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President Biden’s Excellent State of the Union Speech

I think that all of us feel better after President Biden’s State of the Union Address. Given that it was built up as a major test for Biden, which is really rather unfair, it was very nice to see and hear him handle it so well. Some of the early reviews, for whatever they are worth, were very positive, even coming from usually very skeptical media types. I haven’t seen the inevitable “polls” rating Biden’s performance, but they have to be good.

The best part was that Biden was able to emphasize a strong and coherent narrative. which went as follows; He has done many important things to help the ordinary Americans, the middle class and poor. He is just getting started. Some of the things done will start kicking in this year, you haven’t seen them in effect yet. Many of these things were done in a somewhat bipartisan manner, although many people said that was impossible.

He is going to protect the average American against predatory corporations which keep trying to find ways; e.g. “junk fees,” to take their hard-earned money; and which need to at least pay some share of taxes, which they have not been doing. He is going to do everything he can to deal with civil rights; most police officers are decent people, but we have to improve policing. We need to pass an assault weapons ban, and deal with climate change, transitioning from oil to other power sources. And he will protect Social Security and Medicare from the Republicans who might want to take them away or limit them.

I just went through that list because it forms a narrative, which is what many people will come away with. from hearing the speech. The part that is getting the most praise is the clever device of getting the Republicans in the chamber to loudly protest that they were not going to take away Social Security and Medicare. To which Biden said, “Great, you’re not going to touch them!”

Now of course Republicans are not going to somehow agree to that interpretation. But the effect is still there. Biden will not let them use that as some kind of bargaining chip in the crucial matter of raising the debt ceiling. They will have some trouble doing that now. Biden did emphasize the imperative of raising the debt ceiling, and very importantly pointed out that it was his Administration which has cut the deficit by $1.7 trillion, while Trump inflated it by over $8 trillion. That is what the media rarely says, and he had to explain.

The wonderful Jen Psaki said after the speech that the part about Social Security and Medicare was written in, which shows excellent strategy. Not only did it emphasize a crucial matter, but it turned the Republicans’ belligerence around on them.

And the pictures of Marjorie Taylor Greene loudly yelling, “Liar!” at President Biden, was terrible optics, as the pundits like to say. And Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Response to the speech, which I did not watch, was apparently typical Republican scare tactics about “woke liberal mobs” destroying the country. That is certainly not what most of the audience got from Biden’s speech.

We know that some of this will dissipate as new “stories,” actual or Republican-invented, come up for the media to chase. And of course no matter what Biden and his Administration try to do, the Republicans in the House will try to block it, and blame Biden for it; and some people will go back to saying that Biden and the Democrats are not accomplishing anything. But to the extent that a State of the Union speech can “inoculate” against such things, this one did. And it was very important in that sense, and also to show, for those who refuse to believe it, that President Biden, certainly not the best orator, is very much in command of facts, and the ability to try to continue to to move America forward. That is a good thing, and we will hope to build on that, however difficult the Republicans try to make it.


7 Responses

  1. Yesterday, the Democratic candidates won all three Special Elections for State House seats in Pennsylvania. That gives Democrats control of the PA House for the first time in twelve years, going back to 2011. This will stop Republicans from trying to pass limitations on abortion rights, and also protect against an effort to not certify the 2024 election if the Democrats win the state. This is very good news, but it does show the extent to which Republicans took over statehouses in 2010 and 2014, which obviously has had many pernicious effects.

  2. Getting Republicans to publicly agree with him on Social Security / Medicare was a masterclass, bravo Biden, few could handle them like he did. Also take heed of his impressive guest list of Tyre Nichols parents, Brandon Tsay & Bono?! Brilliant

    • Yes, it was somewhat like a very good poker player knowing that his opponent is going to overbet his hand. Republicans are belligerent, and love to shout over people at hearings and on television. So they couldn’t resist jumping up to yell “No!” when Biden said that “some Republicans want to ‘sunset’ Social Security and Medicare.” So Biden called the overbet, so to speak, and won the pot. And not only that, but he can point to Rick Scott’s plan to actually sunset them, he can pull that out to show the voters any time he likes.

  3. The issue of junk bank fees hit close to my heart because I closed all my accounts in 2010 because of junk fees suddenly fabricated out of thin air to pay for negative interest and financial crisis mistakes.

    • Yes, these have gotten worse and worse. Every possible thing that these financial institutions and utility companies can add to the bills, they do, and no legislature seems to stop it. It really is appalling, untrammeled greed. It would seem to be a popular issue for Biden and Democrats to run on. If Republicans hold power, there will be many more of these fees.

      • Legislation will stop these fees, when the donors to those who vote on it tell them to stop it. In otherwords, don’t hold your breath, because the financial and utility industries have bought the votes.

  4. Honestly I thought the opening was pretty weak, but his “rope-a-doping of the Republicans on Medicare and Social Security” (as Peggy Noonan put it in the WSJ) was nothing short of brilliant.

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