Biden Knocks It Out Of The Park

[ Posted Friday, March 8th, 2024 – 17:48 UTC ]

[To begin with, I'd like to apologize to everyone for this not being a "Friday Talking Points" column, but with the "State Of The Union" speech last night there wasn't time to both write a review of it and put together a weekly wrap-up column, so I chose to focus on the speech. "Friday Talking Points" will return next week as usual, never fear.]

President Joe Biden gave his third "State Of The Union" speech last night to a joint session of Congress, and he more than exceeded expectations, in multiple ways. Ol' Joe had a very good night, to put it another way.

Heading into last night's speech there was a lot of what the political world has charmingly decided to call "bedwetting" on the Democratic side. Worries about Biden abounded, as the general election season got underway incredibly early this year. This overlapped with Biden's annual address happening very late on the calendar (January is much more usual), so it was a rare conjunction of events. But as things turned out, it all worked to Biden's advantage. Just when all the Americans who don't pay close attention to politics (which is an enormous majority of them, it is always good to remember) were being faced with the unavoidable fact that the 2024 presidential election is going to be a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, we got a night devoted to the Democrat who is currently president. I have no idea what the viewership numbers will be from last night, but I would bet that more people tuned in than would have if the speech had been given six weeks ago.

As noted, there was a lot of trepidation on the Democratic side leading up to Biden's big speech. Will he appear energetic enough? Will he stumble badly (either verbally or -- even worse -- physically)? Will he appear up to the job for another four years? I must admit, I even engaged in some of this pearl-clutching myself yesterday. A lot was riding on Biden's performance last night for the people who do closely follow politics.

To say Joe Biden "did not disappoint" is a vast understatement. Because Biden absolutely knocked it out of the park. He was not just energetic but downright feisty, from the minute he started speaking through the very end of his speech. He covered the usual bases of a State Of The Union speech from a president attempting to get re-elected, by reviewing his record to date and unveiling his plans for the future (including a second term), but he also took the fight to Trump in a very direct way as well (which wasn't usual at all for such speeches). In fact, it might become known as the "my predecessor" speech, since Biden refused to say Trump's name but kept returning to the contrast between his own presidency and what things would be like in a second Trump term.

Biden's speech was so good it's hard for me to even imagine how it could have been any better. There were zero boring passages, zero major gaffes, and zero lack of energy throughout the entire speech. Biden not only responded to his Republican critics in real time, he revelled in doing so. He absolutely taunted them, at times ("Yeah, you're saying 'no' -- look at the facts. I know you know how to read."). Which is precisely what they richly deserve.

Anyway, let's take a look at the speech first in style then in substance, and then at the end we'll have a few brief remarks over the trainwreck that was the Republican response, just for fun.



Biden was so high-energy last night you could have recharged an electric car just by plugging it into him. Obviously, his aides worked carefully on presenting the proper amount of feistiness to the country, and Biden came through in a big way. One commentator I heard afterwards remarked: "Every line in his speech had an exclamation point after it!" which seems about right.

Biden had to counter the caricature the rightwing media has created of a doddering old man who was barely aware of his surroundings and obviously too weak and muddled to lead our nation. Biden, at times, feeds into this when he speaks, by attempting to be dramatic not by raising his volume but by whispering. This may work in a room with a few dozen people in it, but it definitely wouldn't have with all of Congress watching.

So Biden dialed it up instead. Way up. Way way up. He thundered through his speech. He showed emotion throughout, veering from anger and disgust (at Trump, mostly) to pride and excitement about the future of America. And it all worked beautifully.

After watching that speech, it is now impossible to believe the rightwing caricature of him. He absolutely blew it to smithereens. He was focused, he was engaged, he was adamant, he was forceful, and he was as strong as he's ever been. For over an hour, Biden turned in one of the best speeches he's ever given. It may not have been his usual speaking style, but he made it work in masterful fashion.

It's hard to even come up with any criticisms of Biden's speech, in fact. The only one I noticed while watching is a common problem with all State Of The Union speeches -- at times the transitions from one subject to another were a little jarring. Doing good segues is always hard when your speech is essentially just a laundry list of issues, since that format pretty much guarantees plenty of transitional moments. Biden's jumping from subject to subject seemed occasionally too abrupt or mistimed, but again, this is a normal complaint for any president's State Of The Union speech.

