Friday Talking Points -- Biden's First Campaign Speech

[ Posted Friday, January 5th, 2024 – 18:15 UTC ]

Happy new year, everyone! It is indeed a brand new year, and an election year to boot. The presidential election isn't some faraway thing anymore, as the Republican Iowa caucuses are now less than two weeks away. Then it'll be on to New Hampshire and South Carolina and eventually Super Tuesday, which is quite likely the point where Donald Trump will have functionally wrapped up the GOP nomination.

Today is also the day before January 6th, and President Joe Biden marked the occasion by giving the first political speech of his re-election campaign, at a community college a few miles away from Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Biden had initially planned on appearing tomorrow -- on the attempted insurrection's third anniversary -- but had to reschedule at the last minute due to the possibility of a heavy snowstorm hitting the area. Which is kind of an ironic thing to happen, for a speech near Valley Forge, you've got to admit.

Biden's speech today was markedly different than his usual presidential remarks. He hit the campaign trail at full speed, absolutely denouncing Donald Trump and everything he stands for. He excoriated Trump for the insurrection, for his approval of political violence, for his support of the insurrectionists, for the dictatorship Trump is promising in his second term, for not standing up for democracy, and for a whole bunch of other things as well.

Biden spoke for just over a half an hour, and invoked George Washington (naturally, being so close to Valley Forge) and his selflessness in voluntarily giving up power after the Revolutionary War was over, and then for doing so again after serving two terms as president. He cited Washington calling the fight for democracy a "sacred cause."

Biden at one point (while ripping into Trump for laughing at the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi) Biden actually had to bite back what he was going to say, calling Trump: "What a sick..." before stopping (assumably his next word would have been "bastard," but that's just pure speculation on our part, we have to admit) and instead, after a pause (and applause from the crowd) settling on "guy." But we're going to excerpt his speech down in the talking points, so we'll instead move on to take a look ahead to the new year's political calendar. (We should mention that the Washington Post helpfully provided an extensive month-by-month roundup of the 2024 political calendar, for those interested in looking beyond just January.)

While it is good to see Joe Biden kicking off his re-election campaign in such forceful style, this January is going to be a month full of other political events that will soon grab everyone's attention.

Next week, Congress returns and will immediately face its first self-imposed budget deadline on the 19th. House Republicans are already champing at the bit to shut the government down in an attempt to force changes in border and immigration policies, so we'll have to see how the new speaker handles it all. Negotiations in the Senate haven't produced any deal on the border yet, but hope springs eternal, at least for some.

Also next week, Nikki Haley will debate Ron DeSantis one-on-one on CNN, and days later the Iowa caucuses will be held. The two are fighting it out to see who can come in second to Trump, most likely both in Iowa and in New Hampshire. They'll have another CNN debate on the 21st, just before the New Hampshire primary is held. The good news? Vivek Ramaswamy won't be there for either one.

Haley is still trying to overcome a rather major gaffe: forgetting to mention slavery as a cause of the Civil War. Last night, during Haley's solo town hall, she may have made the problem worse, with an answer that made a whole lot of people cringe: "You know, I had Black friends growing up." Ouch. Haley is well-versed in nebulous answers about the Confederacy and the Civil War, being a South Carolina politician, but she hasn't realized yet that the rest of the country doesn't really appreciate what the folks back in Haley's home expect when speaking about racism.

Both Haley and DeSantis explicitly said they'd pardon Trump if elected, which isn't exactly surprising and probably won't do them any harm with the GOP electorate in the primaries.

Donald Trump is more concerned with his legal appointments than primaries, at this point. The closing arguments in the New York fraud trial (that could dismantle his business empire in the Empire State) are scheduled for the 11th. On the 16th, the second E. Jean Carroll defamation trial against Trump is scheduled to begin. In both of these trials, Trump has already lost -- they're just to decide what penalties he will be forced to pay.

All eyes are currently on the Supreme Court, who will have two major decisions to make in relation to the presidential campaign. They've been asked to rule on states' ability to bar Donald Trump from primary ballots (based on his engaging in an insurrection and the text of the Fourteenth Amendment) and will be asked soon to weigh in on whether Trump has some sort of sweeping legal immunity for everything he ever did while he was president.

That last Trump argument, HuffPost helpfully pointed out, would lead to alarming consequences, if the Supreme Court upholds it. They ran a headline that sums the point up nicely: "Biden Could Kill Donald Trump And Not Be Prosecuted, Under Trump's Own Legal Theory." The Supreme Court won't actually address this question until after the appellate court rules on it, but they're scheduled to take the case up next week, on an expedited "rocket docket" timeline, so this won't delay things all that much.

