A Response to Biden’s State of the Union Address

President Joe Biden has given some of the worst speeches ever delivered—as anyone who has listened to his previous State of the Union addresses knows—and the one he gave last night was … just what we expected.

But that’s not quite true; last night’s was worse. Far worse.

Biden, who was almost a half hour late, forgot to allow the Speaker of the House to introduce him, as is customary. The president comes as a visitor to the House of Representatives and to Congress, and it is customary, as well as polite, not to speak until introduced. Was he so informed? Did he need to be so informed? He has spent almost his entire life in Washington. That he couldn’t remember that simple courtesy raises precisely the doubts about his abilities that his performance was meant to dispel. Had he been reminded (instructed?) to allow the speaker to introduce him? If not, why not? Or did he simply forget?

It was an inauspicious beginning to a dreadful speech.

And what was it that Biden and his handlers sought to accomplish with the event? Presumably, at the very minimum, to convey that Biden is up to the job of being president—of being able to even function as president. That is wholly separate from listing proposals that might be good for the country, or at least might excite his (shrinking) base. How does a speaker indicate competence? How was Biden supposed to indicate competence? How was Biden supposed to show that he was not the failing old man, slurring his words, and falling upstairs that people have seen on television now for months on end?

To put it otherwise, what do you do to look normal when you’re not normal? You compensate. But in doing so, there is a danger that you overcompensate. And that’s just what Biden did last night. Biden was strident for almost the entire speech, with an occasional whisper (as is his custom). He sounded like an angry old man, yelling at people he didn’t like, telling them to get off his lawn or keep their dirty hands off his 1967 Chevrolet Corvette.

It’s okay, when giving a speech, to raise your voice occasionally, to make a point, or to scold those who are evil. But to shout for an entire speech is not just weird; it has precisely the opposite effect of the one that Biden’s team must have intended. Biden came across, not as a strong, determined leader, but as a grumpy old man. And that, sadly, is perhaps what Joe Biden has become.

His performance had other oddities: his first topic was foreign policy—specifically, the war in Ukraine. Foreign policy is probably the last topic on most Americans’ minds. Any magazine editor will tell you that—maybe even the editors of Foreign Policy magazine.

The point was not just to make a pitch for aid to Ukraine, which most Americans probably couldn’t locate on a map (at least those who went to a Teacher’s Union public school), but also to chastise Donald Trump, who had been critical of NATO countries that haven’t been paying their dues.

It became apparent at that point that the speech was really only a campaign speech, not a speech about the state of the union. Parts of it were aimed at Donald Trump. In that sense, certainly, the whole operation was fraudulent: Biden didn’t plan to discuss the state of the union; he planned to start a nasty campaign against his opponent.

Biden announced that Sweden had just joined NATO and that the Swedish prime minister was in the audience. The PM stood up to receive applause, which was entirely proper. But then he kept jumping up whenever Democrats jumped to their feet in response to whatever Biden had just said. The PM had been unwittingly (presumably) enlisted into supporting the Democrat candidate for president. Not good.

Biden then segued to the January 6 business, thereby making it clear that the only reason he had brought up Ukraine and Putin was to link Trump to Putin.

The speech went on seemingly forever. There was the predictable pitch to the abortion crowd (from the nation’s Catholic president), with a few barbs aimed at the Justices of the Supreme Court who were in attendance. No surprise there.

He told the audience that the economy was great (yes, he really did) and crime was down. It sure may seem like that if you live in the big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue. But not everyone does.

He wants to build a “pier” in Gaza to assist in providing food, water, and medicine—but no Americans will be endangered in the effort. What?

And, least surprisingly of all, he promised to tax the hell out of corporations and rich people—to make them pay their “fair share.” He probably doesn’t understand economics well enough to realize that what we sometimes call “the private sector,” i.e., rich people and corporations, creates the jobs that enable Biden’s much-beloved middle class to put bread on the table.

Corporations and private individuals (“the wealthy” in Biden-speak) take the risks, with their own money, that produce the enterprises that hire middle-class workers. When government taxes those sources of funds, there is less investment, fewer jobs, and less progress. Probably Biden simply doesn’t understand that. He is not alone; that is a Washington problem.

In the old days—the good old days—the president mailed his thoughts on the state of the union to Congress.

Not all “progress” is good.

Daniel Oliver is Chairman of the Board of the Education and Research Institute and a Director of Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was Executive Editor and subsequently Chairman of the Board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review.

Email Daniel Oliver at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

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About Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email him at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

Photo: WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 07: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address during a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on March 07, 2024 in Washington, DC. This is Biden’s last State of the Union address before the general election this coming November. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)