Are Biden’s ad libs simply inconvenient truths?

“Not everything that is true needs to be spoken”

During the Ukraine crisis, whenever he has gone off the teleprompter and spoken his mind, Biden has made reverberating headlines that his handlers have had to quickly (and forcefully) “clarify”.

First was his reference to “minor incursions” which was broadly interpreted as giving Putin a green light to invade Ukraine, provided that the invasion was contained to the east most Russian-speaking areas.

Then, over the weekend, he told American paratroopers stationed in Poland that they would see first-hand the physical destruction and human catastrophe in Ukraine “when they go there”… interpreted by some (many?) as an indication that U.S. “boots on the ground” in Ukraine was not off the table.

And, the coup de grâce: His teleprompter-be-damned declaration that “Putin must be removed from power” … widely taken as a thinly veiled threat of “regime change”.

So, what’s going on?

Are these simply misstatements … a lack of “message discipline” … or something deeper.


My hunch: When speaking off-the-cuff, Biden is uttering stuff that he has heard or seen before (say, in his cabinet meetings) … and that he does genuinely believe.

On this weekend’s Sunday shows, the current Ambassador to NATO coined Biden’s statements to be “principled reactions”.

Said differently, I don’t think that he’s just making this stuff up.

That raises the question of message control.

Why can’t Biden stay between diplomatic guardrails and leave some things unsaid?


I’ve got a couple of hypotheses…

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or psychologist, but I’ve seen many CEO’s in operation and have an unfortunate family medical history that includes Alzheimer’s

First, Biden is widely slammed for being a weak leader, a figurehead president who isn’t in charge and who lacks bold stroke courage.

He’s got to be cognizant of the public opinion … and. it has got to irk him.

What’s the logical reaction? What would most CEO’s do?

Go off their handlers’ prepared script to demonstrate control … and, do so with macho pronouncements (e.g. “Putin must go”), that burnish their manhood credentials.

An obvious problem with this hypothesis is that Biden’s handlers immediately step in to whack his manhood by “clarifying” (i.e. “retracting”) his remarks.


Second, one of the things I witnessed in my mom’s Alzheimer ward was a reversion to childlike behaviors.

One of the manifestations: unvarnished truth-telling … often inappropriate uttering of beliefs and opinions that are genuinely held to be true.

Think: “this food is awful”, “You’re dress is ugly”, “You’re ugly”.

These are “inconvenient truths.”

Kids do it … and so do old folks with slipping cognitive controls.

As former Senator Max Baucus is fond of reminding: “Not everything that is true needs to be spoken”.

Baucus — also a former Ambassador to China — has a reputation for injecting historical and philosophical quotations into his speeches and remarks. Source

So, what’s the prescription?


The WSJ’s James Freeman opines that “the President should avoid public speaking .. at least when the topic is important.”

Freeman argues that:

Some issues are just too important to be left to an unscripted Joe Biden.

These are dangerous times and we would all be much safer if Mr. Biden would speak less.

Yes, it’s important for all of us to be able to hear from our elected officials and to assess the content of their remarks as well as the skill and conviction with which they advocate for their policies.

But this particular elected official does not appear to be up to the task.

While we consider the implications, Mr. Biden should try to say as little as possible in public during an international crisis.

That’s a pretty sad commentary… sad, but probably true … and worrisome in itself.

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