Biden Delivers Forceful, Fiery And Optimistic State of the Union Address

Biden Delivers Forceful, Fiery And Optimistic State of the Union Address

President Joe Biden delivered a forceful, upbeat, and resolute State of the Union address on Thursday evening, not hesitating to remind voters of his administration’s remarkable achievements – or the perils that America and the world will face if Donald Trump returns to the White House.

Biden opened with his trademark warning about the danger confronting democracy both here and abroad, upbraiding the Republicans for their failure to support Ukraine in its existential battle with Russia and for their craven abandonment of American commitments to the Western alliance and world order. In the first of several references to Trump, whose name he did not utter, the president scornfully noted how his opponent kissed the ring of Kremlin dictator Vladimir Putin.

“My predecessor, a former Republican President, tells Putin, ‘Do whatever the hell you want.’ A former American President actually said that, bowing down to a Russian leader. It’s outrageous. It’s dangerous. It’s unacceptable.”

Biden then turned the focus onto Republican assaults against democracy at home, reminding them of their own perfidious whitewashing of the insurrection that Trump inspired.

“My predecessor and some of you here seek to bury the truth of January 6. I will not do that…. Remember your oath of office to defend against all threats foreign and domestic.”

In a line that roused the evening’s strongest applause --lambasting the coup plot and efforts to overturn his 2020 victory that culminated in the attack on the Capitol -- he admonished the election deniers in the chamber: “You can’t love your country only when you win.”

The president dismissed the handful of hecklers from the Republican side with skill and cutting humor. When he recalled Trump’s disastrous mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that his “predecessor” had failed “the duty to care, Rep. Derrick van Orden (R-WI) shrieked “Lies!” Biden waved him off with a smile. “Look at the facts,” he told van Orden. “I know you know how to read.”

When he raised the border legislation that House Republican leadership killed on orders from Trump, after their Senate counterparts spent months negotiating it, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) began yelling too. She had handed him a pin on his way into the House chamber bearing the name of Laken Riley, a young woman murdered by an undocumented migrant from Venezuela. Greene, who also sported a red MAGA hat in violation of House rules, began shouting “Say her name!”

“Laken Riley,” Biden replied, “an innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal,” using an offensive term that made for a discordant moment. But the heckling died as the president said he empathized with Riley’s parents as a father who had lost two children – and then went on. “I would respectfully suggest ... my Republican friends owe it to the American people: Get this bill done,” he said. “We need to act now…If my predecessor is watching, instead of playing politics and pressuring members of Congress to block the bill, join me in telling the Congress to pass it,” he added.

As he spoke, Sen. James Lankford, the conservative Oklahoma Republican who shaped the border legislation, could be seen nodding and saying, “It’s true.”

Sparring aside, Biden’s speech centered on a boldly optimistic message about what he has achieved so far and what he intends to pursue in a second term. He cited the bipartisan infrastructure bill – noting with a smile that some Republicans had claimed credit for local projects despite voting no – and his manufacturing and climate legislation, all of which have created jobs, keeping unemployment low and growth strong. He raked Trump for boasting about the overthrow of Roe v. Wade and vowed to enshrine abortion rights in legislation if he returns to office with Democratic Congressional majorities.

He promised a fairer tax system that required billionaires to pay their fair share while providing new tax breaks for first-time homeowners. He highlighted proposals for universal pre-school, reducing prescription drug costs, and prohibiting “junk fees” on credit-card bills. These plans, along with a broad panoply of proposals, won approval from focus groups observing the speech.

Biden closed by directly engaging voter concerns about his age:

“I know I may not look like it, but I’ve been around a while.

And when you get to my age certain things become clearer than ever before.

I know the American story.

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 into the future.

My lifetime has taught me to embrace freedom and democracy.

A future based on the core values that have defined America.

Honesty. Decency. Dignity. Equality.

To respect everyone. To give everyone a fair shot. To give hate no safe harbor.

Now some other people my age see a different story.

An American story of resentment, revenge, and retribution.

That’s not me.

I was born amid World War II when America stood for freedom in the world.

I grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania and Claymont, Delaware among working people who built this country.

I watched in horror as two of my heroes, Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, were assassinated and their legacies inspired me to pursue a career in service.

A public defender, county councilman, elected United States Senator at 29, then Vice President, to our first Black President, now President, with our first woman Vice President.

In my career I’ve been told I’m too young and I’m too old.

Whether young or old, I’ve always known what endures.

Our North Star.

The very idea of America, that we are 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.”

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