Biden seemed to be enjoying himself throughout the speech, occasionally cracking a joke here and there just to lighten the mood up a bit. Being Joe Biden, he did occasionally stumble in his delivery, mistiming his applause lines or lines where he obviously personally had strong feelings about the issue at hand. This can mostly be chalked up to his lifelong struggle against stuttering, however, and it really wasn't very noticeable at all (it has been much more noticeable in other speeches Biden has delivered, to put it another way). He recycled a lot of his own favorite political slogans during the speech, but he certainly made a strong case for each of them, so again this wasn't really very noticeable.

There were only two moments where Biden's verbal stumblings really stood out, but only one of them might do him any sort of political damage. When speaking about how much cheaper prescription drugs were in other countries, Biden began a list of other cities worldwide where Americans could travel to get their prescriptions filled for "only 40 percent" of what they pay here at home. Biden (whoops!) added "Moscow" to this list, but then recovered by turning it into a joke (saying you probably could get prescription drugs cheaper there) so he defused his own gaffe. The second one came when he was heckled about immigrants and crime, when he used the word "illegal" as a noun, which is supposed to be a verboten thing for any Democrat to do. But as Biden gaffes go, this won't do him much political damage in the long run, that's my guess.

The Kabuki theater of "which side will applaud" was present throughout the night (as usual) and what was notable was that Republicans refused en masse to applaud anything Biden said -- even when he called on everyone to condemn the use of violence in American politics (which should have been a very nonpartisan thing to applaud, but not so much these days). Democrats erupted in plenty of spontaneous chants of "Four more years!" throughout the night, which must have been nice for Biden to hear.

Traditionally, of course, the audience for these presidential addresses showed a certain amount of decorum -- but that of course went out the window a number of years ago. So Biden not only was ready for Republicans to taunt him, he actually goaded them into doing so a number of times. He also worked his own side of the aisle, leading a call-and-response segment during his call to tax wealthy people and corporations more ("Does anyone think the tax code is fair?" which prompted yells of "No!" from Democrats).

The best stylistic thing about Biden's speech was how he laid the blame for various things right where it belonged. He ripped into not just "my predecessor" but also the Republicans in Congress for refusing to pass the border reform bill they had demanded. He ripped into the Supreme Court for overturning Roe v. Wade and promised both them and the Republicans in attendance that they should fear "the power of women" at the voting booth as a direct result of their action.

Overall, this was one of the best speeches I have ever seen Joe Biden give. His forceful delivery, his energy, his enthusiasm for finishing the job and improving America in the future, and his relentlessness in taking the political fight to Donald Trump were all wildly beyond anything I expected to see. Biden allowed his inner "Dark Brandon" to come out in a big way, and I certainly would encourage his re-election team to let this happen as often as possible during the rest of his campaign. He absolutely turned the tables on the caricature the rightwing media had created for him, and by doing so not only reframed his own political image but also introduced a new energy level for his entire 2024 campaign. That's pretty impressive, for just one speech.



Biden had two major things to achieve in last night's speech: reviewing his own record as president and painting a picture of what his second-term agenda would include. He did a fairly good job of both of these, while (surprisingly) also taking the political fight directly to Donald Trump.

Biden didn't mention Trump by name, of course, but he didn't have to. He mostly referred to Trump as "my predecessor" which was functionally the same as explicitly naming Trump. Biden was not shy about drawing a clear contrast between his presidency and Trump's, lighting into him a mere four minutes in, over Trump's Big Lie about the 2020 presidential election and the events of January 6th. He framed the issue in historic terms:

Not since President Lincoln and the Civil War have freedom and democracy been under assault here at home as they are today. What makes our moment rare is that freedom and democracy are under attack, both at home and overseas, at the very same time.

He prefaced this by comparing Ronald Reagan standing up to the "Evil Empire" in his "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech in Berlin with Trump's dangerously callous invitation to Vladimir Putin that Russia could "do whatever the hell they want" militarily, to a NATO ally. Biden then made a pivot to welcoming Sweden into NATO, giving the first shoutout of the night, to Sweden's Prime Minister (who was in attendance). He finished with a direct message to Putin on Ukraine: "We will not walk away. We will not bow down. I will not bow down."

Some on the left were disappointed that Biden didn't actually use the word "abortion," but he certainly did stand strongly for the rights of women to control their bodies nonetheless. "My God," he said at one point -- to both the Supreme Court and Republicans in general -- what other freedoms "would you take away?" Taking the political fight to an opponent is rare in a State Of The Union, but taking the Supreme Court to task is even rarer. Biden promised to sign a bill restoring the rights of Roe v. Wade nationwide, if Congress puts it on his desk.

