Is Joe Biden crazy like a fox, or just crazy? That’s the question careening around the world after the president said last week that the United States would respond militarily if China invades Taiwan. The shocking remark in Tokyo came just two months after Biden, on a visit to Poland, insisted Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” because of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. 

Both bombshells sent the White House into DEFCON damage control as aides rushed out “clarifications” to insist there was no change in longstanding policies. They said the United States is still only committed to selling Taiwan military equipment to defend itself and claimed Biden was definitely not talking about “regime change” in Russia.

In both cases, their attempts amounted to denials the president said what he clearly said. That set off a round of accusations that the unelected staff was subverting the commander in chief and added fresh impetus to questions of whether Biden is really running the White House.

Given the many walk-backs, cleanups and clarifications during the brief Biden era, these two incidents would be fairly routine — and almost comical — except for the serious subject matters and the president’s own additional statements. For example, the Tokyo remarks were the third time since he took office that Biden essentially said the same thing about militarily defending Taiwan. Either he means it, or he’s lost it. 

And on Russia, Biden later insisted he meant what he said about Putin, with this caveat: “I’m not walking anything back … I want to make it clear, I wasn’t then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change. I was expressing moral outrage that I feel — I make no apologies for my personal feelings.”

So perhaps our China policy is to speak loudly and carry a small stick. The growing global tensions and doubts about the president’s ability to manage them recall Robert Gates’ infamous assertion that Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national-security issue over the past four decades.” 

Gates made the stinging comment in a 2014 memoir, and last year cited Biden’s botched, chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan as current evidence. That history, coupled with the rampant domestic disasters defining Biden’s term, means we are witnessing him at a later stage of life in a bigger job making bigger, more dangerous mistakes.