The White House keeps walking back Biden’s remarks


Speaking Monday in Tokyo, President Biden sent his aides scrambling when, deviating from decades of carefully crafted policy, he declared that the United States would defend Taiwan militarily if China attacked it.

“Yes, that’s the commitment we made,” Biden said.

Biden’s team was quick to claim that the administration’s policy had not changed. But the moment was reminiscent of one two months prior, in March, when Biden ended a speech in Warsaw by ad-libbing the line that Vladmir Putin cannot remain in power as Russia’s president — which his advisers again raced to walk back.

Which was reminiscent of the moment two months before that, in January, when Biden seemed to imply that the United States might tolerate “a minor incursion” by Russia into Ukraine — an assertion both Biden and his aides clambered to clarify.

“I’ve been absolutely clear with President Putin,” Biden said the following day, responding to the public outcry. “He has no misunderstanding. If any — any — assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion.”

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.


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