Everybody has an “inside the head” voice and an “outside the head” voice. The “inside the head” voice thinks things that, while perhaps correct, ought not be said. The “outside the head” voice is more restrained having considered the consequences of verbalizing the inner thought.
Sometimes the “inside the head” voice slips out. That happened to President Joe Biden last weekend. Wrapping up a speech at the Royal Castle in Warsaw after meeting with NATO leaders the President went off script. ”For God’s sake this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While most of us would agree with the President’s sentiments, that one sentence set off a diplomatic firestorm as it seemed to suggest a shift in official U.S. policy away from containment to regime change. That would be a very big deal. The White House quickly attempted to “walk back” the comment saying he meant to say remining in “power” in Ukraine.
Did the President mis-speak or did he reveal his true thoughts? Much of the world has recoiled in horror at the war crimes and atrocities Putin has unleashed on his peaceful neighbor. While the U.S. is unlikely to send in a hit squad – that being unlawful – an internal coup could be a blessing assuming some other madman does not take Putin’s place.
The balance of the President’s speech was well received. It was a clarion call for a resolute NATO to assist the Ukrainian people in repelling Russian aggression. Biden exhorted our NATO allies to do more, but he himself has been slow to act. The administration waited until after the Russians had fired the first shot to begin imposing economic sanctions. And when it did, there has been a phased ramping up of sanctions rather than a shock and awe blast to send the Russian economy into a tailspin.
On the energy front Biden has led from behind and his administration has not altered domestic policies that would allow European nations to wean themselves from Russian oil and natural gas thus chocking off a key source of the rogue state’s revenue. He placed an embargo on importing Russian oil into the United States only after bi-partisan congressional pressure. In the meantime, the administration has not reversed course on policies that are preventing us from unleashing our own energy resources.
Pennsylvania is uniquely positioned to be a key player in a new energy paradigm. We are possessed of abundant natural gas reserves and given the necessary pipeline and deportation facilities could easily supply Europe with the energy it needs. But, like Biden, Governor Tom Wolf is captive of radical environmentalists continuing to try and curb Pennsylvania energy production by embroiling us in the ill-fated Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Biden also bears responsibility for creating the circumstances that lead Vladimir Putin to believe he could get away with brutalizing a neighboring country. The administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan telegraphed to the world that America lacked resolve. Putin can smell weakness and Biden put off a stronger stench than a roadkill skunk.
Where Putin miscalculated, however, is that Biden’s weakness is not emblematic of the American people. As footage of Russian atrocities played across our television screens and social media became ablaze with personal posts outrage grew. Unlike Vietnam, which seemed to be the world away it was, social media has given us an immediate connection to the Ukrainian people.
It is interesting to observe the reaction of younger Americans in particular. It has been 20 years since Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait. It has been several generations since Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Japanese Emperor Hirohito embroiled the globe in World War II. To them such atrocities were found in history books, about as real as a video game. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine is unfolding before their very eyes and they are rightly recoiling in horror. Their voices are leading the chorus for action.
And they have been heard at the very highest levels of NATO. Upon conclusion of last week’s conference NATO Deputy General Secretary Mircea Geoana spoke loudly using his “outside the head voice” saying: “We are supporting Ukraine in many many ways, in defense terms, in financial terms, in humanitarian terms. When the time will come, and that time will come, we’ll also help Ukraine reconstruct, rebuild their nation because they have earned our admiration – they deserve out support.”
Indeed they do.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly American Radio Journal and Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)
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