- President Joe Biden delivered his second State of the Union speech tonight, drawing intense applause from Democrats and jeers from some far-right Republicans.
- The president touted his accomplishments related to the economy and health care, and called for police reform, expanding abortion rights, and passing legislation to curb gun violence.
- Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave the Republican response, in which she said U.S. politics are divided into "normal and crazy." Most Americans would probably agree.
AOC: It's 'shocking' to see what GOP refuses to stand for
Trump, potential GOP 2024 contenders weigh in
Predictably, Trump had a lot of (chaotic) thoughts about Biden's State of the Union speech tonight. Some takeaways he shared on his social media platform:
- He appeared to mock Biden's stutter: "Stumbling, bumbling, he just can’t get the words out."
- McCarthy was "really looking good," McConnell "looks like Hell," and Jill Biden was "looking lovely tonight in a beautiful purple dress."
- "I agree with him that the Tax System is not fair, to me, because they illegally released my Tax Returns!"
Nikki Haley, who is expected to launch her 2024 presidential bid later this month, tweeted that "American deserves better" than Biden and praised Sanders' "powerful rebuttal." And Mike Pence tweeted that Biden's speech showed the country needs to return to the "strength and prosperity we had under the Trump-Pence Administration."
Sarah Huckabee Sanders is right. But not necessarily in the way she thinks.
As Ja’han notes below, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ GOP response will be remembered for a striking thesis: “The choice is between normal or crazy.”
This is both a solid soundbite and an astute observation about American politics. Huckabee Sanders offered this observation as the capstone for her indictment of an administration “hijacked by the radical left.” With Biden’s support, the forces of “woke” are waging a “culture war we didn’t start and never wanted to fight,” the governor said.
The voting public may find this indictment compelling in some ways. Polling suggests the public does regard the spike in violent crime, for example, as a biproduct of a highly ideological progressive project. Education, too, is an issue Democrats no longer clearly own in polling in part because of the public’s apprehension over where progressive reformers want to take American pedagogy.
But Huckabee Sanders’ observation cuts both ways. So many Republican aspirants for high office underperformed political expectations in 2022 because voters believed GOP candidates, too, were — to put it in Huckabee’s terms — crazy. In exit polling, two-thirds of the electorate expressed concern about the future of democracy, which is about as close to a recitation of a tested Democratic narrative as you can get. The voters just weren’t convinced that many of the party’s candidates were responsible stewards of power.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s observation is the most succinct statement of America’s political conundrum uttered by a politician from a national platform in some time. She’s dead right, too. But the conclusions voters draw from her diagnosis may not be the ones Republicans want.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders gets ... weird
Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ speech was, essentially, a rehash of Trump’s infamous “American carnage” diatribe from back in 2017. By which I mean, it was chock-full of fearmongering meant to paint the country as a perverse hellscape under liberal control.
She hit all the right-wing talking points you’d predict, with all the warmth of Liam Neeson in “Taken.” She railed against inclusive learning plans and LGBTQ people, and claimed Americans are told every day “we must partake in [liberals’] rituals, salute their flags, and worship their false idols.”
“The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left,” she said. "The choice is between normal or crazy.”
On that point, she may be right — her tinfoil hat was showing tonight, for sure.
Watch Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ full GOP response to BidenFeb. 8, 202314:33
Biden just proved he has real fight left in him
He energized his party in the room.
He enraged the opposing party in the room.
He left Kevin McCarthy, sitting behind him, looking like Ben Affleck at the Grammys.
And he showed ordinary Americans watching at home that their 80-year-old commander in chief still, remarkably, has a real fight left in him.
So … job well done, Mr. President?
House Republicans didn’t help themselves with antics tonight
Watching President Biden step off the rostrum, you get the sense he did the thing that was important to do: Connect his speech to people across the nation. He brought Americans along while talking about cutting credit card late fees and capping service fees on tickets to concerts and sporting events, summing it up with “Americans are tired of being played for suckers."
But then he went on to goad the GOP not only to deny they ever wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare (which they did, see Sen. Rick Scott’s plan to “sunset all federal federal legislation in five years” including — yup, you guessed it — but then getting them to stand up and applaud NOT cutting Social Security or Medicare! “I like conversion,” the president said as he smiled. "Apparently, that’s not going to be a problem.”
Biden not only owned the room, he owned the argument for his agenda as Speaker McCarthy sat helplessly watching Marjorie Taylor Greene and company barking and howling at the Biden moon.
Biden not rattled as MAGA changes tone of State of the Union AddressFeb. 8, 202301:04
Sen. Rick Scott had the worst night of any Republican
I’ve said a lot about the GOP’s heckling of Biden when he brought up cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Biden specifically was calling out that “some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years.” That proposal is the handiwork of Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who called on doing so in his 11-point “Plan to Rescue America.”
Scott issued that plan over the objections of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who (rightly) said it would go over poorly. Scott and McConnell have been clashing all year since Scott failed to usurp the longtime leader from his perch atop the caucus. Tonight, Scott’s proposal got booed by his own party when Biden brought it up. That has to be mortifying for him — and put a big grin on McConnell’s face.
Mitch McConnell boots Rick Scott from key committeeFeb. 2, 202304:17
Biden to Republicans: ‘Your boos mean nothing to me’
We’ve come a long way since former Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., first shouted “You lie!” during President Barack Obama’s joint address to Congress in 2009. Back then, it was a shocking breach of decorum. These days, the peanut gallery on the Republican side of the aisle routinely screams during Biden’s speeches. This time, though, as Semafor’s Benjy Sarlin pointed out, it felt almost … good?
As MSNBC’s panel discussed after the speech ended, and as I noted earlier, Biden has gotten good at using that heckling to his advantage. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has already said that among his many (conflicting) promises for the debt ceiling debate, cutting Medicare and Social Security is off the table. But by getting Republicans to boo what Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., had proposed last year, Biden was able to lock the GOP into that position, all thanks to heckling.
A long speech. But not historically long.
For those of you keeping track at home, NBC News clocked Biden's speech at 1:12:45. That may not make this one of America's longest SOTU addresses — not even close, really. But it is Biden's longest State of the Union.
Biden ends the night with an absurd and tone-deaf claim
At the end of his speech, Biden ended with the ridiculous and hypernationalistic claim that America is the only nation in the world built on an idea. And, to make the claim even more absurd, that idea is we’re all equal.
“We’re the only nation based on the idea that all of us are created equal under god,” he said, suggesting that other nations are inferior and predicated on things like geography and ethnicity.
