Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Biden to juggle competing political demands in State of the Union address

By 37ci3 Mar4,2024



WASHINGTON — In his State of the Union address this week, President Joe Biden will ask himself a question he hopes to answer: Whose side are you on?

Do Americans, in his view, stand for low health care costs, democratic freedoms, and Ukraine’s struggle to avoid being absorbed by Russia? Or on the side of drug company profits, tax breaks for the wealthy, and Russia’s autocratic leader, Vladimir Putin?

Biden’s argument Thursday night is that he is on the right side of all of these issues and that voters should rally behind him, unlike his Republican presidential rival, former President Donald Trump.

Advisers say the stark choices facing the United States will be the focus of Biden’s third State of the Union address. Polls show he will use it to remind voters of hard-won legislative victories most of them are unaware of, while promising to overhaul the tax code for a second term so that middle-class Americans get some financial relief.

He will also try to ease growing unhappiness within his own party over the war between Israel and Hamas. Biden’s failure to secure a lasting ceasefire has split and spawned his party mass movement To deprive him of delegates at the Democratic presidential convention in Chicago.

“It would be important for him to express his concern about the future of Gaza,” said the Democratic congressman, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to alienate the White House. The lawmaker added that Biden should “express how terrible the death toll is and how he wants to protect civilian life and get a ceasefire so that no one dies.”

Perhaps Biden’s most immediate mission is simply to convince a skeptical nation that he is up to the rigors of the job.

The address to every state in the union gets a lot of attention, but one Biden is willing to give stands among the most influential in decades. Traditions that once seemed doomed in American society – the rule of law, limits on presidential power, self-government – will all be up for grabs in the upcoming elections.

Tens of millions of people will tune in, meaning Biden can expect the largest television audience he’ll ever get until at least the convention in August.

“This speech has the potential to be the most important political speech ever in the 21st century,” said Donald Baer, ​​former chief speechwriter and communications director for Bill Clinton’s White House. “We are at an important moment in the history of the country and the world, and certainly in this campaign.”

“This could be as strong an opportunity for Biden as he will have in his re-election,” Baer added.

When Biden received that famous introduction, “Mr. Speaker, President of the United States!” voters should have no doubt that the Biden-Trump rematch is indeed happening.

The Super Tuesday primaries are two days before Biden’s speech, and Trump is expected to win 15 contests and become the prohibitive front-runner for the GOP nomination once the votes are counted.

“For ordinary people who don’t follow the daily news cycle, it will continue [Super] “Tuesday,” a Biden campaign adviser said in an interview. “There will be a number of Americans who will stop for the first time on Tuesday and sort of digest that this is going to be Biden versus Trump in November.”

With Biden’s poll numbers down and his re-election in doubt, he has a chance to get a new look from voters. looks ready to throw it away 91 in favor of the ex-president, who is defending himself against felony charges.

A crisp performance will go a long way to demonstrate Biden’s fitness and sharpness at 81. Likewise, if he falls on his way to the podium in the House of Representatives, or if he loses his place at the teleprompter and stares blankly at the screen, he risks a viral moment that will be hard to pull off.

Republicans will try to expose Biden if they can. Expect the GOP side of the aisle to scoff at what Biden said during his 2023 speech. The GOP also planned to highlight Biden’s advanced age by selecting Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala., to issue the party’s official rebuttal.

“The speech is a high-wire act, and it’s for a president who’s not so sure he’s going to stop,” said Jeff Shesol, deputy speechwriter. Clinton White House. “For many observers, the purpose of the exercise is to see if he stumbles. It’s not what he says, but how he says it that matters.”

If Biden can build on his success last year in real time, he could help himself in an unscripted clash with Republicans. When Republicans blasted him for saying they wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare, Biden took it as a positive commitment to protect the two entitlement programs.

“We have unanimity!” Biden said.

A White House official said Biden may revisit those exchanges during his speech.

“Joe Biden had an incredible impact on the script last year,” said Shesol, who was instrumental in crafting two State of the Union speeches for Clinton. “It was the most effective and consequential ad-lib in the history of State of the Union addresses. But I don’t think his staff will encourage him to do the same this year. The risk-reward ratio is scary.”

There is no question that Biden will come to the speech well-rested and prepared. He spent the weekend reviewing the speech at Camp David. So far, the only public event on his schedule until Thursday is one dedicated to fighting “junk fees” charged by credit card companies. It’s even related to the State of the Union: He plans to highlight his efforts to eliminate fees in his address, according to advisers.

Biden will work with speech coach Michael Sheehan in the final stages of preparation this week, a person familiar with the matter said. Sheehan also worked with Clinton and Barack Obama. During the 2020 race, the Biden campaign paid Sheehan’s firm $149,000, federal campaign records show.

Biden advisers, another experienced hand, senior adviser Bruce Reed, said he was conducting a review process to determine the policy priorities to be included in the speech. Reed also worked on State of the Union addresses during Clinton’s tenure.

The State of the Union address is always a rich opportunity for presidents to rally public support for a policy agenda or political cause. Clinton memorably declared “the era of big government is over” in a 1996 address, signaling a turn to the center that helped defeat Republican Bob Dole in that year’s election.

A weakness facing Biden is uncertainty about his future agenda. Some Democrats complain that he has been silent on what he wants to achieve if he wins re-election.

“He’s been public about what he’s done, and people haven’t always heard it,” the Democratic lawmaker said. “He also needs to lay out his vision for what the next four years will be. This is one of the important things we have to do.”

On that front, Biden will use his speech to highlight his support for women’s reproductive rights, as well as changes to the tax code. It is not for nothing that First Lady Jill Biden will sit in the audience with Kate Cox, a Texas woman who was denied an abortion by the state Supreme Court.

Biden presided some changes to the tax code, but he said he wants to enact a more robust overhaul of the code in favor of working-class families. No meaningful legislative changes are likely to be made before the election, but updating the tax code could be a central part of the agenda for the second term. Often, Biden will ask the audience to raise their hands if they believe the tax code is fair. Hands rarely go up.

“If you re-elect me — I’m telling you what, man — stop, taxes,” Biden said at a campaign rally in Nevada earlier this month.



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