“I am not confident. Where the hell – what do you do all the time? Biden said as he changed course and started walking to where the group of journalists were gathered.
In addition to disputing the premise of her question, Biden apparently questioned Collins’ use of the word “confident.”
“When did I say I was safe?” Said Biden, waving his right index finger to emphasize. “What I said was – let’s get it straight – I said what will change their behavior is if the rest of the world responds to them and it diminishes their position in the world.”
The confrontation served as a strange code for a week-long trip abroad that was to portray the president as bringing an era of stability and order after four years of Donald Trump.
Biden had just met Putin, followed by a meeting between the two men and their respective aides. The press interruption was to highlight the benefits of these meetings.
Such news conferences are typically very stage-controlled matters with countless hours of preparation in advance. However, there were signs that Biden was somewhat uncomfortable with Wednesday’s setup. Early in, he took off his suit and noticed how hot it was outside. He later commented on the sun’s glare on a reporter’s face.
In the past, Biden has branded Putin a “killer” and claimed to have told the Russian president that he did not believe he had a soul. On Wednesday, he declined to offer such live descriptors. He also insisted that his meeting was fruitful, as the two gained a better understanding of each other’s respective positions and red lines. Biden said he “was not sure of anything; I’m just stating a fact. ”
Biden has a long history of non-cuff commentary that catches his aides on guard and can complicate his favorite political messages – a habit that the White House has actively protected against during his presidency.
Collins’ question mark continued to draw the president’s ire when she asked him why he considered his meeting with Putin “productive” after the Russian leader averted questions of his government’s human rights record by pointing to problems in the United States
Biden snuck back and told Collins she was “in the wrong business” if she could not understand the usefulness of the summit.
Shortly before boarding Air Force One to begin the voyage back across the Atlantic, the president said he apologized to Collins. However, he stood by his underlying message and lamented what he perceived as an overall negativity disorder in journalism.
“There is a value to being realistic and putting an optimistic front,” Biden said of being a world leader. “I want to drive you all crazy because I know you want me to always put a negative effort on things, especially in public.”
The biting outbreak came at the end of a day-long trip to Europe that included meetings with G-7 and NATO leaders as well as Putin and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. It was Biden’s first overseas trip since joining in January and came at a particularly sensitive diplomatic time, as Covid-19 vaccines are still in short supply globally and the US remains at odds with several of its allies over how to approach Russia, China and other major ticket issues.
The bite was not the only one that warmed up Wednesday towards the end of the high-pressure swing through Europe. Journalists jockeying outside the president’s meeting with Putin turned into a fracas that led security officials to equate most of the overall media from the summit.