After President Joe Biden went wildly off-script in his speech in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday, members of the corporate media jumped to compare the gaffe to President Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall” moment. But the comments couldn’t have been more different.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden ad-libbed about Vladimir Putin at the very end of a half-hour of prepared remarks. White House officials immediately began doing damage control for the president’s radical and dangerous call for regime change in Moscow, telling the press, “The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”
In stark contrast, the iconic line in Reagan’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate had been discussed and debated in White House circles for weeks, and was very intentionally included by Reagan — it was no spur-of-the-moment line that accidentally said more than the president meant.
“In his early drafts of the speech, [John Kornblum, the top U.S official in Berlin] included a direct call to Gorbachev to open the Wall,” The Washington Post recorded. “Back in Washington, White House speechwriter Peter Robinson was similarly inclined and weeks of heated debate ensued.”
Robinson recalled telling Reagan that some people on the eastern side of the wall would be able to hear him, and asking what the president wanted to make sure they heard.
“And the president said, ‘Well, there’s that passage about tearing down the wall. That’s what I want to say to them. That wall has to come down,’” Robinson remembered.
But while Reagan loved the line, White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker and Secretary of State George Shultz didn’t. Robinson said the speechwriting team got seven different drafts of the speech in their back-and-forths with the National Security Council and the State Department, all of which edited the line out.
“It was only when Air Force One landed in Berlin that a White House official approached Kornblum and said Reagan had decided,” the Post continued.
Reagan’s line — which only years later would become iconic — was a far cry from Biden’s flub, which was so obviously not well thought through that a fawning Politico Playbook on Sunday morning resorted to calling it a “gaffe from the heart.”
That didn’t stop talking heads from holding Biden’s whoopsie up to Reagan’s time-tested line. Max Boot did so in a WaPo op-ed titled “Biden’s support for Ukraine and opposition to Putin were no ‘gaffe,’” in which he found himself admitting that actually, “the fact that Biden’s aides rushed to walk back his remarks with lame explanations … suggests that this was indeed a gaffe — one of many that Biden has committed over his long political career.”
CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller said on Twitter Saturday that Biden’s accidental line “tops Reagan’s 1987 ‘tear down this wall’ speech.” Reuters’ Michel Rose wrote, “‘For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power’ is Biden’s ‘Tear down this wall’ moment.” Jennifer Rubin of the Post and MSNBC said the speech was “akin to those at the Brandenburg Gate by JFK and Reagan.”
Not to be outdone, the Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson opined that “Biden did ‘Tear Down This Wall’ for our era,” while the group’s Tara Setmayer gushed, “Pres. Biden may have just given his ‘tear down this wall’ speech. Wow.”
There are several obvious differences between the two presidents’ remarks — such as the fact that Reagan was known as a master communicator and Biden is infamous for his gaffes, or that Biden’s line was far more incendiary than his predecessor’s. But the most glaring distinction is that Reagan intentionally included the line after weeks of thought, while Biden appeared to go off-script out of old-guy indignation and frustration. They’re nowhere near the same thing, no matter what media sycophants desperate for a moment of good PR for the self-sabotaging Biden administration say.