Never mind that this was a country built on slavery, that it enshrined the rights of landed white men from the get go, to the exclusion of women, minorities and the poor — nor that its architecture was facilitated by the genocide of indigenous populations. Never mind that the legacy of America’s inequitable origins were omnipresent in tonight’s speech, from racialized police brutality to the assault on reproductive rights. In fact, nothing could be more American than inequality. If there’s one idea this country is built on, it’s that.
What Biden talked about the most — broken down by minutes
Biden takes a victory lap over the Chinese balloon
"Before I came to office, the story was about how the People’s Republic of China was increasing its power, and America was failing in the world,” Biden told congressional lawmakers on tonight. “Not anymore.”
With the stage set by two high-altitude balloons that crossed the North American continent, one traveling over the whole of the continental United States, before it was shot out of the sky by a sidewinder missile, Biden reassured America’s elected representatives that all was well.
America has invested in “innovation” and “alliances,” protecting sensitive technologies, and “modernizing our military to deter aggression," Biden said. He insisted that “we are in the strongest position in decades to compete with China or anyone else in the world.” What’s more, he cited the transgressive balloon as evidence.
Biden assures U.S. will act 'if China threatens our sovereignty'Feb. 8, 202301:58
“As we made clear last week,” Biden said, “if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our sovereignty. And we did.”
Applause erupted in the hall, but Biden may regret this premature victory lap. The public does not yet know, and may never know, what the balloon’s mission was, whether it descended to an observable altitude to send a signal or test America’s response, or the degree to which America is vulnerable to undetectable infiltrations right now — especially given the Pentagon’s retroactive estimation that similar infiltrations occurred during the Trump years.
Americans may not be wholly reassured by the president’s bravado. When an aggressive foreign power brazenly floats a surveillance asset right over the country’s intercontinental ballistic missile silos, it tends to focus the mind.
About that Santos-Romney encounter...
NBC News now has a bit more info on that exceedingly terse pre-State of the Union moment between Sen. Mitt Romney and the scandal-plagued Rep. George Santos. According to a nearby witness, Romney ultimately told Santos that he does not belong in Congress.
Biden talks accountability for social media companies
I find it noteworthy that social media got a mention in Biden’s speech. “We must finally hold social media companies accountable” for how they use children for profit, he said.
That should spur Congress, which has been inexplicably stagnant on the issue of social media manipulation. We’re approaching two years since Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified to Congress that the company’s leadership had ignored the platform’s harmful effects on children, and Congress has yet to pass a single meaningful bill to curb social media’s corrosive influence.
McCarthy wanted to look like the adult in the room
On multiple occasions — such as during Biden’s commitment to preserve abortion rights — GOP members have heckled the president. Throughout, newly minted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy at least attempted to shush these unruly party members, shaking his head in a quiet performance of disappointment. But it didn’t always work — perhaps not a huge surprise, given it took 15 attempts for his fellow Republicans to vote him in as speaker.
Biden rightly links semi-automatic rifles to mass shootings
One of Biden’s guests tonight is Brandon Tsay, who took down the shooter during the recent mass shooting at a Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park, California. “He saved lives,” Biden said while recognizing Tsay during the address. “It’s time we do the same as well: Ban assault weapons once and for all.”
Biden helped spearhead passing the so-called assault weapons ban back in 1994. After it expired under President George W. Bush in 2004, studies show that mass shootings spiked. Actually getting a new ban under a Republican House is one of those things that would be a major step toward ending the spate of mass shootings that we now deal with on a near-weekly basis — but Republicans would rather that we continue to rely on the Brandon Tsays of the world than actually do their jobs.
Biden: 'Let's finish the job and ban these assault weapons’Feb. 8, 202302:30
Paul Pelosi a victim of 'Big Lie' believer, Biden says
Biden didn’t mention “semi-fascism” tonight, sadly. But he did remind his audience, both in the chamber and watching at home, that the man who allegedly attacked Paul Pelosi in his San Francisco home in October was “unhinged by the Big Lie.”
Biden reminded us that the alleged assailant used “the very same language that insurrectionists who stalked these halls chanted on Jan. 6.” He called on members of Congress to “speak out” against “political violence in America."
The problem? The majority of House Republicans in the audience in front of him continue to push that Big Lie.
Chris Hayes: The right's 'campaign of lies' about the Pelosi attackJan. 31, 202310:58
Biden’s bait and switch
Joe Biden received a strong standing ovation — a bipartisan round of applause — when he insisted that everyone, Republicans included, agreed that “Social Security and Medicare” were “off the table” in negotiations over America’s ballooning non-discretionary spending obligations.
The foremost drivers of America’s debt are Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the interest Americans must pay to service the debt the country accrues propping up those programs. Social Security’s trustees estimate that the program’s old age and survivors insurance trust fund and the federal disability trust fund will be insolvent by 2035. Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund will go broke in 2028.
Biden recognized the need to shore up these programs, and he has a plan. The president insisted that the federal government can be made whole entirely by taxing the rich and corporations without touching the incomes of Americans who earn less than $400,000 annually. That is nonsense. Almost all forms of investment income are exempted from payroll taxes, which funds Social Security — and that assumes the population of beneficiaries doesn’t expand in the future, which it will. Medicare’s growth, too, will outpace the gains associated with any single tax increase.
We’ve known this for decades because we’ve been debating over how to restore solvency to these programs for decades. Joe Biden and his speechwriters certainly know it. But maybe they hope you don’t.
Applauding Tyre Nichols' parents feels wrong
President Biden introduced the parents of Tyre Nichols, who was viciously beaten by police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, last month. And as they rose, the chamber of lawmakers applauded.
Applause is, generally, the only demonstrative response available in a situation such as this. But still, giving a grieving couple a round of applause to acknowledge that their son was violently attacked by police officers feels wrong.
Biden gets un-American in his support of unions
“Pass the PRO Act!” Biden just exclaimed. He was referring to his Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021, which seeks to promote and protect workers’ rights, including their right to organize.
America — known for its unfettered capitalism and laws that prioritize corporations over workers — has a poor record on protecting workers’ ability to unionize in recent history. Look no further than Amazon’s repeated and successful attempts at busting unions. Biden sought to challenge the neoliberal narrative that protecting companies over its workers is somehow fundamentally American.
Biden calls on Congress to pass the PRO ActFeb. 8, 202302:33
Republicans boxed themselves in on Medicare and Social Security cuts
Biden very politely brought up that some Republicans are in favor of allowing “Medicare and Social Security to sunset” every five years without a vote to keep it going as part of any debt ceiling deal. Republicans, ready to disagree with whatever came out of Biden’s mouth, booed this idea, even as Biden made clear that it isn’t a majority of Republicans who thought it was a good idea. Still, the booing continued.
