‘Honor of the Holocaust,’ ‘American selfishness’: Biden’s Mideast blunders

The U.S. president quickly corrected himself, but the discomfort among his staff was palpable.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

U.S. President Joe Biden misspoke twice during his public appearances in his recent Mideast trip, when referencing the Holocaust while in Israel and American soldiers’ service while in Saudi Arabia, causing his entourage some discomfort although he corrected himself immediately.

Known for his speech gaffes for decades, Biden said Saturday in an address to leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Jeddah, “For the first time since 9/11, an American President is visiting this region without American troops being engaged in combat — in a combat mission in the region.

“We’ll always honor the bravery and selfishness — selflessness of the — and sacrifices of the Americans who served, including my son, Major Beau Biden, who was stationed in Iraq for a year,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was sitting immediately behind and to the right of the president, noticeably blinked and shifted in his seat with the slip of the tongue.

The verbal blunder came just two days after an eyebrow-raising moment upon landing in Israel. Biden said that he would be going to visit the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center “to honor the six million Jewish lives that were stolen in a genocide,” but then referred to the importance of bearing “witness to keep alive the truth and honor of the Holocaust.” He quickly corrected it to “the horror of the Holocaust.”

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While at Yad Vashem, the president took part in a wreath-laying ceremony and talked with two Holocaust survivors who had emigrated from the U.S. to Israel. The elderly president, 79, showed them the greatest respect, even getting down on one knee to speak with the pair, Rena Quint and Giselle Cycowicz.

Biden has never hidden the fact that he had a childhood stutter, and in a February 2020 CNN town hall meeting he said he still deals with the disorder “when I find myself really tired.”

According to an article the month before in The Atlantic, Biden had taken it upon himself as a young teen to overcome the speech impediment by practicing speaking in a certain rhythm in front of a mirror.

Republican opponents have pounced on Biden’s gaffes as a sign of his old age and incompetence as president. While he has declared that he will run again in 2024, even a majority in his own Democratic party are not in favor.

In a poll publicized last week, only 26% said the party should renominate him. A third, 33%, cited his age as a reason. Biden is already the oldest leader the United States has ever had, passing Ronald Reagan who was 78 when he finished his two-term presidency.