The GOP Keeps It Classy
SOTU 2023: Biden vs. the Trolls
Well, I stand corrected. That was kind of entertaining in a Theater of Performative Jerkitude sort of way.
If you were hoping for the celebrations of civility, unity, and bipartisanship, you were, perhaps, disappointed. But if you came to see the “outbursts, jeers, and peals of mocking laughter,” from our nation’s new legislative leaders, this was very much the ticket.
According to Politico’s Playbook, Kevin McCarthy “had warned his colleagues ahead of the speech to behave, but they ignored him and the new speaker had to resort to shushing them repeatedly from the rostrum.”
Ah, but alas.
Writes John Harris: “With boos, taunts, groans, and sarcastic chortles, the opposition party effectively turned themselves into prime-time props for President Joseph Biden.”
And, McCarthy, who had aggressively self-gelded himself into the speakership, was consigned to the role of spectator.
By the end, the GOP’s heckling — from “secure the border!” to “bullshit!” — marked an ominous start for Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s high-stakes partnership this year. The California Republican, who began the night vowing to play the adult in the room, instead found himself sitting stoically at the dais as his GOP hardliners heckled the president.
In today’s Bulwark my colleague Amanda Carpenter provides some historical context for all of this:
Back in 2009, when South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” in the middle of an address by President Barack Obama to a joint session of Congress, sensibilities were shocked. Wilson’s outburst became a days-long story, and he was formally reprimanded by the House.
Nowadays, though, the House Republican Conference has a whole contingent of Joe Wilsons: boorish loudmouths whose lack of impulse control is only matched by their desire for attention. Don’t hold your breath waiting for them to face a reprimand for their shouts and jeers last night. Biden encountered several “You lie!”-like objections without batting an eye or missing a line in his scripted remarks.
Indeed, Biden seemed to relish the scrum. After the kerfuffles, notes the NYT, “Mr. Biden turned the tables on his Republican opponents and argued in real time with the insurgents. It appeared to be the start of his re-election campaign.”
Here’s David Frum, in the Atlantic:
The speech was strewn with traps carefully constructed to ensnare opponents. He opened with a tribute to bipartisanship, but the mechanics of his address were based on shrewd and unapologetic hyper-partisanship. He anticipated negative reactions in the chamber—and used them to reinforce his message.
I’ve never seen anything like it in a State of the Union speech – they ran at him like a pack of lemmings and, with a wink and a grin, he politely directed them to the cliff.
ICYMI you missed the festivities, you can catch up quickly this morning:
There was a rare Mitt Romney-George Santos sighting: “Romney scolds Santos, ‘You don’t belong here’.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders used her rebuttal to remind us that she is a
rising political starnepo baby.
Ed Kilgore: “Biden Springs Trap for Republicans in State of the Union.”
Semafor: “Six big takeaways from Biden's raucous State of the Union.”
Politico: “The 9 big policy ideas that Biden hit during his speech.”
Wapo: “Biden’s State of the Union shows why he isn’t Obama.”
Punchbowl: “Biden's 'Let's finish the job' SOTU.”
Axios: “Biden's boisterous speech.”
Once again, MTG kept it classy:
Generally, Dems seemed jiggy about Biden’s performance.
But, but, but… “Half in U.S. Say They Are Worse Off, Highest Since 2009”…. “Biden's approval rating is 45%, effectively unchanged since November.”
ICYMI: General Hertling on the Bulwark Podcast
Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling —a former commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe and the Seventh Army — put on a master class during our podcast yesterday.
We talked about The Red Balloon, the obligations of the military in a democratic society, the dangers of authoritarianism, and the state of play in Ukraine.
We do this every day, but this one was special.
If you haven’t subscribed, you can listen to the Bulwark podcast on:
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BONUS for Bulwark + members: Mona Charen and I do a weekly podcast that we usually keep just between us.
Members can listen here.
What Biden left out
A note from Bill Kristol about last night’s speech:
It's understandable that President Biden focused on domestic policy in his State of the Union speech. As a consequence perhaps, much was left unsaid about the state of the world. In the coming days and weeks, Biden should find an occasion to address these topics:
1. Iran. Not mentioned in the State of the Union. The president should express support for the brave women and men of Iran demanding freedom and democracy for their country. He could do so by sending a message to--or dropping by!-- the event Friday at Georgetown University where leading pro-democracy Iranian activists who are abroad will be joining together to show unity and support for the demonstrators at home. And there are practical steps the Administration could take to increase pressure on the regime and to help the demonstrators.
2. Ukraine. President Biden expressed strong support for the people of Ukraine. But the remarks were mostly in the past tense, about what we have done in the past year. He did say, "We will stand with you as long as it takes." That's good.
2a. But we still need a serious speech laying out a vision for Ukrainian victory and explaining why this war is so fundamental for the future of Europe and the world. Perhaps the president could do this at next week's Munich security conference? And from there why not visit Kyiv?
3. Finally, we're at an inflection point in the post-Cold War international order. It really is what Chancellor Scholz has called a Zeitenwende, and President Biden should give a comprehensive speech about the meaning of the moment.
3a. Unlike in domestic policy, this isn't about finishing the job. It's about beginning the job. It's about laying the foundations for a more free and more peaceful and more civilized 21st century.
Well, that escalated quickly
Welcome to the 2024 GOP campaign, governor.
Via Rolling Stone: “Well, Trump Is Now Suggesting Ron DeSantis Is a Pedophile.”
Donald Trump recently has been ramping up his attacks on Ron DeSantis ahead of a potential 2024 Republican primary showdown. We’re not going to lie, we figured it take the former president a least a few more months before he started accusing the Florida governor of pedophilia.
Trump has been doing just that on Tuesday, though, sharing a few posts on Truth Social purporting to show DeSantis “grooming high school girls with alcohol as a teacher.”
“That’s not Ron, is it?” Trump wrote, sarcastically. “He would never do such a thing!”
I have never enjoyed a SOTU so much in my life. I hope we can stop the “Biden’s too old” chorus now. He was spry and used decades of political experience to own the MAGAs. He even tried to help out poor SINO McCarthy as his weakness was on full display. Great tempo throughout as POTUS kept my attention the entire time.
I hope this one is remembered as the STFU SOTU.