. [https://nyti.ms/37UHZjc]
There are others. One is that it wasn’t an ad lib at all, that it was planned just the way it played out. A signal, you might say, to the Russian oligarchy that their removing Putin by whatever means was fine with the United States. In other words, it was a “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?” moment. [for those unfamiliar, see https://bit.ly/3DiFBi8] Then, of course, it was “walked back,” as planned. Keep ‘em guessing.
Maybe it was just a kind of prayer for divine intervention. Biden is quite religious so that’s a plausible expression of human angst from him.
Maybe it was just a profoundly humane response to the grief he felt in being with the refugees and so close to unprovoked death and destruction being wrought by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
I, of course, have no inside knowledge of this situation. Maybe it was just a gaffe. If so, let he who has not gaffed throw the first stone. Then let’s move on.
The Republicans probably won’t. They’ll harp on this as long as the media gives them the play they so desperately want to make the president look bad even as we try to navigate the treacherous path between helping Ukraine stand up to a dictator hell-bent on imprisoning another independent nation while avoiding a nuclear provocation that could end up destroying all life worth living on the planet.
But the media should calm down. Even if Biden were expressing his personal desire that Putin be taken down, the attention to this is overblown and self-defeating. Better to just keep ‘em guessing.