Biden says Putin producing ‘exact opposite effect he intended,’ takes crack at Trump in softball interview

President Joe Biden sat down for an interview Saturday and managed to get some sound-bitey quotes out, such as his statement that Putin is “producing the exact opposite effect that he intended.”

But getting to that quote was work, and took a lot of not-so-subtle steering from progressive host Brian Tyler Cohen, who, rather than ask the leader of the free world direct questions, seemed to state the President’s points for him and then allowed Biden the time to expand upon them. And if the President appeared to be veering off course — and he did — Cohen was there to remind Biden of … you know… the thing he actually wanted to say. When it started getting really weird — and it did — Cohen quickly changed the subject.

After briefly speaking about the President’s pick for the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, who many feel holds radical views, Cohen pivoted to Republicans and former President Donald Trump, parroting the mantra that has been repeated over the past week that they, along with conservative media, are essentially puppets of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Cohen dutifully set President Biden up for a “zinger” that liberal media, such as Mediaite, are already touting as a savage “roast.”

“We have someone like Donald Trump, who’s come out and praised Putin’s savvy and genius just in advance of him attacking Ukraine. Other Republicans have rallied to Putin’s side as well,” Cohen said. “What’s your message to Trump and others in light of Putin’s attacks?”

“Well, I think I put as much stock in Trump’s saying that Putin’s a genius as I do when he called himself a ‘stable genius,'” Biden shot back, in what felt like a well-practiced response.

And then it was time to talk sanctions.

“In terms of these sanctions, we’ve seen sanctions get imposed on Putin, after Georgia in 2008, after Crimea in 2014, election hacking in 2016…” Cohen prompted.

The President was ready.

“Nothing like this, though,” said Biden. “Look, um, you have two options. Start a third world war. Go to war with Russia, physically. Or two, make sure that a country that acts so contrary to international law ends up paying a price for having done it.”

“There’s no sanction that is immediate,” Biden said.

Perhaps this point was meant to soften his earlier remark that “No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening” — a direct contradiction to Vice President Kamala Harris’s sanction statement.

And then the President began to wander a bit, suggesting removing Putin as president was somehow a long-term goal: “It’s not like you can sanction someone and say, ‘you no longer are going to be the president of Russia,’ but I think these sanctions — I know these sanctions are the broadest sanctions in history, and economic sanctions and political sanctions — and my goal from the very beginning was to make sure that I kept all of NATO and the European all on the same page, because the one thing I think Putin thought he could do was split NATO, creating a great aperture for him to be able to walk through.”

“And that hasn’t happened,” Biden said. “Have you noticed, it’s been complete unanimity. And Russia will pay a serious price for this short-term and long-term — particularly long-term — and I think it’s not only in Europe, but in the Pacific: Japan, South Korea, and Australia. I mean, so it’s — I think if the democracies of the world hold together, I think it increases the prospect that we’re going to have less chaos rather than more. ”

Wow. Word salad.

But Cohen was there to make sense of it.

“I think that’s the ultimate irony here,” Cohen said. “If Putin’s goal was to undermine NATO, and look what’s happening now. NATO is more unified than ever.”

Ahh yes, that was the point Biden meant to make. That, and “stay the course.” That’s important.

“Beyond that, not only NATO’s more unified, look at what’s going on in terms of Finland, in terms of Sweden, what’s going on in terms of other countries,” Biden said, ramping up for his next big soundbite. “I mean, he’s producing the exact opposite effect that he intended and, um, but… but all I know is that we have to stay the course with the rest of our allies. And in the meantime, we’re supplying defensive weaponry and economic assistance to Ukraine and I think it’s important that we stay the course.”

Cohen then praises Biden for his commitment to “protecting democracy” rather than protecting “autocracy,” alluding once again, one would think, to all the Putin-loving Republicans and Donald Trump.

But that’s not where Biden took Cohen’s lead, and things got a little weird.

Instead of another “sick own” of the right, Biden began speaking of a world that is changing rapidly — some might call it a “reset” — and the apparent limitations of democracies.

“Well, you know, you’ve obviously heard things I’ve said before,” Biden said with a laugh, “because I’ve said at the outset of my presidency that there is a genuine — we’re at an inflection point in world history. It occurs every three or four or five generations — fundamental change taking place in the world. And the combination of the fundamental change is taking place — For example, you’re going to see more change in the next 10 years than we saw in the last 50 years, and it’s because the nature of science and technology and movement, and a lot of the autocrats and, uh, President Xi — I have spent a lot of time with President Xi of China. He’s one who believes that things are changing so rapidly, democracies don’t have time to reach consensus, so autocracies are going to be the rule.”

What?

And that’s when Cohen made his move.

No, not by asking the President to clarify his thoughts or perhaps condemn President Xi.

Cohen changed the subject. With a quickness.

Because that’s what good journalists in this fundamentally changing world are expected to do.

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