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Biden Did Himself No Favors With Angry, Partisan State of the Union

Newsweek – State of the Union addresses have long been dull, pro forma affairs. Loud cheers resound, offering the pretense of unity over division. Policy disagreements are buried under unifying values. The leader soberly rattles off platitudes about achievements and aspirations, often illusory. The union’s “state” is always “strong,” and the nation’s “best days” invariably “lie ahead.”

No longer. President Joe Biden‘s third and very possibly last State of the Union address descended from this act of staid but dignified statesmanship to what Democrats think they need to shore up his increasingly doubtful reelection bid. In his 67-minute address, reportedly the result of months of intense preparation, Biden was bitter and angry, delivering many of his lines in the loud and cranky tone of a frustrated family patriarch who commands no respect, marshals no enthusiasm, and fears his legacy will spill down a drain of derision. It was not “presidential” by any stretch. It was hysterical and vulgar, desperate and cheap.

Long gone was the “unifier” of those few halcyon days in early 2021, when the newly inaugurated Biden peered out from the armed camp that Washington, D.C., had become to promise he would pursue a moderate course to settle divisions and curb the vitriolic partisanship of former president Donald J. Trump’s term.

Now Biden is a hyperpartisan, blaming the Republicans—who control neither the presidency nor the Senate nor the Washington bureaucracy—for all of his many problems, from Ukraine to border control to tax policy. He broke firm and laudable precedent to take a swipe at the Supreme Court, the Justices of which attended the speech but by tradition registered no reaction to it, for overturning Roe v. Wade, even though the result has been a pro-choice surge in state abortion referendums and the election of Democrats in several important races. Biden claimed Republicans would cut entitlements to fund a tax cut for the rich despite the Republican House majority’s failure to act on entitlements at any time during his presidency. He countered with his own plan to introduce yet more punitive taxation on “wealthy” Americans.

We heard surprisingly little about Biden’s supposed “achievements,” which his loyalists—and those who benefit from his increasingly obvious cognitive decline—tout with nauseating regularity despite all evidence to the contrary and in the face of massive popular disappointment. Instead, the president lashed out, once again broad brushing half the country as authoritarian fascist enemies of democracy on par with the Nazis, the Confederacy, and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Biden has largely avoided mentioning Trump throughout his presidency—perhaps a wise move. Trump currently outclasses him in opinion polls on virtually every issue, as well as in general competence, physical and mental ability, and, according to almost all recent surveys, the popular vote in the all-but-certain rematch that awaits us in November.

But as Biden gets cagier and undoubtedly more worried about his dubious reelection prospects, he simply cannot ignore Trump. Although Biden never said his name (unlike Laken—or, as Biden mispronounced it, “Lincoln”—Riley, a nursing student murdered by an illegal immigrant on Biden’s watch) in the speech, he referred to his “predecessor,” “the former Republican president,” 13 times. There can be no doubt that as November approaches, the race will become increasingly brutal, personal, and negative—characteristics that, Democratic strategists may wish to note, heavily favored Trump in 2016.

Comparing himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt, a trope to which his flatterers never tire of resorting, struck another point about Biden. With a coterie of Washington politicos and a congressional Democratic Party either convinced of, or willing to play along with, the illusion of the incumbent’s soundness and importance, there is now less chance than ever that he will be replaced as the Democratic candidate, as some have speculated. Given his grumpy demeanor, that is probably good news for the Trump camp. Either way, Thursday’s State of the Union did nothing to convince the 82 percent of Americans who believe Biden is simply too old for the presidency to change their minds.

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