"Joe Biden is Irish, really has a great deal of compassion when he sees that people are suffering," Leon Panetta, former Director of the CIA, said on CNN responding to Biden's gaffe in Poland over the weekend.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power," President Biden said about Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of his address in Warsaw, Poland on Saturday, March 26.
A White House official soon after attempted to clarify Biden's remarks, saying: "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.”
When asked about the comment at the White House on Monday, Biden said: "I’m not walking anything back.
"The fact of the matter is I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward the way Putin is dealing, and the actions of this man — just — just the brutality of it. Half the children in Ukraine. I had just come from being with those families.
"And so — but I want to make it clear: I wasn’t then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change. I was expressing the moral outrage that I feel, and I make no apologies for it."
Leon Panetta, who is also the former US Secretary of Defense, appeared on CNN’s “Newsroom” with host Alisyn Camerota on Monday, the day after Biden returned to the US from his visit to Poland.
Camerota said to Panetta: “About President Biden and what he said on Saturday, these nine words where he said, ‘For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power,’ how big of a problem is that?”
“Well, I think the administration has pretty much cleared up when he said," Panetta acknowledged.
“Look, it's understandable. The president was there for three days looking at the horrors that have been unleashed on Ukrainian people as a result of Putin. So I can understand his emotional feel about Putin not staying in office. I think a lot of people would probably agree with that.
“But at this point in the game, you have really got to keep your messages very simple and very direct. And I think this created some confusion that wasn't helpful.”
Camerota further asked: “This has created, I think, more than confusion in terms of the tension that it has for people trying to negotiate with Putin. And so why do you think President Biden made that mistake?”
Panetta responded: “I happen to think that Joe Biden, you know, is Irish, really has a great deal of compassion when he sees that people are suffering.
“I think it overwhelmed him, in the sense of seeing all of the horrors that were resulting from this war. So, from a personal point of view, I understand why he said it.
"But, at the same time, when you're president of the United States, you just have to be disciplined to make sure you don't make comments that ultimately have to be clarified by the White House.”
You can watch the CNN "Newsroom" segment from March 28 with Leon Panetta here: