Yeah, I know President Biden gave the State of the Union address on Tuesday night (while I had a rehearsal, it turns out). But I didn't get to hear it until yesterday afternoon, and I didn't get to read it until today. I'm sorry; it was a great Biden speech.
Some reactions. First, from one of President Carter's speechwriters, James Fallows:
Joe Biden’s State of the Union address last night was effective—for him, for his policies, for his party, and I think for the country.
Biden’s whole presentation last night seemed rushed, as if hurrying through the speech. It led to several mis-reads from the prompter, and some hard-to-understand slurred-together words.
I think that in context this was fine rather than a problem. Anyone open-minded knows that Biden has had a life-long stutter. Maybe this was one of his ways of coping. Everyone knows these addresses are long, and would not want him to draw it out. I think he gained more in “getting to the point” than he lost in “pausing for dramatic emphasis.” I note some of those moments below.
He has the entire speech, annotated. He notes the key moment for those who enjoy watching children finally get scolded by their parents, but he left the exegesis of that moment to others. Charlie Pierce summarizes how the President let the foamy-mouthers heckle themselves into a trap:
President Joe Biden freight-trained his whackadoo Republican opposition in his State of the Union address. He also flipped the very idea of the State of the Union address on its head by turning it into an American equivalent of the prime minister's Question Time in the British Parliament. He wrapped them in a bear hug so warm that they didn't realize they were being smothered. He took on hecklers like a veteran of a Catskills resort. He smiled, he laughed, he bellowed when it was called for. He had the only microphone in the room, and he used it like a hammer.
The real party piece came when he dared to mention that the Republicans want to gut Social Security and Medicare—which in the case of Social Security has been a Republican goal since “The Shadow” was on the radio. He baited them and baited them, and they went for it like starving carp.
Then, right on cue, the Republicans launched into a tantrum. The president has not been in politics since god was a boy to miss an opportunity like that one.
The Post fact-checked the speech (mostly favorably), while columnist Eugene Robinson praised the President's "vigor, humor, and command:"
The president took advantage of the national television audience the speech always draws to make the case that his worldview has been proved correct: Even at a time of extreme polarization, bipartisanship is not only possible but also necessary. He said there is “no reason we can’t work together and find consensus in this Congress.”
The president’s point was that despite all the hyperpartisan, apocalyptic rhetoric, the federal government has been functioning. Progress is messy, halting and incremental, but it does happen — inch by inch, step by step, mile by mile.
There have been times the past two years when Biden looked and acted his age — moments in which he seemed tired, lost his place in a speech or went off on some obscure tangent. But not on Tuesday night. Biden is 80, and it is legitimate to ask whether he is too old to seek another term. With this speech, he gave an answer. He sure sounded like a man who’s running.
You know, if he continues like this, he might stay President until he's 88.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to prepare for a polar vortex.