Biden Should Address The Nation

[ Posted Tuesday, February 20th, 2024 – 16:52 UTC ]

It is a rare event, but every so often I have to fully agree with a Republican. I was going to write this today anyway, begging for the same thing (for broader reasons), so this definitely caught my eye. Here is Representative Chris Smith from New Jersey, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (which just introduced a foreign aid and border security deal as an alternative to the Senate-passed "foreign-aid-only" bill), advising President Biden to publicly go on offense over Ukraine military aid right now:

I do wish the president would do a major address to the country and say, "This is why," and then lay it out. [My constituents] are not hearing from the White House, they're just hearing about accusations. Where's the rallying cry from the president or the vice president? Or the secretary of Defense or the secretary of State?

When asked whether the death of Alexei Navalny added urgency to the situation, Smith replied:

There's always urgency, but the commander-in-chief has the singular responsibility to articulate exactly why -- not engage in the blame game.

I can't disagree with any of that, personally. Except for that last clause -- Biden should indeed place the blame where it rightfully belongs: on a Republican Party that seems to have forgotten that Russia is not our friend, and that America helps our allies when they need it.

Joe Biden is an old-school politician, as many have pointed out. But he and his team have largely ignored one very old-school political asset of any sitting president: the bully pulpit.

Perhaps the rumors are true that his team is afraid to make him more accessible in fear of him dropping yet another Biden-gaffe. But the proper use of the bully pulpit shouldn't even have that problem, really. Biden should go on television, at the start of primetime, and give a very short (10-15 minute) address to the nation. He could read a statement off prepared remarks and not take questions from the press, which is about as insulated as you can get for a presidential address.

We have reached a perfect juncture of events where such an address could be critical. The Ukrainians are running out of ammo. Russia is making advances on the battlefield. The situation there is dire. Vladimir Putin just proved to the world once again what a murderous thug he truly is.

And yet, Congress is on vacation for two weeks -- two weeks! -- for a holiday many working Americans don't even get as a single paid day off. And foreign aid isn't even the only imperative and pressing business on their plate, since a government shutdown could happen at the start of next month (which is rapidly approaching). They haven't even begun serious negotiations to solve the legislative logjam over the budget, and yet they're all on vacation for two entire weeks. Please remember this when they start complaining -- hours before the government shutdown clock runs out, no doubt -- that "there just hasn't been the time to get it done!" There has been plenty of time to get all this done, they're just blatantly and callously wasting it, that's all.

Biden could point all this out, in a very forceful way. Congress gets even lower approval ratings than he does, so he'd be on pretty solid ground pointing the finger at their inaction. Even if he focused his remarks mostly on the Ukraine aid rather than the looming budget showdown, the point is well worth making: this Congress is indeed the worst "do-nothing" Congress ever. It is far worse than the Congress that Harry Truman initially gave that label to, in fact. They haven't done anything. And there are about to be some very dire consequences for that inaction.

Biden should show his own frustration with this situation, and invite his fellow Americans to be just as outraged. "Get it done!" he could command, and most people would agree with such a sentiment. "Pass the Senate bill or pass the House bill, just for God's sake do it before it is too late!"

The death of Navalny offers a clear message as well: either you stand with a murderous dictator waging a war of conquest in Europe right now, or you stand for freedom and resisting Vladimir Putin trying to rebuild the Russian Empire. All of the sympathizers of Putin in Congress would look just as reckless as they truly are. Biden wouldn't even have to mention Trump's name to remind everyone that the leading Republican presidential candidate is out there encouraging Putin to attack our NATO allies, while Putin feels free to have anyone who opposes him brutally murdered. Instead, Biden should just use a few choice quotes from Ronald Reagan, to remind Republicans of what their party used to stand for. There certainly are plenty of Reagan quotes on the subject to choose from, to state the obvious.

The timing is perfect for such a speech. Congress is not only doing nothing, they're not even pretending to work, off on holiday for two weeks, while we still don't have the budget they were supposed to pass by the start of last October and while brave Ukrainian soldiers are dying in the trenches, overwhelmed by the Russian military machine. And Congress can't even bestir itself to continue supporting them.

This is shameful -- or at the very least, it should be. And the person to make that case is President Joe Biden. It's not a very hard case to make, really, which is why his address to the nation could be quite short, 10 minutes or even less. Stick to the point, don't go off on tangents, and hammer the point home.

Using a primetime White House address to the nation is one of the most powerful tools a sitting president has. And (minus the televised part of the equation) it has been effective all the way back to (at least) Teddy Roosevelt coining the term "bully pulpit." Ukraine is at a very critical and crucial juncture. Putin just proved once again that he's nothing more than a murderous thug. Congress has dithered and is now on an obscenely-long vacation -- while the nation's business remains unfinished.

Make the case, Joe. Do it soon. Channel your inner Teddy Roosevelt.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


20 Comments on “Biden Should Address The Nation”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    All Biden needs to do is channel his own inner self ... the one that I have been missing so ... :)

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, he needs to start outlining a strategy for real Ukrainian security. Because, even if the aid package dying in Congress actually rises up from the near dead, Ukraine's big problem continues to be a shortening supply of soldiers.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Biden wouldn't even have to mention Trump's name to remind everyone that the leading Republican presidential candidate is out there encouraging Putin to attack our NATO allies, while Putin feels free to have anyone who opposes him brutally murdered.

