Press Cheers Biden’s Combative State of the Union Address


There was plenty of cheering in the press box after President Joe Biden’s combative State of the Union address. Many pundits rushed to declare that the event had altered the course of Biden’s flagging re-election campaign.

“If the Joe Biden who showed up to deliver the State of the Union address last week is the Joe Biden who shows up for the rest of the campaign, you’re not going to have any more of those weak-kneed pundits suggesting he’s not up to running for re-election,” wrote Ezra Klein in the Sunday New York Times. Klein is at least engaging in a little self-deprecating wink there: The link in that sentence points readers to his own call, less than a month ago, for Biden to step aside.

Other reactions have been less self-aware. “People yapping for so long about Biden not being up to the job look pretty dumb,” CNN analyst Jon Harwood tweeted. “A thought: the whole Biden-is-too-old thing was kind of a bubble, in the sense that people were buying it mainly because other people were buying it. Did Biden just burst that bubble?” wondered New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

Meanwhile, CNN’s insta-polling showed that just 65 percent of viewers had a positive view of the speech. Before you object that 65 percent sounds high to you: It’s the lowest figure CNN has recorded in the past quarter-century, according to The Washington Post.

“The message now is that the public is wrong and must be ignored, for the sake of democracy,” writes Matt Taibbi in Racket News, where he provides a rundown of some of the more “hilariously ostentatious ass-kissing ceremonies” in the wake of Biden’s speech, including from MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell (“just astonishing“) and Mika Brzezinski (“an incredible moment“).

Look, I get it. Biden gave an objectively competent speech and the media love a comeback story. And if you’re someone who believes that Biden’s historically low approval figures have more to do with the “vibes” than with any tangible policy, maybe it’s tempting to go all-in on trying to shift those vibes.

For Times columnist Ross Douthat, the lack of establishment consensus for Biden’s polling struggles explains “why, perhaps, there was a rush to declare his State of the Union address a rip-roaring success, as though all Biden needs to do to right things is to talk loudly through more than an hour of prepared remarks.”

Is it possible that polls in the coming weeks will show a shift in voters’ opinion of Biden’s presidency as a result of the State of the Union address? Sure, but I’m going to be skeptical until I see actual evidence that Biden’s speech mattered to anyone whose job doesn’t require watching it.

Oops! One of the more striking moments during the Republican response to Biden’s speech, delivered by Sen. Katie Britt of Alabama, was a harrowing story about a woman who’d been kidnapped and repeatedly gang-raped by members of a Mexican drug cartel. Britt’s speech attempted to tie the awful incident to the recent chaos along the U.S./Mexico border, but it actually happened nearly 20 years ago—and on the Mexican side of the border.

Confronted with those facts during an appearance on Fox News over the weekend, Britt suggested that the story should be taken seriously, if not literally.

Oscar night. Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer won big Sunday night at the 96th Academy Awards. The biopic about one of the inventors of the atomic bomb claimed seven awards, including best picture, best director, best actor (Cillian Murphy), and best supporting actor (Robert Downey Jr.).

Mstyslav Chernov—the director of 20 Days in Mariupol, which won for best documentary feature—delivered a moving speech in which he said he wished he’d never had a reason to make the film about the Russian military’s destruction of a city in eastern Ukraine. Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 10,000 residents of Mariupol died during the first year following Russia’s invasion.

“I wish to be able to exchange this to Russia never attacking Ukraine, never occupying our cities,” Chernov said. “The people of Mariupol and those who have given their lives will never be forgotten because cinema forms memories and memories form history.”

Other highlights from the big night in Hollywood included another Oscar win for once-homeschooled musical superstar Billie Eilish and her older brother Finneas O’Connell for their song “What Was I Made For,” written for the Barbie movie. I’ll also applaud Murphy’s acceptance speech for noting that the world still lives in Oppenheimer’s shadow and dedicating his award “to the peacemakers everywhere,” and the filmmakers behind Zone Of Interest for their anti-war statements while accepting the best international film award. And finally, it was a historic night for Godzilla Minus One (a tremendous film with some very libertarian themes), which became the first Godzilla movie to win an Oscar when it claimed the prize for best visual effects.

Scenes from Virginia: I might not have to pay for a stupid new arena! State lawmakers in Richmond appear likely to approve a state budget bill that does not include plans for a proposed $2 billion arena in Alexandria. The structure was supposed to be a new home for the National Basketball Association’s Washington Wizards and the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals.

The hero of this story seems to be state Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D–Portsmouth), whom Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has blamed for single-handedly stopping the arena deal. Lucas, who chairs the powerful Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, told The Washington Post last week that she does not believe the proposed arena and its $1.5 billion in public debt are a good deal for taxpayers and that the teams’ owner, Ted Leonsis, ought to pay for the stadium himself. Amen!

Update from Virginia: Last Monday, in this exact space, I noted that Youngkin had “refused to endorse [former President Donald] Trump (so far).” Two days later, Youngkin bent the knee.


  • President Joe Biden will unveil his 2025 budget proposal on Monday. The document will call for higher corporate taxes, but it projects average budget deficits of $1.7 trillion for the next decade even with those higher revenues taken into account, The New York Times reports.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he has “a big, big problem” with a bill that would legalize marijuana in the state.
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) is leading a fight in the Senate to block more than 6,000 earmarks that would cost taxpayers over $12 billion.
  • An obviously doctored photo of Kate Middleton and her three children distributed by the British royal family has stoked more conspiracy theories about the princess’ recent absence from public view.

#Press #Cheers #Bidens #Combative #State #Union #Address

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