President Biden revived his frequently-ridiculed stage whisper Friday while addressing the US Naval Academy’s class of 2022, stooping over his microphone to remind them that “I’m your commander-in-chief.”
Biden addressed the graduates for approximately 25 minutes during the outdoor ceremony at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, during which time he slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin over his three-month-old invasion of Ukraine.
“The actions taken by Putin were an attempt to — to use my phrase — to Finlandize [sic] all of Europe, make it all neutral,” Biden said. “Instead, he NATO-ized all of Europe.”
The phrase “Finlandize,” which the president mispronounced as “Fingalize,” refers to Finland’s Cold War-era practice of treading lightly in international politics so as not to upset its near neighbors in Moscow.
The president was speaking about Finland and Sweden applying to join NATO in response to the Russian invasion, which began Feb. 24 and has been met with stiff resistance from Ukraine’s military.
Biden spoke under overcast skies as the ceremony proceeded in defiance of a National Weather Service tornado watch.
The president was joined on stage by senior military leaders, many of whom wore masks outdoors despite federal COVID-19 guidance no longer recommending the precaution even for most indoor settings.
Biden himself was spotting with a black mask on as he walked to the stage, but removed it when he arrived at his seat — while most of those sitting around him kept their face coverings on.