Biden’s words spark war within war: The Note

"For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power," the president said.

March 28, 2022, 6:01 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

"The single most important thing is for us to stay unified," President Joe Biden said last week during his news conference at NATO headquarters.

Biden's own words during a trip designed to further isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin wound up cutting against that stated goal. It also may limit any political advantage the president could derive back home from the relative unity in supporting Ukraine.

At that same news conference in Brussels, Biden declared that "sanctions never deter" and that he didn't claim they would deter Putin's invasion. Except a range of administration officials had said exactly the opposite, including Vice President Kamala Harris: "The purpose of the sanctions has always been and continues to be deterrence," Harris said Feb. 20 in Munich.

Then came Biden's broadside about Putin at the end of the last speech of his trip on Saturday in Poland: "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power."

PHOTO: President Joe Biden prepares to answer questions during a media conference, after an extraordinary NATO summit and Group of Seven meeting, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, March 24, 2022.
President Joe Biden prepares to answer questions during a media conference, after an extraordinary NATO summit and Group of Seven meeting, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, March 24, 2022.
Thibault Camus/AP

A line that might have carried moral clarity left a geopolitical mess. The White House and friendly Democrats leapt to explain that the president was not endorsing regime change as a policy matter. Putin allies, meanwhile, reacted with indignation, grateful for the chance to gain even a sliver of high ground.

Polls have shown growing frustration with Biden's handling of Ukraine, even while most Americans favor specific steps the president has taken.

Now the White House is left emphasizing that it doesn't favor Putin being thrown out of power. The rhetorical turn highlights the steps Biden isn't willing to take on behalf of Ukraine, all to avoid potentially further provoking Putin.

"It reminds us that message discipline has its virtues," retired Gen. David Petraeus told Jonathan Karl, ABC's chief Washington correspondent, on "This Week." "It will cause some challenges down the road."

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from certain Supreme Court cases now that his wife's bombshell text messages attempting to overturn the 2020 election have become public.

The call came during an exclusive interview with ABC's "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl in the wake of reports that Virginia "Ginni" Thomas sent text messages to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows ​perpetuating lies about the 2020 election and urging him to try to help overturn the results.

"The facts are clear here. This is unbelievable," Klobuchar, D-Minn., told Karl on Sunday. "You have the wife of a sitting Supreme Court justice ... advocating for overturning a legal election to the sitting president's chief of staff."

PHOTO: In this March 2, 2022, file photo, Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks at an event where President Joe Biden appeared to talk about the $1 trillion infrastructure law, at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, in Superior, Wis.
In this March 2, 2022, file photo, Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks at an event where President Joe Biden appeared to talk about the $1 trillion infrastructure law, at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, in Superior, Wis.
Craig Lassig/EPA via Shutterstock, FILE

Klobuchar said other sitting justices should speak out if Thomas doesn't take himself out of the mix on his own, calling it a "textbook case" for recusal.

"They had better speak out on this, because you cannot have a justice hearing cases related to this election," she said, noting that ethics rules for federal judges generally say they should recuse themselves if a family member is involved in a case before them or if they may appear partial.

In Justice Thomas' case, he was the lone Supreme Court judge who voted in January to block the Jan. 6 committee -- which his wife has opposed -- from obtaining Trump White House records.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is poised to sign GOP-backed legislation that stirred nationwide debate over discussions of LGBTQ issues in classrooms, the governor on Friday enacted another bill aimed at schools' instruction methods.

H.B. 1467 "requires school districts to be transparent in the selection of instructional materials, including library and reading materials," according to the governor's office. The bill allows Floridians -- regardless of whether they are parents with ties to school children -- to file complaints with their county's school board about instructional materials they deem objectionable.

PHOTO: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.
John Raoux/AP, FILE

The residents filing complaints would have to offer evidence to school boards that shows the instructional material does not meet the criteria of the course being taught as outlined by the Department of Education. They could also be asked to demonstrate that the material is somehow "pornographic" or "is inappropriate for the grade level and age group for which the material is used."

The petition to object to instructional materials must be filed within 30 days of a school's adoption of the materials, and then the school board is required to hold a public hearing to determine whether to keep them in the curriculum.

The move by DeSantis is the latest overlap between politics and education on the campaign trail.

The Florida governor even invoked the outcome of the Virginia gubernatorial race earlier this year.

"You had this governor's race in Virginia, where you had the losing candidate say parents should not be involved in what is taught in the school system, and so, there is a debate in this country about what role parents have in the education of their kids," DeSantis said.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

85. That's the percentage of Americans who said they were satisfied with their own lives in a January Gallup poll. Far fewer -- 17% -- said the same about the direction the country is headed in, but as FiveThirtyEight's Monica Potts writes, that disconnect isn't unusual. People in general are resilient, meaning they can find ways to thrive even in the worst of times; the same can't be said, though, of how they feel about the country, and as Potts writes, that complicates how we think about how Americans are actually doing.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Monday morning with takeaways from President Joe Biden's high-stakes trip to Europe with ABC's Terry Moran in Lviv, Ukraine. Then, ABC's Deirdre Bolton breaks down the ways some states are helping to ease pain at the gas pump. And, ABC's Conor Finnegan reports on how the U.S. is trying to reassure allies in the Middle East ahead of a possible Iran nuclear deal. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

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