Biden made the case for how strong the American economy has been under his watch, and reminded people of where things were when he took over. He managed to do this without getting too far into the weeds of economic statistics and indicators, and (as with all of these laundry-list issues) he kept it short and pointed, with the exception of one detour into championing Union rights (with a shoutout to the head of the U.A.W., who saluted Biden with a raised fist from the audience) and touting a car factory in Illinois that reopened under his watch.

Biden waited a full 20 minutes before delivering what has become the obligatory "The state of our union is strong and getting stronger" line. This was the first time while he spoke that I noticed a chant of "Four more years!" breaking out on the Democratic side of the aisle, although it was far from the last time this spontaneously happened.

Biden touted a lot of his accomplishments that polling shows the public isn't even aware of (and certainly doesn't give Biden the proper credit for), which included finally allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with prescription drug corporations. Another of these accomplishments won't take place until next year, but will limit all Americans on Medicare to only paying a total of $2,000 per year on their prescriptions. This could be a real game-changer in a lot of seniors' lives, but seeing as how the implementation of it was delayed (for no apparent reason other than politics), people have yet to experience the change.

There was one amusing moment that few noticed during this segment. Biden lauded the success of Obamacare with the line: "It's still a big deal," which he offered up with a big grin. But few commentators connected the dots with Biden's initial hot-mic moment when President Barack Obama took his victory lap (which included an... um... "effing gerund" that Biden left out last night, of course). Somewhere, Obama himself must have gotten a big laugh out of this, at the very least.

Biden continued his laundry list, hitting a gamut of issues: women's health research, housing, education, college affordability and student loans, etc. But he didn't really get rolling again until he began speaking about taxes. He ripped on Trump for adding more to the federal debt than any other president in history, he did his call-and-response with Democrats, and he strongly called for wealthy individuals and corporations to "pay their fair share." The cameras cut away to Senator Bernie Sanders several times, since Bernie could have written this segment of the speech himself. He called for the minimum corporate tax to rise to 21 percent and also called for a minimum tax on billionaires of 25 percent -- which he said would raise a whopping $500 billion over ten years.

Biden then turned to very small-ball economics, ripping into "shrinkflation" and boasting of his own war on "junk fees" and his new rule for credit card companies to limit late fees to only eight bucks. Biden has made a lot of progress on some of these issues, and few consumers give him credit for it, but it was a bit of a contrast to the bigger issues in his laundry list.

One of the strongest segments of his speech dealt with the border and the cowardly way Republicans retreated from passing their own bill -- which would have provided billions of necessary funds for the Border Patrol and fentanyl detectors and a whole raft of other needs -- after Donald Trump told them not to pass it because he wanted to use it as a campaign issue. It's still an open question whether Biden can fight Trump to at least a draw on the issue after he manipulated Republicans into killing what could have been the strongest GOP immigration legislation of the past two or three decades (if not longer). But Biden made his case last night, so we'll see whether it resonates with the public or not.

On a personal note, I was enthused that Biden actually stood up and took credit for his administration's (still-incomplete) action on rescheduling marijuana in federal drug law. Biden explicitly stated: "No one should be jailed for using marijuana," which is the first time (at least in my memory) any president has said anything remotely favorable on the subject in a State Of The Union address. Biden's rescheduling isn't the end of the road for winding down the federal War On Weed, but it is indeed the most momentous step in that direction any president has ever taken. It was surprising to hear Biden claim credit for doing so, but it was a happy surprise for me.

Biden ended his laundry list by talking about the situation in Gaza, where he did an adequate job (to my ears, at least) of walking the tightrope between supporting Israel in a generic way and supporting the human rights of Palestinians, 30,000 of whom have been killed in the ongoing war. I haven't heard any deeply-disappointed reactions from supporters of Israel or Palestine today, so perhaps he did manage to rhetorically thread this needle.

Biden closed by addressing his own age and the age of his opponent. He correctly pointed out that when he arrived in Washington he was told he was "too young" to be there (he was one of the youngest senators ever elected in American history) while now some are saying he's too old to run for another term. His dismissive campaign slogan for these worries is "It's not how old we are, it's how old are our ideas," which certainly seems like it could work.

Biden finished his speech with a rousing good end, and showed that from start to finish he could make the case for why he is the best choice for the voters in November and why electing "his predecessor" would be a giant step backwards for America. He did so in exemplary fashion, with an incredible amount of energy. And by doing so, he made a whole lot of Democrats a whole lot more optimistic about his chances against Trump this November.


The Republican response

Hoo boy.

The less said about Senator Katie Britt's response to Joe Biden's speech the better, really.

It was that bad.

