Watching President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address last night, I was struck by how it yo yo-ed between the inspirational and rank partisanship.
The past year for the Biden administration, putting it mildly, has been challenging. Biden has seen his approval rating dwindle. By any objective standard, his pullout from Afghanistan was disastrous. He made promises about COVID-19 that he could not possibly keep. Yet, despite the fact he did not win the White House by much, and Democrats have a razor-thin majority in the House and Senate, he has attempted to govern as though Americans gave him a mandate.
Americans did no such thing.
The president approached this speech as the great uniter, a hat he wore during his 2020 campaign. The problem is that one has to ignore the past year to believe it.
He also did not deliver a unifying speech. He could have and should have, but it was a missed opportunity, and one has to wonder if the staff he surrounded himself with are even capable of doing that.
He started his address on a solid note. I believe he hit the right tone in regards to Ukraine.
One can argue about what the Biden administration did leading up to the Russian invasion in Ukraine, but I can’t find fault in the action taken now to put pressure on Russia.
He discussed the impacts of the sanctions on the Russian economy and the devaluing of the Russian ruble. He announced plans to go after Russian oligarchs. He shared the assistance being provided to Ukraine. Biden also announced the U.S. would close its airspace to Russian flights.
He followed up by reassuring Americans who are war-weary that the United States would not commit troops to Ukraine but would defend NATO allies should the need arise.
Then his address went south.
He explained that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would cost Americans, primarily at the pump.
Instead of announcing that he would reverse some of his earlier decisions, like shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline, he said he would release 30 million gallons from our strategic oil reserves.
His speech tanked further when discussing his domestic agenda by pushing the same agenda – “social infrastructure” spending, abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, complaining about Republican’s 2017 tax cuts, and gun control – that he failed to accomplish during his first year because he did not have a mandate.
How is that unifying?
There were some bright spots. Biden called for securing our southern border and reforming our immigration system. There is bipartisan consensus on this issue, but, unfortunately, both parties listen to the extreme elements within their parties, so nothing is done.
He finally challenged the “defund the police” advocates within his party, stating we need to fund the police to address rising crime rates.
Biden then ended on a solid note by promoting his “unity agenda” and agenda that most people could rally around even if there are disagreements on how to accomplish it.
His agenda consists of:
- Addressing the opioid epidemic
- Taking on mental health
- Supporting our veterans
- Ending cancer as we know it
I can get behind that agenda even if I can’t support every idea to accomplish that.
Biden missed an opportunity to backtrack on the divisive agenda. Instead, he could have focused on Ukraine, bipartisan immigration reforms and border security, lowering the crime rate, and his unity agenda.
But he didn’t, and following a year of demonizing those who are unvaccinated and pursuing a far-left agenda without a mandate, he needed to do just that.