“A key goal for the White House coming out of the meeting scheduled for Wednesday with Putin will be to convey that Biden delivered a strong message to Putin.” So said the White House on Saturday by way of explaining Joe Biden’s (read “their”) decision to hold a solo — rather than a joint — press conference following the president’s summit with the Russian leader in Switzerland.
In reaction to the announcement, the press, which has been leaning increasingly into the Biden administration after Kamala Harris’s disastrous trip to Guatemala and Mexico, noted that a joint meeting would better serve the stated goal. To which Biden, in typically mangled English, accidentally told the truth about why he going solo during a press briefing at Cornwall Airport Newquay in England:
With regard to, I’ve always found, and I do not want to suggest, the press should not know it, but it is not a battle over who can do better before a press conference or try to embarrass each other. … But I don’t want to get into being diverted: ‘Did they shake hands? How far did they [inaudible]? Who talked the most?’ and the rest.
The bottom line is, I think the best way to deal with this is for he and I [sic] to meet, for he and I [sic] to have our discussion. I know you don’t doubt that I’ll be very straightforward [laughs] with him about our concerns, and I will make clear how my view of how that meeting turned out, and he’ll make clear how— from his perspective how it turned out.
Pressed on not having a joint press conference with Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin at their upcoming summit, Pres. Biden says, "this is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference or try to embarrass each other." https://t.co/fGhvwXnOpr pic.twitter.com/WGnE2i6gsn
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 13, 2021
In point of fact the upcoming summit with Putin is precisely what Biden says it is not: a battle over which man can do better before the media and embarrass his opponent more. Biden is admitting here in no uncertain terms that this is a battle he is not eager to have. Instead, he would much prefer to receive his dressing-down by Putin in private, then publicly and without fear of direct contradiction share his positive impressions of what went down.