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President Biden ends his press conference in Geneva. Photo: Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP

After eight days of talking on the world stage, President Biden got prickly — then blunt, then reflective — in the final minutes before Air Force One lifted off for home.

Why it matters: One wish that aides to generations of presidents have in common is that when their boss walks away from the podium, he'll keep walking. And reporters know that the most revealing comments often come when an interview or press conference is "over": The newsmaker drops the talking points and is more likely to be real.

Biden was walking off the stage at his post-summit press conference in Geneva when CNN's Kaitlan Collins shouted a provocative, but totally fair question after his three hours with Vladimir Putin: "Why are you so confident he’ll change his behavior, Mr. President?"

  • Biden stopped and snapped as he waved his finger: "I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior. Where the hell — what do you do all the time? When did I say I was confident?  ... [L]et's get it straight. I said: What will change their behavior is if the rest of [the] world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world. I’m not confident of anything; I'm just stating a fact."
  • After the correspondent persisted about how the meeting could be called constructive when Putin had shown no sign of changing behavior, Biden retorted: "If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong business."
Vladimir Putin gives his post-summit presser. Photo: Sergei Bobylev/Tass via Getty Images

Half an hour later, on the tarmac before boarding Air Force One, Biden came over to the press pool and said: "I owe my last question an apology. ... I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy with the last answer I gave."

  • Asked again about the lack of concrete movement, Biden said: "Look, to be a good reporter, you got to be negative. You got to have a negative view of life — OK? — it seems to me, the way you all — you never ask a positive question."
  • Of course, sharp questions are designed to do exactly what these had done — elicit what the person is really thinking.

Biden then said he had started "working on arms control agreements back all the way during the Cold War. If we could do one [during] the Cold War, why couldn’t we do one now? We’ll see."

  • Then, with an aide telling him he really needed to go, Biden gave a window into how he sees the larger narrative of his presidency after 50 years on the public stage.
  • Biden said the Capitol riot had reinforced "what I got taught by my political science professors and by the senior members of the Senate that I admired when I got there — that every generation has to reestablish the basis of its fight for democracy. I mean, for real, literally have to do it."

Go deeper: Summit takeaways ... Read Putin's press conference ... Biden's presser ... Biden's tarmac remarks.

President Biden spoke on Lake Geneva. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
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Go deeper

Sep 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden pushes massive economic plan despite "stalemate"

President Biden speaking from the White House on Sept. 24. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Friday urged congressional Democrats to overcome differences surrounding his multi-trillion-dollar economic proposal but said he's still confident it will pass.

Why it matters: It's currently unclear how the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package will move forward with moderate and progressive Democrats in disagreement over critical portions of the legislation.

Updated Sep 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden's big bet backfires

Two key dealmakers — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) — leave a luncheon in the Capitol yesterday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/L.A. Times via Getty Images

President Biden bit off too much, too fast in trying to ram through what would be the largest social expansion in American history, top Democrats privately say.

Why it matters: At the time Biden proposed it, he had his mind set on a transformational accomplishment that would put him in the pantheon of FDR and JFK.

40 mins ago - World

Putin is challenging Ukraine's "right to exist," Blinken says

Blinken (L) speaks in Berlin on Thursday. Photo: Kay Nietfeld - Pool/Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken put the stakes of a Russian invasion of Ukraine in stark terms on Thursday, saying Vladimir Putin's threat is a direct challenge to Ukraine's "right to exist" as an independent country and a democracy.

What he's saying: “There’s been a lot of speculation about President Putin’s true intentions, but we don’t actually have to guess. He’s told us, repeatedly. He’s laying the groundwork for an invasion because he doesn’t believe Ukraine is a sovereign nation," Blinken said during a speech in Berlin.