Fiery Joe Biden Unleashes Forceful Rebuke Of Trump, GOP In State Of The Union Address

WASHINGTON ― President Joe Biden’s fourth and possibly last speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday night was the feistiest and most direct of his presidency, telling Americans he has delivered on many of his promises while warning them of the threat that predecessor and potential successor Donald Trump poses to democracy itself.

From its start, Biden’s speech put Republicans on defense, leaving House Speaker Mike Johnson to sit in silence as the president rallied in favor of a slew of popular causes: the war in Ukraine, in vitro fertilization and defending American democracy against the man who inspired the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

“Jan. 6 lies about the 2020 election and the plots to steal the election posed the gravest threat to our democracy since the Civil War. But they failed. America stood. America stood strong, and democracy prevailed,” Biden said to cheers from Democrats and silence from Republicans gathered in the House chamber in the Capitol.

“My predecessor and some of you here seek to bury the truth about Jan. 6. I will not do that. This is a moment to speak the truth and to bury the lies. Here’s the simplest truth: You can’t love your country only when you win,” he said.

Biden never mentioned Trump’s name, but a half dozen times he lit into his “predecessor” for praising Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and abandoning America’s allies in NATO. For bragging about being able to overturn Roe v. Wade. For mismanaging the COVID pandemic response. For trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. For boasting about doing nothing to crack down on assault rifles. And for telling his allies in Congress to kill a border security bill that would have given Republicans most of what they have been demanding for years.

“This bill would save lives and bring order to the border,” Biden said. “I’m told my predecessor called members of Congress and the Senate to demand that they block the bill. He feels it would be a political win for me and a political loser for him.

President Joe Biden arrives to board Air Force One on Tuesday in Hagerstown, Maryland, before traveling back to Washington.
President Joe Biden arrives to board Air Force One on Tuesday in Hagerstown, Maryland, before traveling back to Washington.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Biden came into the State of the Union speech narrowly trailing Trump in many national polls as well as in surveys of the seven key states that will likely determine the outcome of the November election. One of the biggest concerns voters have expressed is Biden’s age. At 82, he is already the oldest U.S. president in history, and he would be 87 at the end of a second term.

Biden addressed the issue, as he has done regularly of late, by acknowledging it with humor.

“I know I may not look like it, but I’ve been around awhile. And when you get to my age, certain things become clearer than ever before,” he said, explaining that he believed in fundamental American values. “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.”

Biden delivered the speech with intentional energy: There were more than 80 exclamation points in the prepared text sent out by the White House.

He then once more contrasted his vision with that of Trump, who has openly said he would use the regained power of the presidency to seek retribution. Again, Biden didn’t mention his name.

“Now other people my age see a different story. An American story of resentment, revenge and retribution. That’s not me,” Biden said.

It’s unclear how Biden’s 67-minute performance Thursday night will affect voters’ view about his fitness for the job. Though the speech brought his biggest television audience so far this year, likely until his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention this summer, just how many undecided voters ― who tend to be the least politically engaged ― watched live or will see clips in the coming days is unknown.

One factor in Biden’s favor, though, may be the incessant ridicule Republicans heap upon him for his gaffes, his gait and his physical appearance. Trump routinely claims that Biden “can’t put two sentences together” ― potentially lowering expectations so much among casual political observers that even an average performance would appear to excel.

Further, Republican primary voters may have helped Biden counter an age argument by nominating someone who is not only nearly the same age but who is facing 91 felony counts across four criminal indictments, two of them for his coup attempt culminating in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by a mob of his followers.

Trump has suffered from verbal miscues himself for years and of late seems to be having more trouble pronouncing words as he reads from a teleprompter ― difficulties that may get more scrutiny now that he is the presumptive Republican nominee.

Biden is planning to ramp up his travel around the country following Thursday’s speech, with visits to Pennsylvania and Georgia on Friday and Saturday and more expected next week.

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