It was so bad, most of the comments on social media contained the same thought: "I can't wait to see what Saturday Night Live does with that!" The consensus seems to be that Lorne Michaels would do best to get Cecily Strong to appear, which I have to say I cannot disagree with.

Britt spoke from her kitchen, in an attempt to bring suburban women back to the GOP fold. This backfired, since "putting a woman in the kitchen" is not exactly a very modern thing to do, in terms of framing a political speech. Again, the online commentary wondered whether she was actually barefoot or not, which is not exactly the vibe Britt and the Republicans may have been going for.

Britt's delivery was painful to listen to. She had a seriously annoying cadence (emphasizing... one... word... at... a... time), a seriously creepy forced grin on her face (even when discussing rape and murder), and a seriously "lights on, nobody home" look in her eyes.

It really was that awful.

It was so bad that people online were saying Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal were happy to see it -- because now they won't be spoken of as being the "worst ever" at GOP State Of The Union response speeches. Rubio even responded to a reporter this morning: "At least she didn't drink water," which seemed to confirm this.

As for the content of Britt's speech, well, it was just as doom-and-gloom as the past few GOP responses have been. According to Republicans, we all live in an apocalyptic hellscape and the only thing that can possibly save us all is to let Donald Trump have the nuclear codes once again.

Britt had a rather extended (and graphic) story about talking to a woman immigrant who had been trafficked by a cartel and repeatedly raped. Britt wallowed in the details, in fact. What she didn't say was that if that woman landed in Texas and happened to be pregnant as a result of the rape, the Republicans want to force her to carry that rapist's baby to term.

But the biggest irony of all is that the more she excoriated the evilness of the woman's tormentors and rapists, she undermined her main message. After all, if rape is evil (and it surely is, of course), then why should anyone vote for a candidate who has been adjudged to be a rapist in a court of law (and is on the hook for almost $100 million to the woman he raped and then later defamed)? How does that make the slightest bit of sense?

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


33 Comments on “Biden Knocks It Out Of The Park”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Heading into last night's speech there was a lot of what the political world has charmingly decided to call "bedwetting" on the Democratic side.

    And, for all the wrong reasons.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    For some reason, I usually don't watch a big Biden speech live but rather tape it for watching later. Ahem. Yeah, I'm not that different from anyone else who follows these things closely, in other words. :-)

    Sounds like I should have taped the Republican response, too. Heh.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Didn't you notice anything a little off with how the Speaker of the House was reacting to Biden's speech?

    Maybe it was just me focusing on his reactions but didn't he seem to be standing up, applauding and nodding in agreement more often than any other GOP speaker sitting behind a Democrat president during a SOTU speech in recent memory ...

  4. [4] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:



    Down hay yah here in ‘Murica we got this thang called and hay yah is they yaht speech. (17:23)

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    …called YouTube, they yaht is.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I only use YouTube for music stuff.

  7. [7] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Mike Johnson sat behind Biden overwhelmingly either rolling his eyes or else doing his best some guy on a bus with a vacant look in his eyes impression. And speaking of impressions he also gave the impression that he really didn’t want to be there doing that. I’d also wager that he set the record for fewest times an opposition Speaker got up to applaud.

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Why is that?

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Why is what?

  10. [10] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Why do you only use YouTube for music when there’s so much knowledge available? Is it against the only religion that Dystopian Socialist Canada allows you and the Comrades to believe in or something?

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Leave me alone.

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I mean, seriously, Caddy.

    Sigh. I guess you didn't watch my YouTube link I posted the other day of the enlightening discussion about the US-backed Israeli war in Gaza...

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    <...there wasn't time to both write a review of it and put together a weekly wrap-up column, so I chose to focus on the speech. "Friday Talking Points" will return next week as usual, never fear.

    And, so Biden misses out on a MIDOTW award. :(

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ...there wasn't time to both write a review of it and put together a weekly wrap-up column, so I chose to focus on the speech. "Friday Talking Points" will return next week as usual, never fear.

    And, so Biden misses out on a MIDOTW award. :(

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I just listened to the No Labels crowd waxing lyrical about the attributes they are looking for in a presidential candidate that, so far, they have been unsuccessful in finding.

    Their lack of success is unsurprising but, the candidate they are looking for sounds a lot like Joe Biden. Ahem.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, here is a bit of great news, for a change.

    Longtime neocon operative Victoria Nuland is leaving the Biden administration. Now, if we could just get her out of the American foreign policy arena, altogether, at long last...

  17. [17] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Whaddaya want — Joe got the whole column devoted to hi

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You should know by now, Caddy, that we Biden fans are never really satisfied. Heh.

