- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 27, 2022

Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho said Sunday that President Biden made a “horrendous gaffe” with his ad-lib about Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that the White House needs to do a better job of keeping the president on script.

Mr. Risch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, referred to Mr. Biden’s speech on Saturday in Warsaw that ended with the president saying Mr. Putin “cannot remain in power,” sparking international speculation over whether the president was announcing a major foreign-policy shift.

The administration immediately walked back the remark, insisting that Mr. Biden was not referring to regime change.

“He gave a good speech … but as you’ve pointed out already, there was a horrendous gaffe right at the end of it,” Mr. Risch said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I wish he would stay on script. Whoever wrote that speech did a good job for him, but my gosh, I wish they would keep him on script.”

He said the off-the-cuff comment could cause a “huge problem” for the administration as it pursues its foreign-policy goals.

“I think most people who don’t deal in the lane of foreign relations don’t realize those nine words that he uttered would cause the kind of eruption that they did,” Mr. Risch said. “But any time you say or even as he did suggest that the policy was regime change, it’s going to cause a huge problem.”

The speech came at the end of the president’s four-day trip to Europe to meet with allies over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“This administration has done everything they can to stop escalating,” said Mr. Risch. “There’s not a whole lot more you can do to escalate than to call for regime change.”

He added his voice to that of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who told reporters after the speech that there was no regime-change policy.

“Look, the White House tried to walk it back immediately,” said Mr. Risch. “Tony Blinken, the secretary of state, tried to walk it back immediately. I’ll walk it back right now. That is not the policy of the United States of America. Please Mr. President, stay on script.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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