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The State Of The Union: Biden V. Trump

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Over the last forty years, the State of the Union has diminished in importance. This isn’t the fault of any one president as much as the advent of television, which turned it from a moment for serious statecraft into entertainment.

Joe Biden did nothing Thursday to change that. Since Woodrow Wilson revived the tradition of delivering the message in person to the members of the House and Senate, the presidents of the 20th and 21st centuries have used it to set the agenda for the year.

Biden used it to set the agenda for the campaign. He began his speech with a not-so-subtle allusion to the forces of the political opposition being the equivalent of the slave-owning, secessionist South, Imperial Japan, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany.

He may have couched his remarks on the need to combat Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. Still, the meaning should be clear: the values held by the people who support Donald Trump are un-American. Some people, no doubt, will find that offensive.

His predecessor, Donald Trump, has put the nation and the world at risk, Biden seemed to say, by refusing to stand up to Putin. “I will not bow down,” he said before launching into another denunciation of the actions by protestors on January 6, 2021, when Trump supporters entered the U.S. capitol with the intent of stopping Congress from counting the ballots of the electors to determine who the next president of the United States would be.

Biden has employed this strategy before. By singling out Trump’s MAGA movement as being outside the democratic consensus, as he did before the 2022 midterm elections, he is likely hoping to divide the nation along lines favorable to his re-election.

After a lengthy discussion of the abortion issue that ended with a promise to restore the law to where it was under Roe v. Wade, Biden again attacked Trump for failing to care, which he called the most essential duty of a president.

That’s a line from a campaign speech, not a national address laying out the future of America. The most important duty of a president is, in the words of the constitutionally prescribed oath of office, “to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

It’s a serious charge. Biden, unfortunately, cannot defend his record in this regard. Despite having been told by the United States Supreme Court that he could not do it, he has repeatedly forgiven the debt owed by thousands of Americans who borrowed money that enabled them to attend a college or university but have not paid it back.

That effort, along with that of several Democratic governors around the nation now pursuing forgiveness for those burdened by medical debt, has been described by some analysts as nothing less than an attempt to buy votes.

He will need them. Although no polling data shows Trump is on track to win a majority of the November popular vote, poll after poll in recent months has shown him leading in the swing states that will determine the outcome of the next election.

Recognizing this was a political event, the Trump campaign flooded the inboxes of supporters and the media with what in campaign technology are called “instant responses,” answering back to the charges Biden made as he made them.

There are answers to every charge Biden made, just as there are counterpoints to every success. The president bragged about the record number of new homes currently under construction but failed to mention that the nation is still experiencing a housing shortage. It’s not because there isn’t a market for them but because the environmental and land use regulatory regime that exists at the federal level and in many states makes building new homes and new communities difficult for developers and too expensive for the middle class to afford.

Biden’s speech relied too much on tried but not necessarily true rejoinders like forcing the wealthiest people and big corporations “to finally pay their fair share.” What he and many commentators refuse to acknowledge is that they already do.

According to the latest figures, the passage of the Tax Cuts and Job Acts led to the percentage of total tax revenues paid by these people rising. More than 40% of all income tax revenue comes from the top 1% of income earners. The bottom half pays close to nothing.

In his speech, Biden embraced just about every type of big government there is, down to endorsing legislation that would essentially tell snack food companies how many chips they can put in a bag. At a minimum, that’s excessive as well as laughable.

From inflation – which is the reason the average bag of chips may be lighter than they once were – to immigration, Biden failed to admit it was the policies of his administration that either created these problems or made them worse.

None of that excuses the repeated interrupts some Republicans engaged in while Biden spoke. Their interjections may have forced Biden to mention Laken Riley – a young woman recently murdered by a person in the United States illegally – but he was clearly prepared for that. It was a glancing blow at best, which he answered by saying, “We can fight about the border, or we can fix it.”

On that point, Biden is right. The border can be fixed, though, without Congress having to act. The president could make things right by himself simply by reinstituting the policies of his predecessor, which he had set aside after coming into office.

The predictions that Biden’s age would show turned out to be incorrect. His delivery was strong. He rarely stumbled. He stayed on message, rarely diverging from the prepared text. He also, however, failed to align what he had to say with the facts. He opened the speech by praising Ronald Reagan’s long-ago call for former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to come to Berlin and “tear down this wall” without mentioning how he had condemned him for it back when he said it.

He called for support for his “unity agenda,” yet no president of recent memory was ever as combative as Biden was toward the opposition party as he was during his State of the Union. It was a campaign address aimed at the remnants of the old Roosevelt political coalition that he hopes will re-elect him in November.

Biden closed his speech by affirming his candidacy with the same intensity with which he lauded the country. That encapsulates what is wrong with the Biden presidency. As he sees it, it’s about him, not us.

Peter Roff is a veteran Washington, D.C. commentator, former contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, and former senior political writer at United Press International. He now writes regularly for various publications and appears regularly on international television discussing U.S. politics. You can reach him at RoffColumns AT GMAIL.com and follow him on Twitter @TheRoffDraft.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

 

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