Biden’s Comments About Putin Were an Unforced Error

The sound that could not be captured by the cameras after Biden spoke was dozens of staffers slapping the palms of their hands against their forehead. Predictably, media in America and elsewhere seized on this statement as if it were some new policy or a NATO war aim and asked if the president of the United States was calling for regime change in, of all places, Moscow.

Biden’s staff lamely offered that the president was saying that Putin “cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.” The United States, as Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, later told CNN, does not have a new policy of regime change, and has no overt or covert programs aimed at such a goal in Russia. But the news cycle was already in full swing; CNN and others were quoting Biden in their chyrons and prodding their guests to speculate on the president’s meaning.

What Biden was doing, of course, was being Joe Biden.