Sunday, November 27, 2022

Five Ways to Look at Biden’s State of the Union Speech

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Political aides and pollsters need the president to give attention to in style achievements and proposals. Then there are the coverage areas that pundits and newspaper editorial writers think about essential; skip any point out of them, and the speech might get unhealthy opinions. And there are the White House speechwriters, who need the entire factor to sound good, to have a theme, and to have memorable traces.

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The result’s at all times a laundry checklist that hops from one merchandise to the subsequent, not often impressing anybody.

President Joe Biden’s first formal State of the Union Tuesday night time (he addressed a joint session of Congress final yr, however that didn’t rely for obscure causes) checked off every of these bins. It was nice. Most of it wasn’t memorable. It will neither assist him nor damage him politically.

Here are some methods to give it some thought:

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• The occasions of the final week required beginning with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The timing labored out effectively for Biden. Every president is blissful to begin with one thing that pulls enthusiastic bipartisan applause, and proper now’s one thing of a feel-good second for solidarity with Ukraine, a second which will or might not final. Naturally, the speechwriters and the president took full benefit. It additionally helps that whereas Biden did point out the specific coverage decisions he’s made, he was in a position to body his remarks round assist for Ukraine and opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, leaving Republicans who accuse him of missing toughness with little alternative however to cheer.

• The speech additionally got here at some extent in the pandemic that allowed Biden to strike a much more optimistic, even triumphant, tone than would have been doable six weeks in the past, and even maybe two weeks in the past. The symbolism of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris sitting behind Biden with out masks was maybe extra essential than the phrases Biden used. Political scientists not often discover proof of presidential speeches altering minds, however it’s at least doable that some Democratic viewers who’ve grown pessimistic about the coronavirus throughout the delta and omicron waves might take each the phrases and the symbolism as encouragement to begin feeling higher about it. (I wouldn’t anticipate any such response from Republicans, and of course far fewer of them tune in to hear a Democratic president’s speech, anyway).

• Speaking of Democrats: Large parts of the speech had been directed primarily at them and their legislative priorities. That included a prolonged part boasting about the successes of final yr’s huge payments, the Covid aid measure that handed in March and the infrastructure invoice that grew to become legislation in November. Biden additionally, whereas acknowledging inflation, talked up the sturdy outcomes on jobs and financial development. It’s unlikely that he’s going to jawbone his means to convincing individuals who at the moment give the economic system unhealthy marks to change their minds, however it might probably’t damage to attempt. And then Biden laundry-listed his means via the Democratic agenda, ticking off objects from his sidelined Build Back Better bundle and voting rights and abortion rights want lists. Each of these initiatives has a powerful constituency, and Biden would have made enemies by omitting them — whether or not they have a superb probability of passing or not.

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• The speech additionally had a wholesome portion of what Biden appeared to regard as a bipartisan agenda. Crime and immigration had been framed (or maybe reframed) in phrases meant to please most Democrats: assist for cops and the hottest gun-control choices; assist for robust border management and for the most sympathetic classes of immigrants. Later, Biden packaged applications aimed at opioid abuse, psychological well being, veterans and most cancers as a bipartisan agenda. It’s not clear that anybody (besides maybe Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the most skeptical Senate Democrat when it comes to applications favored by progressives) will reply a lot to that sort of discuss, however then once more it’s not apt to alienate anybody however the most liberal Democrats, both.

• As for Biden’s supply? The president appeared to get pleasure from the ritual. He’s a more proficient public speaker than some of his predecessors, notably Jimmy Carter and each George H.W. and George W. Bush, however just isn’t practically nearly as good as Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama. Nor does he seem fairly as comfy talking to the nation via a congressional viewers as Bill Clinton was. (I suppose I ought to point out that, like all fashionable presidents besides Donald Trump, Biden is competent at utilizing a teleprompter and might really learn a speech with out inserting quite a few ad-libbed falsehoods.) Biden rushed himself at instances, stepping on some applause traces. His youthful stutter has re-emerged as he’s aged (he’s 79) and is a problem for him that most likely explains why he tousled the movement of some traces and hit on just a few phrases incorrectly (saying Iranians at one level when he meant Ukrainians, for instance). Don’t learn an excessive amount of into any of this; it’s unlikely that even the perfect or the very worst supply would have an effect on public opinion.

• One Year, 14 Metrics: The State of Biden’s Presidency: accuratenewsinfo Columnists

• Biden’s Disappointing First Year: accuratenewsinfo Editorial Board

• Don’t Panic, Joe Biden. Be Like Reagan: Jonathan Bernstein

This column doesn’t essentially replicate the opinion of the editorial board or accuratenewsinfo LP and its house owners.

Jonathan Bernstein is a accuratenewsinfo Opinion columnist masking politics and coverage. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.

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