President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union was a rowdy 73-minute stemwinder focused largely on domestic issues, punctuated by heckling and jeers from House Republicans.
President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night was a rowdy 73-minute stemwinder largely focused on domestic issues, punctuated by heckling and jeers from House Republicans.
- At times, the 80-year-old incumbent alternated between calling for “unity” and vowing to work with newly-empowered Republicans, to claiming that members of the GOP were trying to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits, which was met with booing, heckling, and shouts of “liar” from House Republicans.
- The President’s address veered from big-ticket legislative priorities – like a minimum tax on billionaires – to small-ball issues like banning airlines from charging certain fees, stopping hidden hotel fees, and halting certain penalties imposed by cell phone service providers.
- The speech was repeatedly interrupted by Republican lawmakers. One called Biden a “liar” when he accused Republicans of wanting to cut Social Security, and another shouted “your fault” when Biden spoke about the rise of deaths from fentanyl.
- Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered the Republican rebuttal to Biden’s address. Huckabee Sanders, at 40 the youngest incumbent governor, made generational change the centerpiece of her speech. Huckabee Sanders quipped, “I’m the first woman to lead my state and he’s the first man to surrender his presidency to a woke mob that can’t even tell you what a woman is.”
- A call for “generational change” and new leaders who grew up defined by the end of the Cold War and 9/11 served as a not-so-subtle dig at both 2024 frontrunners, Biden and 76-year-old Donald Trump.
- Scandal-plagued Rep. George Santos, an admitted serial liar under multiple investigations, made sure to position himself prominently along the center aisle for the President’s address.
- Utah Sen. Mitt Romney scolded Santos as he walked past, telling the embattled New York Republican “You don’t belong here.” Romney told reporters later that if Santos “had any shame at all” he’d be “sitting in the back row and staying quiet.”
- CNN found Biden’s decision to respond and engage his hecklers notable and wrote they served as a “useful foil” ahead of his expected reelection campaign. CNN reported, “White House officials were thrilled by the off-script back and forth.” “Couldn’t have written a better moment,” one official told CNN.
- The Washington Post’s analysis thought Biden emphasized bipartisanship with “tough words sprinkled in” for his Republican opposition. The Post argued Biden “geared his speech extensively toward blue-collar voters” in a preview of the coming presidential race.
- The New York Times thought it was notable that for all the coverage of Russia and China between the ongoing war in Ukraine and the Chinese spy balloon affair, Biden’s lengthy speech was almost entirely focused on domestic issues. The president never directly addressed the spy balloon flap, an omission that surprised analysts from both parties.
- The Wall Street Journal’s takeaways from the speech included: Biden’s insistence on economic optimism amid Americans’ pessimism about the state of the economy, the notable juxtaposition between Biden’s calls for unity and partisan talking points, and the lack of an overarching, ambitious policy agenda.
- Fox News collected the “top five moments” from the speech, including when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shouted “Liar!” after Biden once again used widely-debunked talking points accusing Republicans of wanting to eliminate Social Security.
- National Review’s Philip Klein called out the “grotesque bipartisan moment” when both Republicans and Democrats stood to applaud the idea of not reforming Social Security and Medicare, which “both desperately need to be pared if there is any hope of the United States escaping a fiscal crisis.”
© Dominic Moore, 2023