One of Trump's lawyers just stuck her foot in her mouth, essentially stating that Justice Kavanaugh (whom I still prefer to call "Justice Fratboy") owes full loyalty to Trump, for nominating him to the high court, and so he should of course rule for Trump, in humble thanks. Democrats, meanwhile, are calling for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from the case, since his wife was actually part of the group that organized the January 6th rally, but nobody really expects Thomas to adhere to the court's (completely voluntary) new code of ethics. It would be out of character for him to do so, obviously.

In Congress, the budget battle won't be the only contentious thing going on, as the House Republicans seem ready to tee up a vote on articles of impeachment against Joe Biden. They still haven't come up with a scintilla of any evidence of actual wrongdoing by Biden, but that certainly isn't going to stop them. This effort was undercut by a brilliant move from the Democrats on the same committee, who just released their own report on the $7.8 million that Donald Trump's businesses received from foreign governments (most of it from China) while he was in office. This is an embarrassing reality that neither the Republicans nor the media have ever adequately addressed: all the things they truly want to charge Joe Biden with doing -- for which they have zero evidence -- were all done in a big, big way by Donald Trump and his own family. A real inconvenient truth, that.

Abortion rights may be on the ballot in Florida in November, but the bar's going to be pretty high to win. First, the ballot measure will be challenged to the state supreme court, who could rule that it was "confusing" and therefore couldn't appear on the ballot. The court is packed with ultraconservative justices, so this could easily happen. Even if they do allow it on the ballot, the measure would have to get 60 percent of the vote to win -- which is a bar that other states which have successfully voted for abortion rights have not hit. So it's not exactly a slam-dunk or anything, but it was good to hear that they've at least collected enough signatures to move the process forward.

There is good news for the lowest-paid workers in 22 states, as a higher minimum wage kicks in (some of which have risen to above $16 an hour). That's a pretty good "happy new year" present that millions of workers will see in their first paychecks of the year.

One rather disconcerting thing happened this week -- bomb threats were delivered to multiple state capitols, and then it happened again the next day as well. Some are speculating that this is a disruptive attack by foreign actors, so we'll have to see how this story develops.

That's about it for the week's news, other than noting that Mickey Mouse (the original "Steamboat Willie" version) is now in the public domain, so if you've been itching to use his character in original works you may now do so without worrying about the copyright. Also on the list of things which are now in the public domain: Tigger (from "Winnie The Pooh") and the book Lady Chatterley's Lover. You're now free to make of them what you will, too.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We have to give this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to Representative Jamie Raskin and all the other Democrats on the House Oversight Committee. They are the ones who fought to present their findings about Trump profiting directly from foreign governments to the tune of almost $8 million while he was in office.

We have been hammering Democrats for months now to bring up Trump and his family every chance they get, while the House Republicans are going down their "Impeach Hunter Biden!" rabbit hole. What was sorely needed here was a healthy dose of "whataboutism" -- "What about Jared and Ivanka? What about Trump and the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution?"

This report provides the rhetorical ammunition to do precisely this, and it was provided at precisely the right time: right before the impeachment follies come to a crescendo. Their timing really couldn't have been better.

So for working to pry the actual data loose and for following through and for presenting their evidence exactly when it would carry the most weight, Raskin and the House Oversight Committee's Democrats all deserve the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Congratulate Jamie Raskin (and by extension, the others) on his House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Senator Bob Menendez apparently wasn't just doing the bidding of Egypt while chairing a committee on foreign relations, he was also helping out his buddies in Qatar. So says the most recent filing in the federal case against him, at any rate.

His trial is scheduled for May. We still hold out hope that he'll do the right thing and either step down now or at the very least announce he won't be running for re-election, but neither of those things have happened yet. For now, we'll just hand him another Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

[Contact Senator Bob Menendez on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 734 (1/5/24)

Because President Joe Biden gave his first campaign speech today, we decided to just pre-empt all our talking points to run a few choice excerpts from his speech instead. [Editor's Note: We should note that we relied on a snap transcript provided by C-SPAN, which was no more than an unedited version of the closed captioning during the speech. Because it had errors, we corrected the obvious ones, so what follows might not be word-for-word exactly what Biden said (we didn't have time to double-check it by watching the video of the speech again, sorry), but it should be close enough to clearly convey his meaning. We also added a few italics to show when Biden spoke with extra emphasis.]

On the whole, it was a pretty good speech. At times it was forceful, as Biden showed emotion when talking about the sacred cause of America democracy. He was also animated when excoriating Trump as well, which Biden did a fair bit of while speaking. He led into his remarks with a few quotes from General George Washington, who called the mission of his army "a sacred cause." This was the main theme of Biden's speech throughout. He began by shifting to talking about the present and his own campaign:

Today we gather in a new year, some 246 years later, just one day before January 6th -- a day forever seared in our memory because that day we nearly lost America, lost it all. Today we are here to answer the most important of questions: Is democracy still America's sacred cause?... Whether democracy is still America's sacred cause is the most urgent question of our time, and what the 2024 election is all about. The choice is clear. Donald Trump's campaign is about him; not America, not you.

