In his first State of the Union, Biden punches left

In his first State of the Union, Biden punches left. By Mark MacDougald.

Perhaps no-one benefited more from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week than Joe Biden. The president’s approval had been flagging thanks to inflation, pandemic fatigue, and a Carteresque sense of malaise. In one recent poll, a majority of Americans said he lacked the “mental sharpness it takes to serve effectively as president”.

But war is unifying, and no war could be as unifying as Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, which pits America’s traditional geopolitical rival, with its cartoon-villain president, against a band of plucky underdogs …

Biden led his first State of the Union with the war. … He looked, at times, very very old. But the message was the right one: tough talk, but with a guarantee of no new war. …

There was scarcely a mention of the culture war. The president promised jobs, infrastructure, investment. He promised to buy American and lower the costs of prescription drugs. He talked about the mental health toll of the pandemic on children. He promised to beat the opioid epidemic and “end cancer as we know it.”

Notably, on issue after issue, Biden tacked hard to the centre. …

In the biggest applause line of the night, he announced: “The answer is not to defund the police, it’s to fund the police”.

In his first State of the Union, that is, the “most progressive president since FDR” endorsed positions that, for much of the last two years, would have earned the average blue-city professional pariah status at best.

Issues and Insights:

It’s tradition in the State of the Union Address for the president to wrap himself in the flag. But usually it’s our flag.

Yet who can blame our feeble fake president for opening his big speech grasping desperately for the lifeline offered by the bravery of his inspiring Ukrainian counterpart?

After all, the contrast couldn’t be more stark: one rising from punch lines to wartime president, the other slumping from career politician into punch line.

The opposition leader: