The White House continues to walk behind Biden’s comments

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During a speech in Tokyo on Monday, President Biden sent shockwaves through his allies, deviating from decades of carefully crafted policy and declaring that the United States would militarily defend Taiwan if China invaded.

“Yes, that’s what we promised,” Biden said.

Biden’s party quickly claimed that the administration’s policy had not changed. But the moment is reminiscent of a month or two ago, in March, when Biden finished a speech in Warsaw, announcing the line that Vladimir Putin could not remain in power as Russia’s president – prompting his advisers to step back.

Which is reminiscent of a moment two months earlier, in January, when Biden sought to imply that the United States could tolerate Russia’s “minor incursion” into Ukraine – a claim both Biden and his allies jumped to make clear.

“I was very clear with President Putin,” Biden said in a statement the next day. “She has no misunderstandings. If any – any – united Russian unit moves across the Ukrainian border, it is an attack. “

Biden is a self-described “gaff machine” who, once, in 1987, found it necessary to explain to reporters, “I feel very capable of using my mouth in harmony with my mind.” But as president, his cycle of washing and repeating off-script exclusions – after which his party now has a clean slate – has at times complicated US policy goals and even weakened Biden.

“There are times when presidents make humanitarian misconduct and employees are held accountable, but I think in this and other recent cases, Biden is just speaking clearly, as we all understand,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski (DN). .J.), Who served as Assistant Secretary of State during the Obama administration. “In such cases, it is usually better to let the president’s words stand in the way of a more questionable approach.”

Opacity or clarity? Taiwan’s comments dominated Biden’s trip to Asia

Or as Tommy Hicks Jr., co-chair of the Republican National Committee, keeps it less charitable. A tweet Monday: “Another cleanup from the Biden Spin Room. He can’t go abroad without saying that his team will be back in a few minutes. It’s reckless and embarrassing. “

Monday was rarely the first time that Biden has come forward with “strategic ambiguity” in front of U.S. government policy towards Taiwan – an achievement that is not entirely surprising to a person whose critics claim is not strategic and whose allies rarely say it is ambiguous.

Asked at a CNN town hall in October if the United States would defend Taiwan if China invaded, Biden replied, “Yes, we have a commitment to do so” – a claim his allies hastened to say that did not reflect long-term change. Held policy.

Bonnie Glaser, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Asia program in the United States, said he had counted five times the president had spoken about Taiwan, and each time he had said he had made a mistake in US foreign policy.

“The problem here is that President Biden has usually added statements that misrepresent US policy towards Taiwan,” Glaser said. “He has said many times that we have a commitment to protect Taiwan. Under the Taiwan Relations Act, we have no such commitment. We have no obligation to defend Taiwan. “

Glaser added that Biden’s remarks could indeed “hurt US interests” by provoking China and leading to escalation of tensions.

Ironically, when then-President George W. Bush made almost identical remarks about Taiwan in 2001, it was Sen. Joe Biden – then a senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee – who provoked him with an op-ed in the Washington Post headlining “Taiwan is not so good.”

“Words matter,” Biden scolded Bush.

Many of Biden’s own recent ad-labs involve foreign policy. In March, he called Putin a “war criminal” – a term that his administration has avoided studying when determining whether such a title is officially applicable. At the time, White House Press Secretary Jane Sackie said Biden was simply “speaking from his heart.”

At the end of his Warsaw speech, with his nine-word ad-lib – “God forbid, this guy can’t stay in power,” he said, referring to Putin – he delivered an exciting, 30-minute piano for democracy at his Royal Castle in Warsaw. Outside, the president’s motorcade was inactive, with the party vying to clarify what Biden actually said.

“The president’s statement is that Putin should not be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region,” a White House official said in a statement at the time. “He did not discuss Putin’s power in Russia, or change his regime.”

Two days later, back in Washington, Biden was seen walking back-to-back, saying, “I’m not going back at all.”

Yet in the same breath, he further argued: “But I want to make it clear: I was not then, not yet, talking about a change of policy. I am expressing my moral resentment and I do not apologize for it. “

Biden made his remarks in Taiwan during a visit to South Korea and Japan this week, where a new economic structure aimed at countering China’s growing influence in Asia was to be the main focus.

Instead, Biden’s unplanned Taiwanese remarks in response to a reporter’s question overshadowed the announcement, a senior administration official said, adding that Biden’s remarks in Poland were comparable to the timing of the publication of the broader message of his speech on Ukraine.

Biden urges no change in Taiwan’s policy in quad meeting to deal with China

With Warsaw Ad-Lib, Biden’s advisers briefly considered letting his comments stand without explanation as they debated their options – a strategy that both inside and outside the administration said would have been preferred.

“When he made this statement at the end of Warsaw’s speech, his staff had no reason to back down,” said Ian Bremer, president of Eurasia Group, a global risk consultancy. “It simply came to our notice then. They were not on the same page. It makes him look weak and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he knows what he’s talking about. “

An administrative official argued that in most cases, post-action explanations by Biden and his team were more explanatory than “walk-back”. After conversations with relevant policy and communications advisers, the president will occasionally reveal flags that he wants to add to his comments, either by himself or by instructing his team to do so, the official added.

Biden is rarely the first president to return or clarify remarks. President Barack Obama – under whom Biden served as No. 2 – has returned to seemingly trivial issues (which his opponents of the agenda are obstructing “crazy progress” from more consequential issues (for which his administration “had no strategy yet”). Dealing with the group).

The White House has defended the history of Biden’s interpretation.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement that “the president speaks directly and candidly – directly from the shoulder, as he often does.” “Doing so was crucial to his success in everything from mobilizing the world to support Ukraine to passing the most important infrastructure law in a generation. . “

Biden’s off-the-cuff remarks made his White House tenure so confusing – not an everyday occurrence, but dazzling and distracting when they arrive.

In January 2021, Biden said his administration aimed to shoot 150 million coronavirus vaccines at gunpoint in its first 100 days in office – up from the previously announced target of 100 million. Saki then said that Biden was not setting a new goal with the increased numbers, but was merely expressing a hope.

In June of that year, Biden initially announced that he would sign a bipartisan infrastructure agreement only if it was “consistent” with a Democrat-only social spending program bill that was much more liberal. His remarks provoked an almost immediate outcry from Republicans, and Biden immediately retracted his remarks.

Note that his remarks “made some Republicans understandably annoyed,” Biden wrote.

And the following month, in July, Biden said that Facebook and other social media organizations were “killing people” by allowing the spread of coronavirus vaccine misinformation – later making it clear that bad actors were using platforms to spread dangerous misinformation.

In a podcast interview with David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Obama, in May, Saki acknowledged that Biden’s team often advised him not to ask reporters questions immediately, but the president often denied their request.

“It’s not something we recommend,” Saki said. “Actually, a lot of times we say, ‘Don’t ask questions.'”

But, he added, “he’s going to do what he wants because he’s president.”

In fact, Biden is often known for giving a scripted speech from the teleprompter, leaving, and then returning to the shouting questions of field reporters.

In Tokyo on Tuesday, Biden again briefly answered media questions, shortly before boarding Air Force One to return to the United States.

“No,” Biden replied when asked if the US policy of strategic ambiguity towards Taiwan was dead.

Asked if he could explain, Biden again simply offered a “no” – leaving no room for any other wrongdoing but more than his own little strategic ambiguity.

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