Biden, with a large grin, told any Republican who doubted him to contact his office. Still more boos. So, Biden concluded, if nobody here is in favor of cutting those programs, there’s no problem. Standing applause from everyone when Biden called on Congress to stand up for seniors.
It’s a moment that is truly incredible when you consider that it was only a decade ago that the debate in Washington was focused on the need to slash entitlement spending. Now, seeing Republicans terrified of being called out for entitlement cuts, Dark Brandon rightly pins them into this newfound hatred of cutting Medicare and Social Security.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, frequent peddler of disinfo, shouts 'liar'
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene took to her feet to call President Biden a “liar” tonight, after he suggested some Republicans are keen to cut Social Security and Medicare.
Greene, I should remind you, has lied about: Covid, Covid vaccines, Clinton “murders," 9/11, forest fires, drag queens, Muslims, George Soros, 2020 election results — and more.
Shouting “liar” during the State of the Union is a major breach of decorum, of course. Back in September 2009, Republican Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted “you lie” during Barack Obama’s joint address to Congress.
He later apologized to the president — but was still reprimanded by the House.
Will Greene apologize? Will she be reprimanded?
Don’t. Be. Silly.
Biden’s mixed and disingenuous messaging on climate change
Biden ostensibly lays out climate change as a policy priority — and touting all that he says his administration has done to combat it — supporting electric vehicles and energy-efficient appliances, historical conservation efforts, etc. — even as America remains the largest producer and consumer of oil.
“I’m proud of how America at last is stepping up to the challenge,” Biden said, before also admitting: “We’re still gonna need oil and gas for a while.”
America has historically been one of the world’s worst producers of carbon, with its recklessly lax climate policy. This administration will have to do a lot more than it’s currently doing to adequately tackle the seriousness of this existential threat.
Republicans show they're all gassed up
There was just some bizarrely thunderous applause from oil-loving lawmakers when Biden discussed the need to transition to climate-friendly energy sources … but notesdwe still may need to rely on gasoline in some instances for a while.
“I’m proud of how America, at last, is stepping up to the challenge,” Biden said, adding: “We’re still going to need oil and gas for a while.” That’s when the lawmakers hollered with glee..
Three cheers for … fossil fuels? Weird — but unsurprising — behavior from conservatives.
Biden defies reality with Covid remarks
More than 400 Americans died from Covid-19 yesterday.
Yet tonight, Biden spoke of Covid deaths almost as a thing of the past. Deaths “are down nearly 90%,” he said. “We’ve saved millions of lives and opened our country back up, and soon we’ll end the public health emergency.”
I get that Biden wants to declare victory. I understand the politics. But to suggest, as the president did, that the pandemic is behind us defies reality — and is an insult to the families of the thousands of Americans still dying from Covid every week.
Biden: 'Covid no longer controls our lives'Feb. 8, 202301:19
The truth is that the pandemic is far from over. Meanwhile, anti-vaxxers are emboldened, public health professionals have been demonized, funding for new vaccine research has been cut, and universal healthcare remains a pipe dream.
So how on earth can the president say with a straight face that we “emerge from this crisis stronger"?
Biden threatens to veto prescription drug price hikes
Biden says that he’ll veto any attempt to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, including its provisions that cap insulin prices for people on Medicare. When he brought up the attempt from some among the GOP to get rid of the law, there was a smattering of applause from the Republican side of the aisle.
“As my football coach used to say: Lots of luck in your senior year,” Biden quipped. He quickly promised: “If you try to do anything to raise the cost of prescription drugs, I will veto it.”
It’s one of the areas where the status quo is unlikely to change under the divided Congress. But then again, McCarthy also likely doesn’t have the votes to pass a repeal of the IRA, so it’s kind of a moot point. Still, Biden knows that the crew loves it when the boss gets feisty.
Biden discusses efforts to lower health care costs and protect MedicareSept. 27, 202202:12
Bidenomics expands into construction
To the sound of rousing applause from the assembled lawmakers, Biden pledged on tonight that he would mandate “all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made in America.”
In related news, the Government Accountability Office recently examined the cost of federal construction projects recently found that non-military federal agencies are deferring billions of dollars in costs by deferring maintenance and repair work on federal facilities due to costs. In 2019, the GAO discovered that federally-funded construction projects trend between 15% and 25% more than the cost of similar privately funded facilities.
These inflated costs are attributable to many factors, from ballooning legal and compliance costs to environmental oversight and supply chain disruptions owing to the pandemic. One thing that won’t ease the pressure on federally funded construction is to force contractors to pay more for materials.
Biden touts economic wins ... while painting gloomy economic portrait
Oddly enough, Joe Biden began his second State of the Union address by painting a rather gloomy portrait of the American economic landscape.
The president insisted that, over the course of decades, the middle class has been “hollowed out.” Fulfilling, stable work had become harder to find, with “manufacturing jobs” moving “overseas.” And Americans had “lost” their “pride” and “sense of self-worth.”
Within the space of a few breaths, however, the president pivoted to his administration’s more familiar (and better supported) talking points. Biden observed that the most recent unemployment report found over half a million new non-farm jobs were created in January alone. Inflation is on the decline in relative terms, and domestic manufacturing is experiencing a renewal.
The contrast between these two conditions are stark, and Biden declined to establish when the dystopia he first described was supplanted by the sunlit uplands over which he presently presides. Indeed, because the president is presenting Republicans with a challenge tonight to commit to a program designed to renew America’s middle class, it’s unclear whether he believes Americans have reclaimed their “pride.” It was a discordant note to open with.
Biden is fired up about infrastructure
In a fiery (and very loud) moment, Biden raised his voice in dismay about how America is 13th in the world when it comes to infrastructure quality (as ranked by the World Economic Forum). The moment was arresting as the president vowed to change this with infrastructure investments.
White House makes major investments in rural AmericaDec. 16, 202203:48
Why Republicans aren’t cheering low unemployment
Biden touted the most recent unemployment numbers released last week: 3.4%, a 50-year low. That shout-out garnered thunderous applause from Democrats — but only a small number of tepid claps from Republicans.
Alongside the usual sour grapes annoyed by an economy doing well under a Democrat, Republicans have extra reasons to be grumpy. First, they’ve been banking on using the Biden economy as a bludgeon in negotiations to lower federal spending. Second, low unemployment is historically a sign of rising inflation — but inflation has been dropping lately amid the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes and hiring increases. Which means the GOP’s hopes of being able to blame a recession on Biden may be receding.
