President Joe Biden’s speech in Warsaw on Saturday movingly framed Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a battle “between liberty and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force.” Then Biden ad-libbed, putting an unexpected, provocative capstone on what was otherwise a meticulously crafted message of resolve in the face of tyranny.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” the president said of Putin.
It was an unscripted gaffe, the kind Biden has been known to make when he veers from the text aides give him. The White House quickly tried to put the fire out. No, Biden wasn’t calling for regime change and Putin’s ouster as Russia’s president, Biden administration officials insisted. “The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region,” a White House official told reporters.