    There is an already worn out saying that anything Trump touches dies.

    And, of course, there is a certain ring of truth to that.

    I think Biden should stop mentioning Trump, altogether, from here to election day. It's just not necessary and it has already gotten old.

    As for an aid package for Ukraine and Israel, I think Biden needs to do a lot more than merely make the case for why the US needs to support both. He needs to have a plan, a strategy for real security in Ukraine and Israel, without which his pleading may very well ring hollow - to Republicans in Congress and to Democratic voters everywhere and everyone else in between. His address needs to be a bit longer than 10 minutes, in other words. :-)

    Where, oh where is the man with the plan when you need him!

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Star-Spangled Man With A Plan

    Actually, a Biden theme song ain't a half bad idea! Who could we get to write it!?

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Okay, so if Biden goes ahead and makes an address to the nation of necessary length, can I get a show of hands from those who will pledge here, before all Weigantians, that they will refrain from any nonsensical talk of how Biden needs to step aside because he's too old to be president?

    Because, as much as I hate to admit it and as much as there may indeed be more cringe worthy moments than is the norm for Biden in his old, younger self ... ahem ... from such an important national address - ad Bidenitum, even - Biden has definitely lost a few steps but none that should prevent him from securing a second term.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Questions, comments, insults!?

    Bring em on ... 'cause I'm feeling kinda frisky. Heh.

    Probably because Chris just wrote a piece about geopolitics! Woo hoo!

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    Many of us forget that the president has the power to call Congress into an emergency session any time he damn well pleases.
    Given the stakes, I would ask him to consider even that measure.

  8. [8] 
    Kick wrote:

    Joe Biden is an old-school politician, as many have pointed out. But he and his team have largely ignored one very old-school political asset of any sitting president: the bully pulpit.

    Did you perchance see Biden's primetime address to the nation on October 19, 2023? He addressed pressing foreign policy issues including Ukraine and Israel, and it lasted about 15 minutes.

    It might be helpful to do another primetime address, but at this stage, what Biden needs to actually accomplish is getting the Speaker of the House to bring the issue to the floor against the wishes of Donald Trump and the Putin wing of the GOP who are against it. If there is anyone out there at this point who doesn't fully understand how Donald Trump is (and always has been) Vladimir Putin's puppet, there is no better time than now to begin paying better attention. Johnson will lose his speakership should he anger the MAGAts, and maybe another primetime speech would go a long way to accomplish moving MAGA Mike to have a conscience, grow a spine and/or some cojones.

    Whatever it takes to make Johnson decide to "do the right thing" rather than assuming the role of Trump's and Putin's useful idiot is definitely priority one, with next up being convincing MAGA Mike and the Putin wing of the Party to not close the government because Trump admittedly wants the U.S. economy to tank.

    Perhaps the rumors are true that his team is afraid to make him more accessible in fear of him dropping yet another Biden-gaffe.

    I don't think they're "afraid" since Biden has basically always been a gaffe machine; they've spent decades learning how to handle that since 1970, and they've been successful so far because Joe Biden has never lost in a general election.

    Also, Biden is actually already scheduled to give quite a lengthy speech at the State of the Union Address on March 7, 2024. This one should be interesting since these things lately have become events where MAGA morons like Empty Greene and Lauren "On Her Way Out" Bobo cannot allow themselves to not scream at the president.

    We are definitely living in interesting times.

  9. [9] 
    Kick wrote:


    Exactly this... whatever it takes.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What a bunch of party poopers there are here. Of course, I already knew that ... :(

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    One of my favourite Biden quotes is "Big nations can't bluff".

    A couple of years ago Biden said there would be the greatest of consequences if Navalny died in a Russian prison.

    Now, he is announcing a 14th round of sanctions directed against Russia ... because the first 13 have worked out so well. ;)

    It seems the only course forward at this point is a MASSIVE military/financial aid package for Ukraine coming from US/NATO - and that will merely be to put Ukraine in the strongest negotiating position possible. Time to face reality.

  13. [13] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    I agree completely about not bluffing, but the solution I suggest is probably not the one you would.

  14. [14] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    If Putin wants the Cold war back, President Biden should give it to him complete with CIA and nukes on the border.

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    If that is your solution, it's not very reality-based.

  16. [16] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Return to cold war IS the reality on the Russian side, and has been for longer than most folks in the West ever realized, myself included. (2012 me owes Mitt Romney an apology.)

    Acknowledging that truth and returning Russian cold warin kind may be the ONLY viable solution.

  17. [17] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    I think the reality based left owes Mitt Romney a big apology on many fronts. Twelve years ago we thought he was behind the curve on so many things, and now it turns out he was reading the sine wave.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Joshua, anyone who was following things could have seen what was coming - Mitt didn't have that market cornered, not by a long shot.

    The reality-based left??

    Is that your new slogan?

  19. [19] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    no, it's CW's slogan. it's my faction.

  20. [20] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    and not that mitt was the only one who knew, but he was right about russia, trump, obama and to some extent corporations, in ways none of his adversaries could equal, president obama included. being right didn't make him popular at the time, but it does make him look a lot better in retrospect.

Comments for this article are closed.