Lawmakers’ pins double as political statements
Several lawmakers are donning some accoutrements tonight that double as political statements. Some Democrats, for example, are wearing a pin shaped like a crayon to highlight the vital role affordable child care plays in a thriving economy.
Yet more lawmakers are wearing pins with the year 1870. It’s a reference to the year that Philadelphia police fatally shot an unarmed Black man named Henry Truman. Lawmakers are donning the pins to highlight the deluge of police violence against Blacks that has occurred since then.
Biden seems to be in a hurry
The president is blasting through his speech, speaking at a clip. While he is effectively conveying a sense of urgency to the American people, his energy is also somewhat frenetic.
I’ll have to wait till the end of the speech to get a better sense of whether his quick pace comes across as commanding or frantic. TBD.
Hakeem Jeffries gets a standing ovation
Biden kicked off the night by honoring Hakeem Jeffries, the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress, who received an enthusiastic standing ovation.
Good luck to tonight's designated survivor
“Designated survivor” is perhaps the most morbid Washington tradition, whereby a member of the president’s Cabinet is kept away from major events — just in case. That “survivor” would have the authority to take the reins if the rest of the entire government was wiped out in an attack. (Like Education Secretary Laura Roslin in Syfy’s “Battlestar: Galactica.)
Tonight’s designee is (soon-to-be outgoing) Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, a former Boston mayor and the future head of the NHL’s players’ association. Most former holders of the role describe the job as relatively boring. Which is what you want, Mr. Walsh! Fingers crossed it remains a snooze.
Romney seems to give the cold shoulder to GOP's wayward son
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney had a painfully awkward — and public — exchange with wildly controversial New York Rep. George Santos on the House floor just a few minutes ago. Santos reportedly staked out a prime spot along the aisle early, possibly to increase his chances of shaking Biden’s hand.
Romney’s body language and eye contact certainly seemed disapproving, at least to this blogger. While there is no audio, keen onlookers and amateur lip readers have speculated Romney may have said, “embarrassing” as he passed by. If true, that would certainly echo the sentiments of many of his new colleagues — as well as viewers at home.
George Santos went for the Biden handshake. It didn’t work.
One of the best and most awful metaphors for how Washington operates is the tradition of lawmakers positioning themselves in seats near the center of the chamber ahead of the State of the Union. From there, they’re guaranteed to be on camera as the president enters the House chamber and makes his way to the dais. Many often reach out their grasping little hands in hopes of, even for a moment, reducing their proximity to power to zero.
So, readers, I absolutely gasped at reporting that Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., had managed to scam his way into a center-aisle seat at this, his first State of the Union.
Sure enough, when Biden walked in, there was Santos, in a bright orange tie. And there went Biden, strolling right past the freshman congressman, despite apparently looking him in the eye. In snubbing Santos, it feels like Biden has narrowly avoided some sort of weird, world-shifting nexus in history from taking place. Best of luck to the alternate timeline where Santos succeeded.
And he's got jokes
Biden wasted no time trying to ease the tension within the divided Congress. With a chuckle, he addressed McCarthy: “Speaker, I don’t want to ruin your reputation, but I look forward to working with you”
Biden has arrived
Biden has entered the House chamber and is preparing to address Congress and the nation. And for those wondering:
Supreme Court justices have arrived
For those on Supreme Court watch, the justices just walked in. Remember, this will be the first State of the Union address for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was seated last year. Also of note: Not all justices are in attendance this time around. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito are nowhere to be seen.
Biden’s challenge to the populist right
In February 2020, with the onset of the global pandemic just weeks away, Trump informed the nation in his final State of the Union address that America was in the midst of a “blue collar boom.” Three years later, Biden will reportedly urge lawmakers to commit to a blue-collar revival and, specifically, his plan to rebuild America’s battered working class.
Laying claim to America’s population of voters without a four-year degree has become an existential project for both parties in the years since Trump’s first presidential victory. These two presidents had ample incentive to insist that their policy preferences alone have and will continue to deliver for this sought-after demographic. But Biden is making a play for what used to be a reliable component of the Democratic coalition on terms that both Trump and his nationalistic movement tried to co-opt.
Biden will reportedly attempt to triangulate on issues that voters trust Republicans on more, according to the polling, like debt and deficit reduction. Biden will also attempt to commandeer populist policies the nationalist wing of the GOP has retailed in recent years. The president will call for a bigger tax burden on the wealthy and the financial classes, as well as strategic investments in programs touted as anti-poverty measures. This challenge will present a stark choice to the GOP’s populists, who will have to weigh the imperative to engage in partisan combat with Democrats against their political instincts.
It’s a clever approach, assuming the populist right takes Biden’s bait. If they don’t, it’s worth the gamble. After all, Republicans may respond to Biden’s appeal by reverting to a more familiar comfortable fiscal conservatism, if only to strike a bold contrast with the Democratic Party’s profligate president. That would suit Joe Biden’s interest just fine, too.
Capitol fencing returns — a relic of the Capitol riot
Authorities erected an eight-foot metal fence around the U.S. Capitol complex ahead of tonight's speech as an extra safety precaution.
Biden is en route!
President Biden and first lady Jill Biden just left the White House for the Capitol, officially setting the wheels in motion for the night.
Once they get to the Capitol, Biden and the first lady will go to the House Chamber, where they’ll wait until he’s officially invited on the floor to start his address at around 9 p.m. ET.
Reagan started the grand tradition of the special guest
In 1982, with the typical flair of a seasoned actor, President Ronald Reagan shook up the State of the Union model by inviting a special guest — an ordinary American — and honoring them during his address.
Lenny Skutnik, a little-known government employee who had made national headlines after jumping in the Potomac River to save a woman’s life in the wake of a plane crash, was deftly transformed into a political tool by the skilled politician. Including Skutnik was seen as an act of humility, an innocent celebration of the heroism of everyday Americans.
So effective was this move that every president since has not been able to resist it. Biden has a number of “special guests” tonight he’s sure to call on — from Lynette Bonar, who spearheaded the first cancer center on a Native American reservation, to Deanna Branch, whose son has lead poisoning from their drinking water — each one hand-selected to help drive home the president’s carefully constructed narrative and agenda.
Steve Kornacki has some sobering polling numbers for Biden
Does the State of the Union need more razzle-dazzle?
