State of the Union: In a Furious Speech, Biden Delineates Election Battle Lines

President Joe Biden delivered a passionate State of the Union address on Thursday, criticising Donald Trump and discussing the key themes of his re-election campaign.

During a lengthy speech, Mr. Biden referred to Mr. Trump as “my predecessor” a total of 13 times.

He criticised his potential election rival for being too friendly with Russia and for his response to the Capitol riot.

Mr Biden also addressed topics such as immigration, abortion, the economy, and Gaza.

The House chamber was quite lively, with Democrats cheering loudly and some Republicans heckling.

It was a display more in line with a political convention than a State of the Union address – a constitutionally required report that typically includes a lot of ceremony and policy.

However, this being an election year, the stakes were high for Mr. Biden. He displayed a spirited and assertive attitude as he worked to define the boundaries for his new campaign.

Going after Trump

It’s no surprise that most of his criticisms were directed at Mr. Trump, as he is likely to be his rival in the upcoming general election in November.

“My predecessor failed the most basic duty any president owes the American people – the duty to care,” he stated regarding Mr. Trump’s management of the Covid pandemic. “That is unacceptable.”

He condemned Mr. Trump for his recent remarks regarding Russia and NATO, accusing him of trying to conceal the facts about the 6 January 2021 assault on the US Capitol.

He accused him of being responsible for the Supreme Court decision that overturned the Roe v Wade ruling, which guaranteed abortion rights, and for obstructing bipartisan immigration reforms.

Mr Trump, in the meantime, had pledged to respond immediately to the speech on his Truth Social platform. “Biden is facing scrutiny for his actions and making false statements in an attempt to avoid responsibility for the negative impact he and his party have had,” he stated.

“They are still implementing the same policies that are fueling this disastrous situation,” he stated.

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Alabama Senator Katie Britt began the Republican answer by making fun of the president’s age.

Mr. Biden’s assertive stance on Thursday may have been driven, at least partially, out of necessity. Being 81 years old, he holds the title of the oldest president in US history and has faced inquiries regarding his age and mental sharpness.

His ratings for approval are the lowest among modern presidents running for re-election. He and Mr. Trump are currently tied in the polls, but both are seen unfavourably by voters.

Even as Mr Biden discussed his age, he took a dig at Mr Trump, who is only a few years younger at 77.

“I may not appear to be, but I’ve been around for quite some time,” he mentioned. After listing several positive attributes that he believes define America, he added a surprising twist.

“Some individuals my age perceive a contrasting narrative: an American tale of bitterness, payback, and retaliation.”

An animated discussion about immigration

Mr Biden frequently improvised his responses to a sometimes unfriendly audience from the Republican party in the chamber. He joked, countered, and feigned surprise at their sudden reactions.

When the conversation shifted to immigration, a topic of political sensitivity for the president, he was prepared to discuss it. However, he faltered.

Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene accused Mr. Biden of overlooking the murder of Georgia nursing student Laken Riley, allegedly by an undocumented Venezuelan immigrant. In response, Mr. Biden held up a button with Riley’s name on it, a gift from Ms. Greene.

He mistakenly referred to her as “Lincoln” Riley before stating that she was killed by someone he described as an undocumented immigrant, a term that has faced backlash from immigrant advocacy organisations.

Mr Biden urged Republicans to back the bipartisan immigration legislation approved by the Senate and criticised Mr Trump for opposing the bill for political reasons. Unfortunately, the harm may have already occurred.

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Promotional offer for November

When Mr Biden wasn’t aggressively confronting his opponent, he aimed to showcase his achievements during his first term and present his case for re-election.

“I was handed an economy that was on the edge,” he remarked, “and now our economy is admired globally.”

Statistics regarding the American economy have been showing positive trends for several months. Despite this, the public’s view of the economy has been quite negative.

Mr Biden acknowledged this division, referring to the US economic recovery as “the greatest untold story”.

It is uncertain if the president’s words will sway opinions.

The speech was aimed at the American middle class – the voters of moderate means who constitute the majority of the electorate.

The proposal contained a range of fresh ideas, many of which would need congressional approval to become law – a situation that seems improbable unless Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives in November.

He proposed a tax credit for potential home buyers affected by rising mortgage rates. He proposed extending a limit on prescription drug expenses to all individuals with health coverage and increasing taxes on businesses.

Striking a delicate balance in Gaza

At the beginning of his speech, Mr. Biden emphasised the importance of providing military support to Ukraine. However, he primarily focused on discussing foreign policy related to the Middle East towards the conclusion of his address.

The conflict in Gaza has caused a split among Democrats, as some of the president’s liberal supporters are urging the US to do everything possible to advocate for a ceasefire. On Thursday evening, a group of people gathered in Washington to try and prevent the president’s motorcade from reaching the Capitol, but their efforts were unsuccessful.

President Biden announced that his administration is striving for a ceasefire lasting “at least 6 weeks” and unveiled a new initiative to establish a temporary seaport in Gaza for humanitarian aid to arrive by ship.

He criticised Israel for the civilian casualties in Gaza, describing them as “heartbreaking” and emphasising the importance of protecting innocent lives.

Mr Biden’s recent address, given smoothly and without any major errors, represents a positive step for the president. The speech’s message may offer insight into how his campaign intends to promote another term of Democratic leadership to the public.

It will likely reassure anxious Democrats that their expected candidate is prepared to compete head-to-head with the Republican rival in November.

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