Photo shows Biden's Putin 'cheat sheet'
After publicly appearing to call for the ouster of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, US President Joe Biden read from a pre-prepared ‘cheat sheet,’ on Monday, in an attempt to assure reporters that he wasn’t actually suggesting regime change in Moscow.
However, Biden, whose cognitive health Republicans say is declining, ended up doubling down on his original remarks.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, the president said that his declaration in Poland last week that Putin “cannot remain in power” was not a call for regime change in Moscow.
“I’m not walking anything back,” Biden said. “I want to make it clear: I was not then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change. I was expressing moral outrage that I feel, and I make no apologies for it.”
Photos from the press conference show Biden carrying a small card, entitled “Tough Putin Q&A Talking Points,” in which the president was instructed to answer such a question as follows:
“I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward the actions of this man. I was not articulating a change in policy.”
Despite sticking to what he was instructed to say, Biden wandered off-script later in the briefing. “It’s more an aspiration than anything. He shouldn’t be in power. There’s no…I mean, people like this shouldn’t be ruling countries, but they do,” he said, before telling another reporter that he doesn’t believe Russia would interpret such a statement as a declaration of policy.
“Nobody believes… I was talking about taking down Putin. Nobody believes that,” Biden said.
Biden’s apparent befuddlement has already raised eyebrows several times in recent days. Whilst on his visit to Poland, the president seemingly told American soldiers that they would soon be deployed to Ukraine, before his officials walked back the statement, saying “The president has been clear we are not sending US troops to Ukraine and there is no change in that position.”
Likewise, despite Biden’s Vice President, National Security Advisor, Secretary of State and Press Secretary all portraying US sanctions on Russia as a deterrent to Putin, Biden declared last week that “sanctions never deter.”
Biden has relied on printed answer cards when dealing with the press before, and has also called on reporters during press conferences from prepared lists, mentioning on one such occasion in November that “they gave me a list of the people I’m going to call on.”
Republicans have pointed to these incidents, as well as to examples of Biden losing his train of thought mid-reply and appearing visibly lost and confused, as indicators of the president’s declining cognitive abilities.
Biden’s approval rating sank to a new low of 40% in an NBC News poll published on Sunday, with just 29% of respondents expressing “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of confidence in the president’s ability to handle the crisis in Ukraine. An ABC News poll taken last month found that 54% of Americans thought he lacked the “mental sharpness it takes to serve effectively as president.”