How Biden Put Republicans On Defense, And 4 Other Takeaways From The 2024 SOTU


Facing skepticism from voters concerned about his age that has even spooked some loyal Democrats, President Joe Biden delivered a rollicking, aggressive speech.

Facing skepticism from voters concerned about his age that has even spooked some loyal Democrats, President Joe Biden delivered a rollicking, aggressive speech. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In a sharp and combative speech, President Joe Biden used his annual State of the Union address to Congress to effectively kick-start the general election and go on the attack against his presumptive opponent, former President Donald Trump.

Biden threw intense partisan elbows at Republicans throughout his speech, sparring with GOP lawmakers from the podium when they jeered him. But Biden aimed most directly at Trump — who he referred to only as “my predecessor” — criticizing the policies he’d enacted as president and his inflammatory statements on the campaign trail.

Presidents have historically shied away from such political displays during past State of the Union addresses, but this moment is different. No president has faced his predecessor in a re-election match since 1892, before the State of the Union was delivered in person.

“Not since President Lincoln and the Civil War have freedom and democracy been under assault here at home as they are today,” Biden said Thursday. “What makes our moment rare is that freedom and democracy are under attack, both at home and overseas, at the very same time.”

Biden went on to deliver what sounded more like a convention acceptance speech than a State of the Union. There was the usual laundry list of policy proposals and shout-outs to visitors emblematic of an important administration policy or party faction. But what stood out in this speech was how it laid out the stakes for the election — how, to Biden, Trump is as much a foe of the United States of America as any foreign adversary.

Republicans Put On The Defensive

From the jump, Biden put Republicans on the defensive. He launched into a call for Congress to pass legislation providing more military funding for Ukraine — something that splits Republicans — before attacking Trump for deserting the legacy of GOP standard-bearer Ronald Reagan.

“It wasn’t that long ago when a Republican President, Ronald Reagan, thundered, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,’” Biden said. “Now, my predecessor, a former Republican president, tells [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, ‘Do whatever the hell you want.’”

He then pivoted to calling out Republicans’ conduct after the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. The majority of the House Republican caucus voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Arizona and Pennsylvania, and many, including some in House GOP leadership, now refer to insurrectionists sentenced to prison as “hostages.”

“This is a moment to speak the truth and bury the lies,” Biden said. “And here’s the simplest truth: You can’t love your country only when you win.”

And Biden continued. He called for Congress to pass protections for in vitro fertilization, after the conservative Alabama Supreme Court declared embryos to be legally equivalent to children last month — a ruling that was made possible by the Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade in 2022. He touted his policies to cut prescription drug prices, which Trump had failed to do as president, and called for slashing prices on hundreds more drugs. He referenced the roads, bridges and other infrastructure now being built thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law passed earlier in his term. And he ribbed Republicans — who largely voted against that bill — for cheering for the spending in their districts.

“If any of you don’t want that money in your district, just let me know,” he said, looking at the GOP side of the room.

Biden even took time to trash talk the conservatives on the Supreme Court for their decision overturning the right to an abortion.

“In its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court majority wrote — and with all due, respect justices — ‘women are not without electoral or political power,’” Biden said while staring down the justices in attendance, as Democrats cheered. “You’re about to realize how right you’ve been about that.”

Former President Donald Trump, 77, speaks at a Super Tuesday election night party on March 5. His mockery of Biden's age likely helped Biden, 81, exceed expectations.

Former President Donald Trump, 77, speaks at a Super Tuesday election night party on March 5. His mockery of Biden’s age likely helped Biden, 81, exceed expectations. Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Trump Set A Low Bar For Biden’s Speech — And He Cleared It With Ease

Leading up to the State of the Union, a Trump-affiliated super PAC released a new ad suggesting that Biden, who is 81, would die in office if re-elected. This, along with the Republican Party’s continued efforts to cast Biden as suffering from dementia, set the bar pretty low for Biden’s performance during Thursday’s speech. All he had to do was not die (or disintegrate into dust, as The Onion joked).

Biden clearly exceeded those expectations.

The president has faced increasing attacks from Republicans and concerns from Democrats over his age as the 2024 campaign ramps up. A report from special prosecutor Robert Hur exonerating Biden for holding onto classified documents cast a spotlight on the age issue in January by describing the president as an “elderly man with a poor memory.”

Unable to attack Biden as a demented senior citizen following a lively speech, Republicans went after him for being too energetic.

“Everyone is going to remember how weirdly amped up he is and how bizarrely fast he’s speaking,” Fox News contributor and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer posted on social media.

“This is the loudest State of the Union speech I can remember,” GOP pollster Frank Luntz posted. “Let’s see whether undecided voters like being yelled at.”

After the speech concluded, Biden remained in the chamber, glad-handing Democratic lawmakers long after the lights had been dimmed.

U.S. Central Command and the Royal Jordanian Air Force conducted a humanitarian assistance airdrop to Northern Gaza on March 5. The U.S. military will now build a temporary port to get Gazans more aid.

U.S. Central Command and the Royal Jordanian Air Force conducted a humanitarian assistance airdrop to Northern Gaza on March 5. The U.S. military will now build a temporary port to get Gazans more aid. U.S Central Command/Anadolu/Getty Images

Biden’s Pitch To Young Voters

Although the youth vote tends to skew Democratic, polls show soft support for the president among voters under 35 — and in some cases, even have him trailing Trump with this key demographic.

Biden spoke directly to those voters when he touted policies that will impact younger generations, including the executive actions he has taken to forgive some student loans, despite court ruling preventing him from enacting more sweeping debt relief.

“I fixed two student loan programs that already existed to reduce the burden of student debt for nearly 4 million Americans,” he said.

