DemDaily: Joe Biden’s State of the Union

February 8, 2023

An invigorated, passionate, and sometimes combative Joe Biden exceeded expectations last night in the second State of the Union (SOTU) address of his presidency,

"As we gather here tonight, we are writing the next chapter in the great American story, a story of progress and resilience. When world leaders ask me to define America, I define our country in one word: Possibilities." - President Joe Biden

Biden opened the 73-minute, masterfully-crafted speech with a salvo to bipartisanship, congratulating the new Congress and GOP Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, along with a nod to "the longest serving Senate Leader in history, Mitch McConnell."

He spoke to the possibilities when Democrats and Republicans come together, noting that he signed over 300 bipartisan pieces of legislation in the last Congress -- "from reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, to the Electoral Count Reform Act, to the Respect for Marriage Act."

In an apparent reference to the outcome of the 2022 elections, Biden said, "The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere." In what became a thematic message, he said of the work ahead, "We’ve been sent here to finish the job."

Throughout the evening, a fired-up Biden projected an ease and confidence that one might expect to see on the campaign trail.

From 12 million new jobs and a 50-year low in unemployment to the continued decrease in inflation over the last six months; from the 10 million Americans who applied to start new businesses to passage of the bipartisan Chips and Science Act, Biden lauded major administration accomplishments over the last two years.

He touted the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, "the largest investment in infrastructure since President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System," and thousands more jobs coming from the $300 billion commitment by companies to invest in American manufacturing.

He took a playful shot at "my Republican friends who voted against [the law] but still ask to fund projects in their districts. Don’t worry. I promised to be the president for all Americans. We’ll fund your projects. And I’ll see you at the ground-breaking."

Saying, "We’re making sure the supply chain for America begins in America," he announced a new initiative to ensure all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects be made in the US.

"I ran for President... To build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, not from the top down. Because when the middle class does well, the poor have a ladder up and the wealthy still do very well. We all do well."

A turning point in the speech came midway when Biden, speaking to the deficit, said, “No president added more to the national debt than my predecessor,” referring to former President Donald Trump. “Nearly 25% of the entire national debt that took over 200 years to accumulate was added by just one administration alone.” The statement prompted Republican boos, to which a feisty Biden replied: “Those are the facts. Check it out.”

Undeterred, Biden accused "some Republicans" of trying to sunset Medicare and Social Security, drawing an immediate wave of angry jeers. In an unscripted response, a grinning Biden responded, “Anybody who doubts it, contact my office, I’ll give you a copy of the proposal,” alluding to Senator Rick Scott's proposal to dismantle the country's social safety net for seniors.

Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy attempted to quietly quell his heckling conference as Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), previously censured for statements endorsing political violence, loudly proclaimed the President a “liar!”

Biden then turned the tables on the baited audience, praising the "unanimity" displayed by members on the politically sensitive issue, saying, "as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare are off the books now, right? They’re not to be touched."

The unprecedented sparring during SOTU was more reminiscent of the boisterous British House of Commons than the US Congress -- destined to be among the most memorable addresses in history. Not just for the public display of an unruly and disrespectful GOP, but for the performance of our sitting President.

According to a CNN/SSRS flash poll, more than 7 in 10 viewers gave President Biden’s State of the Union speech at least a somewhat positive rating. 72% of watchers had a positive view, with 34% saying it was very positive. 28% of watchers viewed the speech negatively, with 10% very negative (MOE: +/-5.7)

In a spirited but measured manner, Biden spoke to the success of the Inflation Reduction Act, which has brought down healthcare costs, the record 16 million people enrolled under the Affordable Care Act, and to a country no longer under the grip of COVID, promising an end to the public emergency "soon."

In introducing a guest who had lost his daughter to fentanyl, Biden advocated for a major effort to stop the production, sale and trafficking of the drug, which is killing more than 70,000 Americans a year. Freshman GOP Congressman Andy Ogles (TN) chastised Biden, shouting “it’s your fault.”

The unflappable Biden said he was “glad to see” the reaction from the jeering Republicans, adding, “I enjoy conversion.”

He hailed his administration's environmental record and its historic conservation efforts as "responsible stewards of our lands. Let’s face reality," said Biden, "The climate crisis doesn’t care if your state is red or blue. It is an existential threat...I’m proud of how America is at last stepping up to the challenge."

He passionately called for passage of the Pro Act to ensure the right to form a union, federal legislation to codify reproductive rights, and to "finish the job" on gun safety and ban assault weapons. He powerfully challenged China and reiterated support for Ukraine.

The most somber moment came when Biden introduced the parents of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old black man who was brutally beaten to death one month ago by Memphis police. Biden renewed his call for police reform, saying officers who "violate the public trust" should be held accountable and law enforcement officials should be given the necessary training and be held to higher standards.

Once again, the President was met with insults shouted by GOP members, but that time declined to engage.

"My fellow Americans, we meet tonight at an inflection point. One of those moments that only a few generations ever face, where the decisions we make now will decide the course of this nation and of the world for decades to come. We are not bystanders to history. We are not powerless before the forces that confront us. It is within our power, of We the People. We are facing the test of our time and the time for choosing is at hand." - President Joe Biden

It was a good night for President Joe Biden, Candidate Joe Biden, his party and the people.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: White House, CNN, Washington Post, Politico, The Hill, Reuters, NPR

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