March 2, 2022
At least he didn’t do the Creeper Whisper, but Joe Biden added to his list of weird rhetorical tics with State of the Union finale. Instead of finishing on the traditional “God bless the United States of America,” Biden added this bizarre exhortation as his final words to Congress:
Biden ends with "Go get him" ??? pic.twitter.com/gFFDynJCF4
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) March 2, 2022
At first, it sounded more like “Go get ’em,” which … would still be utterly meaningless. After listening a few times, it sounds pretty clear that Biden said “him.” So who’s “him”? It can’t be Vladimir Putin, since it’s Biden’s task to deal with foreign policy. Maybe it’s his Secret Service body man for the trip back up the aisle?
At any rate, this turned out to be the only unpredictable or indeed even notable part of Biden’s SOTU. It started off well enough with his remarks on Ukraine, expressing the massive bipartisan consensus in the US that we should support Ukrainians and punish the Russians. Even at that, Biden didn’t offer anything remarkable or particularly inspiring; Boris Johnson, for instance, has been more assertive about punishing Russia, and Volodymyr Zelensky has offered far more powerful and inspiring rhetoric over the last few days. Still, Biden at least understood this moment and addressed it competently, wisely leading with it to underscore the importance of the Ukrainian resistance.
As for the rest of the speech, it had precisely the same consistency as almost every other SOTU from every other president. It became a laundry list, one so uninspiring that even Biden’s ally David Axelrod lamented it:
Hard to avoid making a SOTU speech sound like a laundry list. The Tide did not turn tonight.#sotu
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) March 2, 2022
We’ll get to the Tide in a moment, but the most curious part of Biden’s SOTU was the nature of the laundry list. Except for the part about Ukraine, this speech could just as easily have come from his joint session speech a year ago. Biden bragged about his COVID-19 stimulus plan as if it hadn’t catalyzed the massive inflationary wave that presently hammers every American household. Much of his speech attempted to resurrect all of the components of his dead Build Back Better plan, the same one that Biden spent months trying to force past Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema only to keep failing miserably. Biden also demanded that the Senate take up the election-federalizing bills that Chuck Schumer has twice failed to pass in this session, the last time spectacularly flaming out in his effort to take out the filibuster while losing on the bill again. The other projects Biden mentioned in the speech are reruns of his campaign goals, such as the “moon shot on cancer” and other odds and ends from the progressive agenda.
The whole speech (after the Ukraine opening) had an air of disconnection to it, a separation from political reality. This was a stay-the-course speech from a president who’s drowning in disapproval and flailing through legislative failures. Biden had the opportunity to recognize that his administration has run off the rails and offer a reset with a new agenda based on the immediate needs of the American people. Instead, he paid lip service to issues like inflation, crime, and COVID-19 frustration while flogging his dead hobby-horse agenda for the umpteenth time over the past year.
Needless to say, it’s not going to make an impression on a frustrated American electorate. And as CNN reported in its own snap poll, it didn’t:
CNN's instant poll of SOTU viewers, which leans more Democratic, shows 41% had a "very positive" reaction to Biden's SOTU. Down 10% from last year's joint address.
It's "the lowest 'very positive' we've seen in about the last 15 years of instant polling after the SOTU address." pic.twitter.com/vZz1q69Gzs
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) March 2, 2022
David Chalian’s opening point makes this even worse. The typical audience of a SOTU consists mainly of a president’s supporters and masochistic bloggers who should have opted for that late-night colonoscopy … but I digress. Biden didn’t even make the sale among his supporters, scoring the lowest positive ratings in the last 15 years for SOTU speeches in CNN’s snap-poll series. The benchmark on that was George W. Bush’s post-Iraq-insurgency-but-pre-surge SOTU, which also followed Bush’s Hurricane Katrina confidence-crisis collapse.
Biden didn’t do anything to address his own confidence-crisis cascade in this speech. He got reasonably high marks from the sympathetic audience on Ukraine, but fewer than half of them thought Biden had sufficiently answered for inflation (47%) or violent crime (46%), issues that impact Americans every day.
How do you think that the overall electorate feels about Biden and his fellow Democrats on those issues? Especially those likely to vote in this year’s midterms, which will be a lot more Republican than this SOTU viewing audience?
We’ll have more to say on the specifics of the speech during the day, but the overall takeaway is that Biden still doesn’t recognize his political danger — or refuses to do so. Biden still figures he’s the smartest guy in any room and can’t be convinced otherwise. Go get him will not be on the lips of at-risk Democrat incumbents this year when it comes to Biden’s campaign support, needless to say.