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Our expectations are always so damned sky high, you know. :)

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    By the way, Caddy, I may have found a new favourite radio station and there are live streams on Sundays - imagine that! - where the guy in charge devotes a few hours to music around a certain theme.

    This Sunday is all about time, what with the clocks springing forward this weekend. I'd like to take this opportunity to invite you to join in on all the fun, listening to the station and participating on the facebook page.

    It all starts around 3:30pm left coast time and goes on for about 2-3 hours or so.

    You can post your favourite songs about time and I am sure Dave Fineberg will play them on the radio for you!

  21. [21] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Time Has Come Today on the Ed Sullivan Show (2:08)

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    That link doesn't work.

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, the event isn't happening here.

  24. [24] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    This one made me laugh out loud. No sense of irony whatsoever.

  25. [25] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    RE: "Biden ended his laundry list by talking about the situation in Gaza, where he did an adequate job (to my ears, at least) of walking the tightrope between supporting Israel in a generic way and supporting the human rights of Palestinians, 30,000 of whom have been killed in the ongoing war. I haven't heard any deeply-disappointed reactions from supporters of Israel or Palestine today, so perhaps he did manage to rhetorically thread this needle."

    the trouble is, that's a needle that probably didn't need threading.

    Exhibit A: the daily casualty report from gaza

    Exhibit B: an article detailing some of the numerous things that are wrong with it

    it doesn't take a professional statistician to tell that the numbers don't seem very plausible. one can certainly empathize on a case by case basis with innocent civilians who have been harmed, but the numbers are almost certainly not true, and don't reflect the immense effort that the IDF puts into trying not to kill people who aren't trying to kill them back.


  26. [26] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Actually, the numbers seem low, just based on the amount of destruction anyone can see with their own eyes.

    And, here's another exhibit: the IDF mistakenly killed three hostages who had escaped their captors and who were shirtless, carrying white flags and yelling in Hebrew at the IDF to save their lives!

    The IDF has been using dumb bombs which quite plausibly have led to tens of thousands of civilian deaths.

    Add this to the fact that Israel is hampering - to put it mildly - humanitarian aid from getting into Gaza to the point where the US is resorting to ineffective air drops and sea ports that take months to put in place. This doesn't make any sense!

  27. [27] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Additionally, all of the major news organizations and the UN have generally agreed on the Gaza death toll being at least 30,000 civilians, so far.

    I can understand the urge to call into question this number of civilian deaths but it's hardly an implausible number.

  28. [28] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
  29. [29] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Poet and Liz
    25 — 28

    While this event and the deep dig I did I am considerably more pro-Israel than before. For example, I don’t see how a two state solution will work with Israel’s security requirements. I also think Israel is held to a far higher standard than any other country on the planet.

    Having said that Israel clearly isn’t much concerned about the punishment of the Palestinian people for October 7 and I think effing Bibi will keep this operation active for as long as possible because once the dust settles he’ll get booted out of office. And thence he’s off to his corruption trials.

  30. [30] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I've always been very pro-Israel and very anti-Netanyahu. And, there is no other solution than a 'two states in one land' option that will get Israel out of the vicious cycle of violence it has been in for as long as its existence.

    One problem of many is that the available land for two states is shrinking as Israel builds more and more virtually permanent settlements on what would be, ostensibly, 'two-state' Palestinian land. So, there's that.

    I wouldn't count Netanyahu out any more than I would count Trump out. It's seemingly very hard to keep bad weeds down - and that goes quadruple for the Israeli leader.

  31. [31] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller

    And, there is no other solution than a 'two states in one land' option that will get Israel out of the vicious cycle of violence it has been in for as long as its existence.

    Obviously, there is another solution to achieve that end... just probably not a solution you would agree with. :)

  32. [32] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    the overall totals reported may be plausible, but that's a different question. they well may be fairly accurate when added up. or the true totals could be significantly less, OR significantly more.

    if indeed the daily numbers were what was reported, the only thing that's damn near certain about them is that they were fabricated. naturally occurring numbers simply don't behave that way. saying so doesn't stem from some emotional need (to be honest i found the conclusion suspicious as well), but it's hard to argue against sound math.


  33. [33] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The dilemma for Biden and the rest of us who feel the same pain:

    "As the war enters its sixth month, Mr. Biden finds himself in an investment trap that’s difficult to escape. He is increasingly frustrated and angry with Mr. Netanyahu. And yet he’s still in love with Israel. How to stand up to the first without damaging the second is proving to be an excruciatingly difficult challenge for a president whose regard for Israel runs deep in his emotional and political DNA and whose re-election campaign may depend upon which way he turns.

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