This Is Joe Biden's Finest Moment | Opinion

President Biden is coming in for a lot of criticism for an ad-libbed line at the end of a speech he made in Poland. "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power," Biden said at the end of a lengthy speech about the stakes of the war in Ukraine. But despite the criticism—and the White House quickly walking back the remark and insisting it was off-script—President Biden is correct: An autocratic leader cannot be tolerated in a country with nuclear warheads.

It's not the only thing Biden has been right about over the past four weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, despite plummeting polls and criticism from both sides of the political aisle. In fact, this is Joe Biden's finest hour; the current crisis has brought out the best in Joe Biden and his team. This is the man we hoped would replace the disarray of the Trump era with.

President Joe Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden addresses media representatives during a press conference at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on March 24, 2022. Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images

That's not to say that he didn't have us wondering. Many of us were deeply dismayed by how the withdrawal from Afghanistan went down, and the lack of preparation from the White House. But now, in the midst of the most dangerous time we have faced in the world since the Cuban missile crisis, Joe Biden has, to steal the title of Lou Cannon's book about Reagan, the Role of a Lifetime. And he's playing as few others could have done.

Biden was elected to the United States Senate in 1972 at the age of 30, and he served there until becoming Vice President in 2009. While he would return to his home in Delaware nightly, he was truly a creature of Washington by the time he was elected President, unlike any of his recent predecessors except George H. W. Bush. The President has filled his government with other Washington careerists, people he knows and trusts, who told us they were the pros and unlike the amateur hour we had experienced for the previous four years, they knew what they were doing.

Until recently, that was an extremely debatable proposition. But over the past four weeks, we've seen a level of professionalism and leadership that only comes from decades of experience.

The Biden team acted quickly on the Ukraine crisis in a number of important areas and arenas. Perhaps most importantly, even before the invasion, the Biden administration made a bold decision to share intelligence information of Russia's plan to invade Ukraine with the world, which prepared the West for the united front it displayed in sanctioning Russia en masse. Those sanctions were also the result of careful planning by the Biden administration, which developed a group of sanctions and people to be sanctioned that went to the heart of the power structure in Russia.

Next, they assembled a large group of countries to support the effort and were able to galvanize not only NATO countries but the entire EU. When the EU actually acts decisively, the effect is like a solar eclipse. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it is a sight to behold. Biden was able to convince Germany to stop the second gas pipeline from Russia.

When Biden called out Russian President Vladimir Putin on his plans to invade Ukraine, many doubted him, and worried it would needlessly enrage Putin and escalate the situation. But it turned out that Biden was correct; Biden, who has been dealing with international issues for over 40 years, had the correct instinct to publicly accuse Putin of preparing to do what Putin proceeded to do. Biden rejected appeasement knowing where that leads.

Just as President Biden rejected the military advice to remain in Afghanistan because he knew it was past time to leave and he had seen his predecessors lacked the willingness to ignore the Pentagon on that subject, he knew that Putin needed to be confronted. And he know that if the U.S. did not lead the way, this was not going to happen.

Biden's actions reminded me most of all of the elder Bush in 1990 in Iraq and Kuwait. Both Bush and Biden had served as Vice President and had long careers in government, and both had trusted advisors but trusted their own instincts even when they were not always right.

Like Bush, the President ignored the doubters and his political opposition's posturing. Like Bush, Biden and his team created a worldwide coalition to respond to an invasion.

Unlike Bush, however, President Biden is facing a country with 6,000 nuclear warheads and leading a country that just extricated itself from a 20 year military engagement.

And President Biden isn't just fielding criticism from naysayers; he's also resisting the urge to escalate the conflict at every turn. Despite pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Biden has refused to order a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which could result in nuclear war, and his administration nixed a Polish plan to send warplanes to Ukraine. The President is holding the line—the line of democracy against autocracy—without giving Putin an excuse to use his nuclear warheads.

Almost singlehandedly and against criticism from every corner, Biden is preserving NATO, regaining America's position as the leader of the West and showing the steely determination needed in this type of crisis.

In branding Putin a war criminal, like in his ad-libbed line in Poland, the President is indeed inviting regime change in Russia. And yet, to date, the United States intelligence has been spot on. As we navigate the next couple of incredibly dangerous weeks, it is comforting that we have a leader who knows where is going and how to get there.

In a career of fine moments, this may be President Biden's finest.

Ambassador Allan Katz was President Obama's ambassador to Portugal. He is the founder of American Public Square.

The views in this article are the writer's own.