Webster’s dictionary defines a “gaffe” as a “social or diplomatic blunder” or “noticeable mistake.”  In American politics, a “gaffe,” as journalist Michael Kinsley famously observed, is “when a politician tells the truth” and “accidentally reveals something truthful about what is going on in his or her head.”  While it is always perilous to venture into the mind of President Joe Biden, his “gaffe,”pleading for the end of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reign, may have been the latter — a slip of the tongue, not of the mind.  

Over the weekend, America’s commander in chief informed a stunned global audience that, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”  Biden’s ever anxious, overworked handlers rushed to deny the extraordinary implications.   A helpful translator at the Atlantic Monthly explained that old Joe was “speaking for all of us, from the heart…  one of the more endearing things about the president.”

Liberal foreign policy go-to guru Michael O’Hanlon, however, worries that Biden’s ad lib was ad hoc.  The Brookings Institution scholar tells the Washington Post that he’s concerned “the top team is not thinking about plausible war termination.  If they were, Biden’s head wouldn’t be in a place where he’s saying, ‘Putin must go.’”  History professor Niall Ferguson reports in Bloomberg News that at least one senior White House official claims, “The only end game now is the end of Putin regime.”  That, all can agree, is no gaffing matter.