Josh Tyrangiel appeared on “The 11th Hour” on Monday night to talk with host Stephanie Ruhle about his pitch in The New York Times to upgrade the State of the Union with a bit of pizazz. He’s right that the Jan. 6 committee changed the game, showing how multimedia wizardry can bring a potentially dry proceeding to life.
But for the better part of a century, presidents only delivered a written message to Congress on the state of the union. One reason that stopped being the case now is that with the advent of radio, the State of the Union address became a way of rallying political support for the president’s plans. Constitutionally speaking, there’s nothing about a live speech that gives Congress a clearer sense of how the country is doing than the written version was providing.
In other words: The State of the Union is a meeting that really could be an email. But have a look at the debate and come to your own conclusions.
Spicing up the State of the Union speechFeb. 7, 202309:27
The dos and don'ts for a successful State of the Union address
Sanders gets the honor of one of the most dreaded jobs in D.C.
One of the most dreaded jobs in Washington is to deliver the State of the Union rebuttal. Not only do you lose the audience, but the history of those who have dared to deliver their party’s response has been ... not good, at best. Remember Marco Rubio?
So tonight, the newly elected governor of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has the honor of delivering the Republican response.
The former White House press secretary checks a number of boxes for Republicans — all important in laying out their narrative now that the GOP controls the House. First, she is the youngest governor in the country, which Republicans believe nicely sets up a contrast between an octogenarian-led Democratic Party and a more youth-oriented GOP. Sure, Jan.
Second, Sanders is on no one’s bingo card for president or vice president. That means she is not a threat to Trump, can deliver the party’s message without worrying about the impact on a potential presidential campaign, and offers the right amount of connection to Trump, as his former press secretary, without otherwise creating a problem with that MAGA base.
Finally, what can we expect to hear about in the rebuttal as far as policy? Well, that will be fun to listen for, but I suspect you’ll hear more about “woke this” and “radical left that” than how the GOP House majority intends to govern.
GOP's Trump losses build in 2023: 'Stop Trying to make MAGA happen’Feb. 8, 202308:41
Will Biden pivot from the ‘Chinese spy balloon’ discourse? Hopefully.
On the heels of widespread, right-wing hysteria about the so-called Chinese spy balloon, I’m hoping Biden uses this opportunity to strike a more serious tone about the dangers of surveillance.
There’s a legitimate discussion to be had about emerging surveillance technology and the ways malicious actors — both foreign and domestic — could use it to harm Americans.
Republicans have been hyper-focused on China — fitting their pattern of disturbing, anti-Chinese rhetoric. But the issue of weaponized technology deserves a holistic look.
Average length of State of the Union addresses in one chart
Biden’s first State of the Union address clocked in at about 62 minutes, in line with President Barack Obama’s average over eight years.
What Biden should — but likely won’t — say tonight
Tonight, as President Joe Biden stands to give his second State of the Union, all eyes will be on … Kevin McCarthy. Ok, fine. Not all eyes. But a fair few.
The new GOP House speaker, who will be seated behind Biden’s left shoulder, won’t of course be standing or clapping during the speech, as his Democratic predecessor did last year. Vice President Kamala Harris, to McCarthy’s right, will be ovationing solo.
Nor, pledges a solemn McCarthy, will he be tearing up a copy of the president’s speech, as Pelosi so famously did in 2020.
Yet McCarthy’s mere presence in the speaker’s spot behind the president tonight is a stark and shameful reminder of how we, as a country, have moved on from Jan. 6. From the insurrection. From the coup attempt.
Lest we forget, McCarthy was one of 147 Republican lawmakers to vote to overturn the 2020 election after the armed attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Biden won’t just be looking out on a sea of MAGA “election deniers” in the audience in front of him tonight — he’ll have one right behind him.
So should the president call out these Republican opponents of democracy? These advocates of “semi-fascism,” whom he denounced in a speech back in August? Will he even use the same phrase again tonight? It’s pretty unlikely. But should he? Yes, undoubtedly.
The threat to our democracy hasn’t faded — and, ideally, would be front and center in every speech the president gives, including tonight’s prime-time address to Congress.
The sad truth is that the State of the Union, in terms of the resilience of our democracy, isn’t strong. And one of the main reasons for that will be sitting right behind Biden tonight.
What will the ‘return to normal’ SOTU look and feel like?
Gone are the Covid precautions for the House floor that were instituted in 2020. So, too, are the magnetometers, erected at the entrance to the floor in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Their absence will make this the first State of the Union to return to “normal,” a symbolic reclamation of an era free from two of the biggest existential threats this country has seen in modern history (even as reality might be quite different now).
So it will be interesting to see what the feeling in the room is, as Biden is sure to attempt to embody this so-called return to normalcy and security. How or to what extent will his audience embrace or reject the symbolic return?
Covid conspiracist Marjorie Taylor Greene tapped to investigate pandemicJan. 26, 202307:56
Pelosi's guest is Capitol Police officer injured on Jan. 6
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who attended last year's State of the Union address as House speaker, invited former U.S. Capitol Police officer Sgt. Aquilino Gonell as her guest tonight. He resigned from the police force last year, citing the Capitol riot as his reason for doing so.
“I’m not leaving because of my own accord but because they did that to me, the mob, and the people who support the former president," he told CNN at the time.
The question on everyone's mind: What color tie will Biden wear?
A new way to tax the extremely rich
Joe Biden is expected to revive his advocacy for his plan to come up with a new way to tax extremely wealthy individuals. It’s both good policy and good politics.
While it’s unclear if Biden’s “billionaire minimum tax” plan will look different from the one he rolled out last year, it’s likely to overlap with it. Under the previous plan, individuals with net assets exceeding $100 million would have their income redefined so that they pay a significant tax on the rise in value of their assets, which they usually don’t have to pay until they’re sold. The plan would generate more than $350 billion in revenue over 10 years, according to the White House.
Is this likely to become legislation in the next two years? No. But it’s important from a populist messaging standpoint, and it’s a possible preview of Biden’s policy priorities as he gears up for a likely re-election campaign.
Rep. Katie Porter explains Biden's billionaire taxMarch 29, 202208:02
State of the Union speeches are the worst — but they do matter
Ask any speechwriter who has ever spent hundreds of hours crafting a State of the Union address, and they will tell you it is one of the worst speeches a president gives during the year.
The pressure to include a laundry list of accomplishments and policy proposals while clearly (but subtly) contrasting the president’s agenda with the agenda of the opposing political party can be a true wordsmithing challenge.
So is there even a point to this tradition?
Yes. Because despite the State of the Union’s flaws, it remains the best chance any president has to tell the American people en masse what he has been working on and what he wants to do moving forward. It is also an opportunity to reset the conversation, the narrative and the focus of the public.
