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The State of the Union Is Tired

Until Russian forces invaded Ukraine last month, the Eastern European nation was treated like a chew toy for Beltway politicians. Like Russian President Vladimir Putin, American leaders underestimated our poorer cousin.

President Joe Biden’s family treated Ukraine like an ATM.

When Biden was vice president and ostensibly fighting corruption in Ukraine as part of his portfolio, his son Hunter gorged on some $50,000 per month from Ukrainian gas company, Burisma.

It was an odd way to fight to corruption — letting the son of the nation’s vice president cash in even though, as The New York Times reported, Hunter Biden “lacked any experience in Ukraine and just months earlier had been discharged from the Navy Reserve after testing positive for cocaine.”

For his part, former President Donald Trump treated Ukraine like an opposition research tool that was supposed to dig up dirt on the Bidens.

In 2019, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looked to Trump for military aid and an endorsement that might discourage Putin’s aggression. Trump described the exchange, in which he tried to get a sovereign nation’s leader to do his dirty work, as a “perfect” phone call. Rather than providing a campaign talking point, the episode led to Trump’s first impeachment.

At Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, Washington’s ruling elite donned bright Ukrainian blues and yellows to establish solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

We Americans see such courage and determination and want to salute that spirit. I just wish we had some of their grit.

Zelensky has been in the trenches. When Washington offered to evacuate him, he declined. “I need ammunition. Not a ride,” he responded.

It’s hard to imagine Biden responding in similar fashion. The former vice president avoided military service during Vietnam. He enjoyed five draft deferments — one more than Trump’s four.

Since Biden can’t point to his own military prowess, he taps into his late son Beau’s Delaware National Guard duty in Iraq in 2009.

Beau Biden died from glioblastoma in 2015 at age 46 — a sad loss for a family that has endured Kennedyesque tragedy, including the death of Biden’s first wife, Neilia, and daughter Naomi in a car accident in 1972.

It’s impossible to ignore how frequently Biden talks about his family history.

Last year, when the president met with families mourning the loss of 13 service members killed in a bomb blast during the botched Afghanistan withdrawal, Biden’s frequent mention of his son rankled some parents. Biden’s remarks came with a whiff of stolen valor.

“When he just kept talking about his son so much it was just — my interest was lost in that. I was more focused on my own son than what happened with him and his son,” Mark Schmitz, whose 20-year-old son Jared died in Kabul, told The Washington Post.

“I’m not trying to insult the president, but it just didn’t seem that appropriate to spend that much time on his own son.”

During the State of the Union address, Biden attributed Beau’s brain cancer in 2015 to exposure to “burn pits” when he served in Iraq.

In 2019, Factcheck.org found Biden’s remarks about his son’s glioblastoma and the burn pits in general without evidence and exaggerated.

“Although future studies may eventually come out to change scientific opinion, there is no direct evidence that burn pits cause brain cancer, and no indication that Iraq War veterans are especially affected by brain cancer, as Biden claimed,” FactCheck.org wrote.

Watching the State of the Union Tuesday night, with the bloom of blue-and-yellow pins, I had one thought: I wish Volodymyr Zelensky were our president. We could use some real valor. Not a ride.

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Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute's Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership. Contact her at [email protected]

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