The problem with the Republican lie that President Biden is frail and has lost his fastball — amplified all too often by our timid media — is that, on occasions like the State of the Union address, millions of Americans can see that he’s fine. More than fine.
Biden delivered an excellent speech last night, coming across as vigorous and feisty as someone decades younger and quite possibly trapping Republicans into promising that they won’t cut Social Security and Medicare — as they were threatening to do a few months ago, notwithstanding Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s shouts of “liar” when the president reminded them of it.
Writing at the liberal website Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall summed it up:
He lead [sic] them into a trap which they could only spring on themselves and they did so to a tee. I don’t know how else to describe it. He brutalized them in a bear hug of bipartisanship. He thanked them for their moment conversion and agreement not to cut Social Security.
Biden got energy from the angry and unhinged responses. Kevin McCarthy spent the second half of the speech trying to shush his members, the same feral radicals who tortured him for a week last month. The whole tableau spoke more than a thousand words.
It was beautiful.
The behavior by a number of Republicans in the chamber, led by Greene, would have been stunning just a few years ago, but we’ve gotten long past that. Two pundits from the center-right make that clear. First up: Amanda Carpenter at The Bulwark, a leading source of Never Trump conservative commentary:
Back in 2009, when South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” in the middle of an address by President Barack Obama to a joint session of Congress, sensibilities were shocked. Wilson’s outburst became a days-long story, and he was formally reprimanded by the House.
Nowadays, though, the House Republican Conference has a whole contingent of Joe Wilsons: boorish loudmouths whose lack of impulse control is only matched by their desire for attention. Don’t hold your breath waiting for them to face a reprimand for their shouts and jeers last night. Biden encountered several “You lie!”-like objections without batting an eye or missing a line in his scripted remarks.
David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush put it this way:
In this hyper-polarized era, the goal of the survival-minded politician is not so much to offer grand visions as to expand his own coalition, even if only a little, while squeezing his opponents where it hurts most. Like a boxer trying to goad his antagonist into leaving open a vulnerable spot for a counterpunch, Biden’s plan was to invite Republicans to make dangerous mistakes. This was a speech not of lofty phrases but of cunning ploys; not one for the ages, but one that will reverberate long enough to make a difference in November 2024.
Finally, two excerpts from commentary on the farther right. Here’s the lead of today’s editorial in the Washington Examiner, headlined “A Banal Failure of a State of the Union”:
The best thing that can be said about President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address last night is that a record-low number of people wasted their time watching it. It was a laundry list of nanny statism, promising that not even the tiniest detail of people’s lives will be free from federal interference — not “resort fees” nor “targeted advertising” on social media.
David Harsanyi writes at The Federalist:
Like Nero bragging about rebuilding Circus Maximus after burning it down, Joe Biden took to the podium tonight to take credit for solving a slew of problems he helped create.
Biden’s speech reminded me that, above all else, he is a good and decent man. I thought the content was excellent and his delivery nearly so. His 2024 re-election campaign is now under way — and, last night, it got off to a strong start.