More importantly, Biden outlined plans to address other top concerns of younger voters. He announced that he was laying the groundwork to loosen federal restrictions on marijuana — a change, he said, would result in the expungement of “thousands of convictions for the mere possession [of marijuana], because no one should be jailed for simply using or have it on their record.”

Young people are also struggling to afford rent, let alone save enough to buy a home. On that front, Biden promoted accomplishments that he said will have the effect of reducing home costs, and called on Republicans to pass his bill to build more homes.

“We’ve cut red tape so builders can get federal financing, which is already helping build a record 1.7 million new housing units nationwide,” he said. “Now pass my plan to build and renovate 2 million affordable homes and bring those rents down!”

To the leadership of Israel, I say this: Humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration, or a bargaining chip. Protecting and saving innocent lives has to be a priority.President Joe Biden

No issue has proved more vexing for Biden among young voters — and especially young progressives — than U.S.-Israel policy since Israel’s invasion of Gaza. The Biden administration has largely supported Israel’s military campaign, which has so far killed some 30,000 Palestinians, with few limitations.

In his remarks, Biden reiterated his view that Israel has a right to defend itself against the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which attacked Israel and killed 1,200 people on Oct. 7, and Israel’s efforts to hunt down Hamas fighters have been made more difficult by Hamas’ operation in civilian areas.

Still, he insisted that Israel has a “fundamental responsibility … to protect innocent civilians in Gaza.”

Without saying so explicitly, he implied that Israel has not taken that job seriously, describing in vivid detail the “heartbreaking” humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza. Biden then laid out his plan for the United States military to establish a makeshift port off the coast of Gaza to deliver emergency aid to the region’s besieged residents.

“To the leadership of Israel, I say this: Humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip. Protecting and saving innocent lives has to be a priority,” he said. “As we look to the future, the only real solution to the situation is a two-state solution over time.”

Progressive skeptics will note Biden has said similar things before, and Israel has promptly ignored him. They want Biden to use American leverage over Israel, such as by restricting military aid or weapons sales.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) shouts about Laken Riley during Biden's State of the Union on Thursday. He responded to her in off-the-cuff remarks.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) shouts about Laken Riley during Biden’s State of the Union on Thursday. He responded to her in off-the-cuff remarks. Shawn Thew/Getty Images

Biden Ad-Libbed A Response To Marjorie Taylor Greene – And Things Got Weird

In the middle of Biden’s riff taunting Republicans for rejecting a bipartisan immigration deal that would’ve beefed up border enforcement, a major GOP priority, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) yelled at the podium. She called out the name of Laken Riley, a University of Georgia student found dead last month. Jose Antonio Ibarra, a migrant from Venezuela who crossed the border illegally in 2022, has been arrested on suspicion of her murder.

Riley’s death has become a rallying cry for Republicans furious about the influx of unauthorized migrants, and an example of conservative fears regarding violence involving migrants. House Republicans passed the Laken Riley Act on Thursday, with the support of some Democrats, that would require the Department of Homeland Security to take into custody any unlawful migrant charged with theft or burglary. And earlier on Thursday evening, Greene handed Biden a pin with Riley’s name on it as he entered the House chamber to deliver his speech.

Biden responded to Greene’s interjection by holding up the pin and acknowledging the tragedy of Riley’s murder with a choice of words that raised some eyebrows on the left, not least because he called her “Lincoln Riley.” The substance of his message, however, was to downplay the link between undocumented immigrants and violent crime.

“Lincoln Riley, an innocent young woman who was killed — by an illegal, that’s right,” he said while holding up the pin. “But how many thousands of people, being killed by illegals? To her parents, I say: My heart goes out to you, having lost children myself. I understand.”

Biden then proceeded to make his case for a bill that would pair tougher enforcement with an expedited asylum screening process, which he said would reduce demand for illegal smuggling.

“People pay these smugglers 8,000 bucks to get across the border, because they know if they get by, if they get by and let into the country, it’s six to eight years before they have a hearing, and it’s worth taking the chance with the $8,000,” he said. “But if it’s only six months — six weeks, the idea is, it’s highly unlikely that people pay that money and go all that way, knowing that they’ll be able to be kicked out quickly.”

Biden is sworn in for his first term in the Senate in 1972. Elected at age 29, and sworn in at age 30, he was the youngest member of the Senate when he took office.

Biden is sworn in for his first term in the Senate in 1972. Elected at age 29, and sworn in at age 30, he was the youngest member of the Senate when he took office. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Biden Made Age An Asset With Mix Of Sincerity And Jokes

Rather than ignore doubts about his age and fitness, Biden addressed the issue head on.

“When you get to be my age, certain things become clearer than ever. I know the American story,” he said towards the end of the speech. “Again and again, I’ve seen the contest between competing forces in the battle for the soul of our nation, between those who want to pull America back to the past and those who want to move America to the future.”

Biden — born during World War II, and a young adult when Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated — said those events shaped his vision of a country whose values are “honesty, decency, dignity, equality, to respect everyone, to give everyone a fair shot [and] to give hate no safe harbor.”

Then he took a shot at Trump, noting that the 77-year-old former president is close to Biden in age but radically different in worldview.

“Other people my age see it differently: The American story of resentment, revenge and retribution,” Biden said. “That’s not me.”

Biden also recounted his long journey to the presidency, which included his election to the Senate at age 29.

“In my career, I’ve been told I was too young,” Biden said. “By the way, they didn’t let me on the Senate elevators for votes sometimes — not a joke.

“I’ve been told I’m too old,” he continued. “Whether young or old, I’ve always known what endures. I’ve known our North Star: The very idea of America is that we’re all created equal, and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives. We’ve never fully lived up to that idea. But we’ve never walked away from it, either. And I won’t walk away from it now.”

Related…





Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top