Read more here:
Biden’s ‘Buyback Better’ plan is great — but going nowhere
One concrete proposal from Biden that should get more traction than it will is his call for quadrupling the tax on corporate stock buybacks. Rather than investing in their company’s infrastructure, or raising workers’ pay and benefits, giant corporations too often use their profits to purchase shares that it had previously issued, reducing the number of shares available and making it so those still out there have a higher stake in the company’s ownership.
That’s great news for shareholders but means that the company’s success is very concentrated instead of spread out among labor. Last year, Congress passed a 1% tax on buybacks over $1 million, but that hasn’t managed to make a substantial dent in the practice, leaving Biden’s request that it be bumped up to 4%.
But the only reason that tax passed in the first place was a concession to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., that added the proposal — already cut down from 2% — and dropped a move she opposed that would have closed the “carried interest” loophole. And with Republicans still pretending to be allergic to taxing rich people, there’s almost no chance that there’s room for this (very good) idea to actually become law.
A rarely discussed inflation driver: corporate profitsDec. 11, 202206:15
Biden's focus should be on finishing the job, not just his wins
Once formally known as the “Annual Message," President Biden tonight continues the tradition of delivery to Congress and the nation, the State of the Union.
Despite recent polling and continual slams by MAGA Republicans, expect the president to declare the state of our union is strong. And it is. To a point. And that’s the point I’ll be looking to see if the president conveys to his fellow citizens. How does Biden connect to the way people perceive our democracy and culture, for example, or connect them to the strength of the economy and our role in the world?
Not to blow tonight’s speech out of proportion (I’ve always been an advocate for just mailing a copy to the Congress and calling it a day), but what does “Joe from Scranton” have to say to blue collar workers who still feel invisible and outside of the nation’s progress? From fentanyl to insulin to manufacturing, President Biden should do more than talk about what he’s done, but how he intends to finish the job.
A (very brief) response to the GOP’s State of the Union response
There’s not much to really say about Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ response that can’t be summed up in a few words or, in a more visually appealing format, a moving picture that also expresses those words:
Sarah Huckabee Sanders responds to speech she hasn't heard yet
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sent out some of the excerpts ahead of Sarah Huckabee Sanders' response to the State of the Union. She hasn't even heard Biden's speech, but of course she's already fired up over ... flags and false idols?
"In the radical left’s America, Washington taxes you and lights your hard-earned money on fire, but you get crushed with high gas prices, empty grocery shelves, and our children are taught to hate one another on account of their race, but not to love one another or our great country," Sanders will say.
She will later add: "Every day, we are told that we must partake in their rituals, salute their flags, and worship their false idols … all while big government colludes with Big Tech to strip away the most American thing there is — your freedom of speech."
Sarah Huckabee Sanders rides lies, Trump coattails to SOTU response
The State of the Union response is one of the toughest roles in politics. Many a promising politician has stumbled trying to follow the president speaking to a packed house. Sarah Huckabee Sanders could be the next to join that list.
Arkansas’s new governor, who recently made national headlines for banning “Latinx” from official state documents for being “ethnically insensitive and pejorative,” will give the English-language Republican response (Arizona Rep. Juan Ciscomani will give the Spanish-language counterpart.) It’s Sanders’ most prominent turn in the spotlight since her two-year stint as Trump’s press secretary. Lowlights from that tenure include being called out in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report for lying, mocking Biden’s stutter and defending Trump’s family separation policy as “very biblical.”
MAGA … en Español
How’s your Spanish?
If you’re in need of a little brush-up, Rep. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona will be delivering tonight’s Republican response in Spanish.
A few facts on Ciscomani. He spent several years as a senior adviser to former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, and he narrowly won election to Congress last year in Arizona’s 6th District, which was redrawn ahead of the midterms to be more favorable to Republicans.
Ciscomani, whose family immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when he was a child, is a staunch supporter of restrictive immigration measures such as Title 42, a Covid-era anti-immigration policy devised by former Trump adviser Stephen Miller. Ciscomani embodies the Republican Party’s effort to appeal to Latino voters using a decidedly anti-immigrant message. Read about Ciscomani’s role in that effort here.
Policy used to expel migrants could end in MayFeb. 6, 202303:16
Biden wants House Republicans isolated from Senate counterparts
Biden has been reaching out a hand to GOP moderates since his 2020 presidential campaign, often to little reward. Tonight’s speech is no different, according to an excerpt released by the White House:
“To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress.”
That’s … technically true, I suppose. There were more bipartisan bills than expected passed last year, but that’s mostly due to Senate Republicans — wary of provoking reform to the filibuster — coming to the table for compromise bills on matters like same-sex marriage and gun control. House Republicans, on the other hand, almost universally rejected those bills, with only a few dozen defector joining Democrats at most. And ahead of passage of last year’s omnibus spending bill, House conservatives made clear that they’re willing to block their Senate counterparts’ priorities.
Biden, in showing a willingness to work with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, clearly hopes to exploit that wedge in hopes of containing the House’s intransigence.
Biden signs marriage equality bill, says ‘antidote to hate is love’Dec. 13, 202202:43
Biden’s big message: Can you believe how messed up things were two years ago?
According to an excerpt released ahead of tonight’s speech, Biden will tell America to look how far we’ve come since he was first sworn in:
Two years ago our economy was reeling. As I stand here tonight, we have created a record 12 million new jobs — more jobs created in two years than any president has ever created in four years. Two years ago, COVID had shut down our businesses, closed our schools, and robbed us of so much. Today, COVID no longer controls our lives. And two years ago, our democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War. Today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken.
There are definitely areas to quibble with his framing (“our” in particular is doing a lot of work in the bit about how Covid “no longer controls our lives”) but broadly speaking? Yeah, there’s a lot of improvement on the macro-level. The struggle Biden faces is convincing enough Americans that this is the case on the micro-level.
How presidents prepare to deliver the State of the Union
The New York Times this weekend reported on how Biden is preparing for tonight’s speech, providing a wealth of details on how the president works to manage his stutter ahead of a major address.
Among them: He’s “marked up his speech with subtle lines and dashes that he has long used as a signal to take a breath, pause between his words or steer through a tricky transition.” Those marks aren’t present in the first couple of lines of the speech that the White House posted on Twitter, but, to be fair, they are pretty short:
What really caught my eye, though, is a paragraph that showed just how widely the drafting process has varied among Biden’s predecessors:
President Ronald Reagan made “hash marks” to divide his speeches into 30-second chunks. President George W. Bush, who was not known as a strong public speaker, practiced with small notecards and underlined words for emphasis. President Barack Obama worked with writers — including one he had christened with a lofty nickname, “Hemingway” — and then rewrote the entire speech in his own hand. President Donald J. Trump claimed that he wrote all of his speeches (he did not) and then scribbled edits with a Sharpie.
