Caught Between Kerry and Biden, Psaki Struggles to Explain POTUS' Ignorance

Posted: Oct 06, 2021 6:00 PM
Caught Between Kerry and Biden, Psaki Struggles to Explain POTUS' Ignorance

Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

During Wednesday's White House press briefing, Jen Psaki attempted to do damage control after the story regarding John Kerry's statement that President Biden was caught off-guard and unaware of France's dramatic reaction to his administration's nuclear submarine deal with Australia.

Asked by Peter Doocy about the situation and "what else are you guys not telling the president?" Psaki fumbled.

"Of course he was aware of the French being upset," Psaki insisted. "I know John Kerry quite well. He of course was aware, the president, of the French being displeased about the deal with the Australians. John Kerry also speaks regularly to the French as part of his role as the climate envoy," she added. 

"He's someone who also served as Secretary of State, he's someone I alone traveled to France with him 25 times," said Psaki, losing the point of the question and launching into a review of John Kerry's resume, the man for whom she worked both during his unsuccessful 2004 presidential campaign and subsequently his stint as Secretary of State.

Doocy pointed out that Psaki had previously said "this president's first love is foreign policy," asking again "why doesn't he know about these things in real-time?"

"Of course he knew about the French being displeased," Psaki said, repeating herself, as Doocy again pointed out that Kerry's use of the phrase "literally had not been aware" didn't leave much room for creative interpretation.

"I would encourage you to ask John Kerry specifically about the context of his comments. The president and the former secretary are also good friends, he relies on his counsel as he does on many members of his national security team, but that certainly is not what he was intended to convey," said Psaki, putting words in — or perhaps removing words from — her former boss' mouth.

As a refresher, and as Leah covered here, Kerry said the President of the United States "literally had not been aware of what had transpired."

Kerry didn't leave Psaki much space to wriggle out of the awkward depiction of President Biden as being unaware of his policies' impact on America's allies or knowledge about what's going on as a result of them. If Biden literally didn't know about France's characterization of the situation as a crisis and decision to recall its ambassador from Washington, then Biden didn't know. Literally. As Doocy did, Kerry's statement raises questions about what else on which his inner circle fails to brief him.

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