Biden then reminded everyone of what happened on January 6th, in brutal detail:

Our campaign is about preserving and strengthening our American democracy. Tomorrow, three years ago, we saw with our own eyes the violent mob stormed the United States Capitol. It was almost in disbelief when you first turned on the television. For our first time in history, insurrectionists had come to stop the peaceful transfer of power in America. First time -- smashing windows, shattering doors, attacking the police. Outside, gallows were erected as the MAGA crowd chanted: "Hang Mike Pence!" Inside, they hunted for Speaker Pelosi. They marched through and they smashed windows chanting: "Where's Nancy?"

Biden's disgust and anger at Trump showed through next, as he castigated him for doing nothing while the Capitol was under attack:

We attended the funeral for police officers who died as a result of that day. Because of Donald Trump's lies, they died because these lies brought a mob to Washington. He promised it would be wild, and it was. He told them to fight. He told them that everything they did, he would be beside them -- then, as usual, he left the dirty work to others and retreated to the White House. As America was attacked from within, Donald Trump watched on TV.... The nation watched in horror, the world watched in disbelief, and Trump did nothing. Members of his family, Republican leaders who were under attack at that very moment pled with him to act, call off the mob.... Still, Trump did nothing. It was among the worst derelictions of duty of an American president in history, an attempt to overturn a free and fair election by force and violence.

Then he put it in personal terms that Trump can understand (and will no doubt hate):

Let's be clear about the 2020 election. Trump exhausted every legal avenue available to him to overturn the election, every one. The legal path just took Trump back to the truth: that I had won the election and that he was a loser.

Biden ripped into Trump's revisionism on what happened that day at length, which was followed by a very important point that all Democrats should really be making a lot more forcefully, whenever they get the chance:

We knew the truth because we saw it with our own eyes. It was on television repeatedly. We saw it with our own eyes. Trump's mob was not a peaceful protest. It was a violent assault. They were insurrectionists, not patriots. They were not there to uphold the Constitution, they were there to destroy the Constitution. Trump won't do what an American president must do: he refuses to denounce political violence. So hear me clearly, I will state what Donald Trump will not: political violence is never ever acceptable in the United States political system. Never, never, never. It has no place in a democracy. None.

It was at this point that Biden's obvious disgust with Trump almost leaked through... but he bit his tongue and substituted a more-polite term instead:

Trump and his MAGA political supporters embrace violence, they laugh about it. Trump tells a joke about an intruder taking a hammer to Paul Pelosi's skull while echoing the same words of January 6th: "Where's Nancy?" He thinks that's funny. He laughed about it. What a sick -- [pause] -- guy. I think he is despicable. Seriously, not just as a president, but as a person.

Tell us how you really feel, Joe!

Biden, in winding down his speech, returned to his original theme. This election is about freedom and democracy. That is what is on the ballot. The choice is clear.

The rest of us -- Democrats, Independents, mainstream Republicans -- have to make our choices. I know mine and I believe I know America's. You will give in to the truth, not give into the Big Lie. We will embrace the Constitution, not abandon it. We will honor the sacred cause of democracy, not walk away from it. Today I make this sacred pledge to you: the defense, protection, and preservation of American democracy will remain as it has been, the central cause of my presidency.

. . .

The alternative to democracy is dictatorship -- the rule of one, not of We The People. That is what the soldiers of Valley Forge understood. We have to understand it as well.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


3 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- Biden's First Campaign Speech”

  1. [1] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Re: "Then it'll be on to New Hampshire and South Carolina and eventually Super Tuesday, which is quite likely the point where Donald Trump will have functionally wrapped up the GOP nomination."

    While I can't imagine any of the non-Trump alternatives appealing to the 'base voter' of the GOP, it annoys me to no end that the chattering class spouts this 'wisdom' every 4 years BEFORE THE FIRST PRIMARY!

    Chris, are you another media lemming? Or are you, too, a victim of the mass (media) amnesia of Obama in 2008 and Biden in 2020?

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I really enjoyed that Biden speech. And, he is one hundred percent right about what this election is about. The only thing this election is about. Nothing else matters in comparison.

  3. [3] 
    Kick wrote:


    Then it'll be on to New Hampshire and South Carolina and eventually Super Tuesday, which is quite likely the point where Donald Trump will have functionally wrapped up the GOP nomination.

    Yes, sir, and Donald Trump pushing the state RNCs for rule changes further modifying the primary candidates' allocation of delegates means it might well be over before that. If Nikki Haley cannot win her own home state of South Carolina, there's an early giant honking clue it's basically over.

    It is pathetic to see how the "Grand Old Party" has allowed itself to be castrated by the Big Loser.

Comments for this article are closed.