Each of those president’s final drafts should (in theory) be with the National Archives, handwritten notes and all, and would probably make for a great book someday.
Why this lawmaker invited Tyre Nichols' parents to SOTU
Two of the most prominent guests at tonight’s address are RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the parents of Tyre Nichols, the man fatally beaten by Memphis police officers last month. The parents were invited to the speech by Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. He shared his reasoning for the invite with MSNBC:
In the wake of the release of the horrifying video footage of Tyre Nichols’ beating, I spoke with his parents RowVaughn and Rodney Wells. After hearing about their heartache and what they want the Congressional Black Caucus and Congress as a whole to do, I knew they had to come to Washington. I was moved in the moment to extend an invitation to his parents to join the CBC as our guests for the President’s State of the Union.
They will hear firsthand what President Biden sees as important issues facing Americans. It is my hope that the President will make public safety reform one of his top priorities. As I have said before, we need solutions for bad policing that exist regardless of what part of the country you live in. Being in the room for the State of the Union is an experience that I hope will give Tyre Nichols’ parents some comfort and most of all hope. They deserve to hear a commitment to real action on ending this national scourge of unnecessary deaths at the hands of law enforcement. On their behalf, I want to engage with my colleagues and the advocates to align our priorities. Together we will address this pandemic of police brutality against our communities.
The video of Nichols’ beating provided more vivid proof of the dangerous culture that causes bad policing. We must act swiftly and purposefully to root out that culture and build back trust for the community. The Congressional Black Caucus and I will ensure that we are heard. We want everyone to feel safe walking home from school or work, driving to the store, and playing at the park. We all want safer communities for all Americans.
So where does everyone sit? Here’s a handy chart.
McCarthy tries to rewrite history ahead of Biden’s speech
Busted: GOP plots controversial cuts as McCarthy testedFeb. 7, 202306:46
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy delivered what was basically a “pre-buttal” of the State of the Union on Monday night, seeking to frame Republicans as the stewards of fiscal sanity in a world of debt run amok. Of course, the only way the California Republican could do so with a straight face was to pretend that Republicans had somehow been absent entirely from Congress over the past six years.
The majority of his speech focused on blaming the size of the national debt on the Biden administration’s spending. That’s a wild thing to suggest for someone whose party voted for the deficit-maxing Trump tax cuts and refused to cut spending when it controlled Congress and the White House. Meanwhile, as The Washington Post’s Tony Romm noted on Twitter, “all but one of the Covid aid packages were bipartisan.”
McCarthy also suggested that “debt limit debates have been used for nearly every successful attempt to reform federal spending in living history,” seemingly forgetting that the last time the budget was balanced, back in 1998, had nothing to do with the debt ceiling. It’s also worth noting that the so-called sequestration agreement in the Obama years basically achieved nothing as far as shrinking the annual deficit, especially after the aforementioned tax cuts.
Lauren Boebert appears to troll Marjorie Taylor Greene over balloon stunt
Rep. Lauren Boebert appeared to take a dig at her ex-pal Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green over her State of the Union balloon stunt. She wasn't the only one.
Why Biden’s poll numbers compel him to tout his record
Friday’s incredible jobs report gave President Biden the numbers he wanted going into tonight, but another set of numbers remains stubbornly negative for the president: the polls. As of today, Biden’s approval rating sits at 43.2%in FiveThirtyEight’s polling average. (The most recent NBC News poll puts Biden only slightly higher, at 45%.) That’s an improvement from last summer, when the president’s average dropped below 38%, but not exactly confidence-inspiring for the president’s supporters.
Speaking of those supporters, Democrats are seemingly unenthused about the prospect of another Biden term. A new Washington Post-ABC poll finds 58% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents want someone other than Biden as their 2024 nominee, and more than 62% of all respondents say they’d be “dissatisfied” or “angry” if Biden is re-elected. (The poll also gives Trump a 48-45 percent lead in a rematch of the 2020 election, though that gap is within the survey’s margin of error.)
Now, let’s be clear: It’s a long way to Election Day 2024. And Biden’s approval rating was similarly low ahead of last year’s State of the Union, before he had one of the best midterm election cycles of an incumbent president in the last 100 years. But with unemployment and inflation down, what gives?
The Post-ABC poll offers a clue: 62% of Americans say Biden has accomplished “not very much” or “little or nothing” as president. There are multiple reasons for this: Biden’s own errors, yes, but also too many media outlets overly eager to cover the president negatively to burnish “both sides” bona fides, Democratic moderates and congressional leaders bungling various bills and opportunities and a political system that is incapable of dealing with grand crises like declining life expectancy. But when you hear Biden review and tout his record tonight, those polls are the reason. The more credit he gets with voters, the more likely four years become eight.
Biden's allies are setting the bar too low
In a preview of what viewers can expect from Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address as president, The New York Times set a low bar for success.
The president will seek to establish a “mature contrast” between himself and “squabbling, angry” congressional Republicans. But ensuring the public sees “mature” rather than decidedly overripe is a challenge. “To that end,” the dispatch continues, citing the advice of former presidential speechwriters, Biden’s team must take care that “sentences are not too long and do not include words he may stumble over.” Among them, “Ukrainian,” which Biden misread as “Iranian,” and “Delaware,” which the president mistook for “America.”
Setting the expectations’ game this low won’t do anymore. Biden beat the odds in his first midterm election. He is presiding over an economy with a white-hot job market and, somehow, persistently high inflation — both of which seem immune to the Federal Reserve’s machinations. Challenges abroad are proliferating — one of them loomed large over the skies of the continental U.S. this weekend — and America’s commitments to them are deepening.
Biden’s allies have retailed the notion that the president is riding high on a string of successes, all of which he engineered. The president’s competency is self-evident, they insist. Assuming Americans agree with that assessment, they’re not going to grade the president on a curve.
Will Biden stick to his ‘fund the police’ rhetoric?
Journalist April Ryan tweeted a list of members of the Congressional Black Caucus whose guests for tonight’s speech have had loved ones killed by the police. The invitees include relatives of Tyre Nichols, who was killed in Memphis; Michael Brown, who was killed near St. Louis; Eric Garner, who was killed in New York; and George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis.
