Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
“The words of a president matter. They can move markets. They can send brave men and women to war. They can bring peace,” then presidential candidate Joe Biden said at a presidential election debate in 2020.
Regarding the January 6th Capitol incident, Biden said about President Trump: “The words of a president matter, no matter how good or bad that president is. At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite.” Biden tried to paint President Trump as an undisciplined, unpredictable loose cannon.
Trump did go off script and say things his aides and advisors cringed at, but none of his unscripted moments were nearly as potentially damaging to America as Biden’s remarks at the end of a 27-minute speech on Saturday. Speaking about Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Biden said, ”For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” The Kremlin immediately reacted. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state news agencies, “That’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians.”
Biden’s handlers immediately went to work trying to explain what he said wasn’t what he meant. “The president’s point was Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He wasn’t discussing Putin’s power in Russia or suggesting a regime change,” the White House official interpreter of presidential speeches said. But that was what the president said, so which is it? Perhaps President Biden should consider having an interpreter translate at his press conferences to save time. Three observations:
First, President Biden gave Putin a huge gift. Putin has contended the West is trying to interfere in Russian policy and wants to overthrow the Kremlin and destroy Russia. Putin, no doubt, will use Biden’s gaffe/blunder as propaganda to reinforce the idea the western world hates Russia’s way of life.
Second, Biden’s statement is not consistent with stated U.S. policy. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said regime change is not part of the strategy the United States, NATO and their allies have discussed in regard to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden’s statement contradicts that public policy, which has foreign policy experts and allied leaders scratching their heads.
Third, Biden’s statement could change Putin’s war strategy. If Putin believes Biden secretly wants him out of power, then he might use every means at his disposal to stop that from happening. Putin has some significant means. He has his finger on 6,000 nuclear warheads. By comparison, the United States has 4,000 nukes. If Putin believes Biden is trying to take him out of power, he might do some desperate things. Desperate men do desperate things.
American author Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them!" Joe Biden has shown he does not know how to combine them. He’s right- the words of a president do carry a lot of weight. They move markets- they send men and women to war- they bring peace. That’s why the president shouldn’t impromptu suggest the overthrow of a foreign government’s leader, especially one with 6,000 nukes. To quote Joe Biden- those words can incite.