Biden Gives SOTU Address
Every year another political drama plays out as the President delivers the “State of the Union” speech to Congress (SOTU). SOTU is televised by C-SPAN, a nonprofit television network that covers the federal government and public affairs. The live-streamed event SOTU serves as a way for politicians to theatrically perform politics for the American people. The President, who stands at a podium, gets to invite guests who help construct the narrative they are forming. The elected officials in the audience then decide to boo, applaud, or sit in silence in reaction to what the President says.
President Biden was invited once again to give the SOTU to Congress. This time he had President of the Senate Kamala Harris behind him. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy who politically opposes him was also sitting directly behind him. This set the stage for political theatrics in Washington with a split Congress following the 2022 midterm elections; however, many points in the evening seemed to have bipartisan support. There was less tension than expected between Biden, Harris, and McCarthy- with a warm interaction between the Vice President and Speaker before the beginning of the speech.
Biden primarily focused on domestic issues. However, he did talk about inflation, blaming it in part on the war in Ukraine. Biden covered the bipartisan effort to fix American infrastructure, his plan to reduce the deficit by $2 trillion, his intent to work with Republicans on the next budget, his intention for the government to “buy American,” and his goal to cap insulin prices.Biden invited the parents of Tyre Nichols, who recently lost their son as he was killed by police officers. The parents were met with a standing ovation from the crowd. This segued into the President’s call for police reform, emphasizing that police put their lives on the line to protect Americans.
The most divisive part of the evening came when Biden insinuated that Republicans may attempt to curb Social Security and Medicare. This was met with an angry response from the Republicans in the audience who support these programs. Most notably, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) shouted out that Biden is a “liar.” Additionally, the more socially liberal elements of his speech failed to garner applause from the Republicans—specifically, the parts on marriage, abortion, and gun control.
Other highlights of the night included a hostile encounter between Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Rep. George Santos (R-NY) where Romney told Santos that he “[doesn’t] belong here.” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (I-AZ) bright yellow dress caught viewers’ attention. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was the only one to wear an N95 mask, this was another topic of discussion. This speech also has heightened speculation that President Biden may run for re-election.
Following the SOTU, the opposition party to the President typically selects an individual to respond. With Democrats in the White House, Republicans selected Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-AR). Most notably her response to President Biden focused on a “new generation of Republican leadership”, contrasting her as the youngest Governor in the nation and Biden as the oldest President in American history. For the large part, the speeches in response to the SOTU focus less on responding to the speech directly, and more on addressing what the administration is doing, since it would be rather difficult to write such a long speech for immediate response to the SOTU (which itself lasts over an hour usually).
Notably, former President Trump complimented First Lady Jill Biden and said on Truth Social that while he disagreed with President Biden on most policies, “[Biden] put into words what he felt, and he ended up the evening far stronger than he began. Give him credit for that.” Trump’s critique of the SOTU was that it didn’t properly address inflation in the United States, and failed to cover wage decreases, higher gas prices, illegal immigration, drug cartels along the Southern border, and drug trafficking and fentanyl deaths in America. Trump also went on to mention his grievance with the Department of Justice in the recent raid of his home in Maralago, stating that Biden was the “most corrupt President”. This comes in light of Trump’s 2024 Presidential campaign, which could be seriously challenged by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Fmr. Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC). More political drama is to be expected expected going forward as the end of one election cycle begins yet another. The sun never sets on the political theatrics of the United States of America.