It’s not at all the case that all victims of police brutality have been represented by members of the Black Caucus; nor is it the case that they’ve all been represented by Democrats. It is the case, though, that the Democratic Party is the party that has been the most vocal about naming police brutality as a scourge.
But President Joe Biden — to distance himself from street-level activists and to make himself more palatable to voters with high opinions of police — has argued that we shouldn’t “defund the police” but instead “fund the police.” Which, as a political argument, is no different from arguing that we don’t spend enough on our military.
Is Biden going to stick to that “fund the police” rhetoric tonight in the presence of people who know that it wasn’t a lack of funds that caused them agony? This is, admittedly, a tough spot to be in for Democrats. People who have little fear of police are turned off by “defund the police” arguments. But eliminating (or even cutting down) lawless and often deadly police aggression is never going to be solved by giving police departments more money.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren praises 'rock star' SOTU guest, Dr. Tammy Ma
What will this year’s SOTU bring for the Supreme Court?
Supreme Court justices have had an awkward history at State of the Union addresses — and understandably so. It’s an event full of standing up and clapping — or sitting down and not clapping — in response to a president’s purported accomplishments.
The justices are supposed to be operating outside of all of that, not that anyone believes that these days (if we ever did).
Chief Justice John Roberts has called the event a “political pep rally” and openly admitted, “I’m not sure why we’re there.” Nonetheless, a handful of justices, not always the same group, have made efforts to sit through the political affair. Five of the nine justices attended last year: Roberts, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Stephen Breyer, who retired last summer.
Presidential speeches didn’t always keep the attention of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was known to nod off on occasion, even admitting after the fact that she “wasn’t 100 percent sober” at the Capitol.
But things have gotten more heated in response to the overtly political atmosphere. In 2010, then-President Barack Obama criticized the Citizens United ruling that helped inject more money into politics, and Obama’s description of the case prompted Justice Samuel Alito to infamously mouth, “Not true.”
Speaking of Alito, will Biden bring up the Alito-authored decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overruled Roe v. Wade last summer? Or the ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen that expanded Second Amendment gun rights outside the home, leading to a recent appeals court decision that could put more guns in the hands of domestic abusers? Even if Biden doesn’t bring up those cases directly, it would be surprising if he doesn’t bring up abortion or guns more generally, issues that will no doubt come before the justices again and again.
So which combination of justices will attend this year? Perhaps the newest member of the court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, will be there with some colleagues. Supreme Court justices can be a president’s most important legacy, so Biden may tout his historic appointment of the court’s first Black woman. And though she’s been smashing the right-wing claims of her Republican appointed colleagues, even they might have to stand and clap for that.
‘The state of our economy is strong,’ Biden says in SOTU preview
Late last week, Biden used a strong jobs report to effectively give a preview of one of tonight’s main themes.
“Today, I’m happy to report that the state of the union and the state of our economy is strong,” the president said Friday at the White House.
An economic focus could find a receptive audience across the country: According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 75% of Americans say strengthening the economy should be the top policy priority for Biden and Congress in 2023.
Marjorie Taylor Greene apparently wants to bring ... a balloon
Speaking of the Chinese balloon:
China balloon sure to cast a shadow over tonight's speech
The drama of the Chinese balloon over the past week is going to make China an unwelcome intruder in Biden’s State of the Union. The sensitive and murky nature of the United States’ relationship with China complicates the tidy narrative of success the administration is sure to have planned for the night as Biden will be compelled to enter into a political minefield.
Republicans have capitalized on this incident, accusing Biden of being soft on China due to his decision to delay shooting down the balloon until it was over water, so as to minimize the likelihood of civilian injury and death or property damage. Never mind that “similar Chinese balloons transited the continental United States briefly at least three times” during Trump’s tenure, as The Associated Press reports — or that the Trump administration reportedly didn’t even know about them.
The president will be forced into a complicated dance of assuming hawkishness for jingoistic and skeptical Americans (especially as he is all but certainly positioning himself for another White House run) while not antagonizing one of the world’s superpowers too much. And the implications range from foreign policy to the economy, particularly as markets around the world are jittery, making the subject all the more precarious.
One thing is sure: Democrats and Republicans are finding bipartisan agreement in toughening the U.S. stance against China. The timing of the balloon, right before Biden addresses the nation, is interesting as it demands urgency in hardening relations — in effect allowing U.S. policy and national discourse to be shaped more by its adversary than Biden’s anticipated hawkish rhetoric would have us believe.
Biden must channel Scranton Joe tonight
Tonight is about Joe Biden speaking to the people in the country who feel invisible, who feel their voice doesn’t matter and isn’t heard by anyone in Washington — whether on economic inequality, police reform or fundamental rights.
If he can show the Scranton Joe Biden who does more storytelling than data listing, it won’t matter how much heckling there is in the room, because he will have reached the most important audience for the speech — not Marjorie Taylor Greene, but the people who actually want to know what government is doing for them and whether it can actually work.
Psaki: People saw ‘government working’ at Biden & McConnell eventJan. 5, 202306:52
Biden and his allies will embark on a post-speech blitz
In the days ahead, Biden won’t exactly be disappearing from your TV.
On Wednesday, the president will travel to Madison, Wisconsin, to talk about jobs, while Vice President Kamala Harris will be in Atlanta to tout clean energy. On Thursday, Biden will head to Florida to talk in Tampa about his plans for Social Security, Medicare and health care costs.
By the end of the post-speech blitz, Biden, Harris and members of the Cabinet will have visited 20 states, according to NBC News.
Republicans’ despicable pregame plans
Republicans chose a despicable — albeit predictable — way to “pregame” for tonight’s State of the Union: fearmongering about foreigners.
As anticipated, House Republicans held multiple hearings today exclusively focused on the supposed dangers migrants and China pose to the United States. The Armed Services Committee and the Financial Services Committee both held hearings on the threats their Republican leaders claim China poses to the U.S., while the Oversight and Accountability Committee held a hearing on “Biden’s border crisis.”
Nothing like a little hair-on-fire alarmism to set the mood. Read more here:
What we know about tonight's address so far
President Joe Biden is slated to deliver his second State of the Union address tonight at 9 p.m. ET in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol.
You can watch MSNBC's live coverage of the speech in this live blog beginning at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream of the speech will follow.
Here's some of what we're expecting from Biden's speech: He'll likely tout his economic record, including historic job growth under his administration, as he readies a potential 2024 re-election campaign. He will likely discuss the need for gun reform and police reform following recent mass shootings in California and the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, respectively.