Opinion | Joe Biden Would Like to Know What Your Problem Is

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By Gail Collins and Bret Stephens

Ms. Collins and Mr. Stephens are opinion columnists. They converse every week.

Bret Stephens: Gail, that was one long presidential news conference last week. If Joe Biden wanted to show he has stamina, I guess he proved it. Otherwise, how did you think it went?

Gail Collins: Bret, I really really wish I could give three cheers and a few fireworks here, but I have to admit it … could have been better.

Bret: It reminded me of the scene in some old movie where the car takes the wrong turn on a foggy night. It could have used some background music, like the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.” Let’s hope the next song won’t be “The End.”

Gail: As you know, I try to steer clear of foreign policy, but I was shocked that the president didn’t seem to have a good answer on the Russia-Ukraine issue.

Bret: It was exactly the kind of thing we might have expected of Donald Trump but that we elected Biden not to do — mindless verbal blundering leading to potentially catastrophic real-world consequences, like Dean Acheson’s infamous Korea gaffe, when he omitted South Korea from the U.S. defense perimeter in Asia in a speech just a few months before the North invaded in 1950. I hate to think of Vladimir Putin pondering just what kind of “minor” invasion of Ukraine will serve his interests best.

My bigger beef with Biden’s presser is that he didn’t seem to grasp the need to reboot his presidency. Contrary to what the president is suggesting, his administration isn’t suffering from a failure to communicate, “Cool Hand Luke”-style. It’s suffering from a failure to execute, in part because it set unrealistic legislative goals, in part because it screwed up the delivery. It’s why the president needs a new team, starting with the chief of staff position.

Your thoughts?

Gail: You’re referring to Ron Klain — who is either a Biden old hand with the drive and connections to help muscle the infrastructure bill through Congress or the out-of-touch liberal who persuaded the president to go for a way-too-ambitious social agenda.

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