State of the Union addresses represent opportunities for Presidents to set or reset national priorities. In his address last night, President Biden tried to shift attention from dealing with the coronavirus pandemic to investing in the US economy.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine forced a rewrite of Biden’s speech to include a 10-minute beginning that called out Russian aggression, praised Ukrainian courage and promised more retaliation.
The loudest and most sustained applause came when Biden introduced the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States who was in the President’s gallery alongside First Lady Jill Biden.
Biden’s address drew repeated standing ovations, including a fair number of ovations by nearly the entire chamber of Democrats and Republicans. The loudest and most sustained applause came when Biden introduced the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States who was in the President’s gallery alongside First Lady Jill Biden.
As is customary, media pundits looked for what Biden didn’t say as much as what he did say. News outlets today featured entire stories on what was missing in Biden’s remarks. Pundits and partisans also sparred over the topics Biden did cover in his address. Two GOP congresswomen earned rebukes for heckling Biden during his speech, including when he referenced his own son as a casualty of wartime environmental challenges.
There is always a political undertone in a State of the Union address. Biden seemed intent on pivoting more toward the political center, especially with his comment about funding, not defunding police – a response aimed at critics who say Democrats are ignoring rising gun violence in major cities. He also pitched a “unity agenda” to address the opioid crisis, mental health, support of military veterans and defeating cancer.
Biden also seemed intent on describing what’s contained in his Build Back Better initiative without mentioning it by name. Critics have said there are so many programs in the initiative that it is hard for average citizens to embrace, even though individual provisions have been shown by polls as very popular.
Analysis of Biden’s remarks will go on for days, but it helps to have a simple chart showing what he mentioned and what he didn’t mention. You can Google specific topics to get more detail on what he said and the reactions to what he said.