• frontpage-logo
  • NYI-homepage-mobile-logo

  • President Joe Biden confronts his critics, both foreign and domestic in SOTU speech.

    President Joe Biden confronts his critics, both foreign and domestic in his State of the Union speech. (Photo: Screencap)

    President Joe Biden invoked Franklin Roosevelt in the opening moments of his State of the Union speech, but he was more like Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill.

    Biden pulled no punches addressing the issues facing the country and the stark choice Americans face between democracy and Donald Trump’s pretensions to dictatorship.

    He also countered critics who have attacked him because of his age. Biden displayed the vim, vigor and stamina of a man who is more than up to the job.

    (See the full speech, below)

    At the end of his speech, he deftly turned his age into an asset with reassuring words that his experience is invaluable to meet the challenges of the modern world.

    He could talk about the country and where it stands in history, because he’s lived through its travails and experienced its resilience and strength first hand.

    Most importantly, he reaffirmed American values — democracy, freedom, rule of law — that have defined the nation since its founding. And, he set a goal to continue to strive to live up to them.

    Biden set the tone from the outset with his invocation of the nation’s 32nd president.

    “In January 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt came to this chamber to speak to the nation. 

    He said, ‘I address you at a moment unprecedented in the history of the Union.’ 

    “Hitler was on the march. War was raging in Europe. 

    “President Roosevelt’s purpose was to wake up the Congress and alert the American people that this was no ordinary moment.

    “Freedom and democracy were under assault in the world. 

    “Now it is we who face an unprecedented moment in the history of the Union.”

    “And yes, my purpose tonight is to both wake up this Congress and alert the American people that this is no ordinary moment, either.”

     Alabama Sen. Katie Britt delivered the Republican response to Biden’s speech and provided an eerie coda with a “Handmaid’s Tale” vibe.

    She could have walked out of the pages of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel about a patriarchal, totalitarian theocracy. — down to the green commander’s dress, cross necklace and kitchen backdrop.

    She was demur and submissive and spoke with a church lady lilt that was affected and freakish. It seemed at any moment she would scream “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

    She tried to rebut Biden’s message, but her demeanor seemed to affirm everything the president said about the challenges facing women — specifically the assault on reproductive rights.

    “There are state laws banning the right to choose, criminalizing doctors, and forcing survivors of rape and incest to leave their states as well to get the care they need. 

    “Many of you in this Chamber and my predecessor are promising to pass a national ban on reproductive freedom. 

    “My God, what freedoms will you take away next? 

    “In its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court majority wrote, “Women are not without –electoral or political power.

    “Clearly, those bragging about overturning Roe v. Wade have no clue about the power of women in America,” he said.

    Women voters will be key players in the November election, and have already showed their strength. In 2022, six ballot measures addressing abortion — the most on record for a single year — were approved in CaliforniaMichigan, and Vermont.

    Measures restricting abortion were defeated in KansasKentucky, and Montana.

    About half of all states — all Republican led — have moved to restrict abortion access, even as polls show most Americans approve of the right to abortion, handing Biden a potent election issue.

    The President also drew a line on two of the most contentious issues — the border and war in Europe — with direct challenges to Republicans.

    Opposition lawmakers in the audience did their best to counter him with jeers and boos, while Democrats chanted, “Four more years,” as if it was a high school basketball game.

    But that’s the contentious nature of politics these days, and Biden leaned into the criticism with fiery exhortations to get moving on a bipartisan border bill now stalled in the House of Representatives.

    Biden also cleared up any doubt about where the nation stands in its support for Ukraine, which is entering its third year of a war to repel a Russian invasion.

    He also drew a direct line between an anti-democratic movement led by Trump here and threats to democracy in Europe.

    He blasted Trump directly for his deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin and for giving the Russian dictator carte blanche to “do anything you want” in Europe.

    Trump made the statement in criticizing NATO members for “not payng up.”

    “What makes our moment rare is that freedom and democracy are under attack, both at home and overseas, at the very same time,” he said.

    He likened the assault on freedom and democracy today to the situation President Abraham Lincoln faced on the even of the Civil War.

    “Overseas, Putin of Russia is on the march, invading Ukraine and sowing chaos throughout Europe and beyond. 

    “If anybody in this room thinks Putin will stop at Ukraine, I assure you, he will not. 

    “But Ukraine can stop Putin if we stand with Ukraine and provide the weapons it needs to defend itself. That is all Ukraine is asking. They are not asking for American soldiers.”

    Republicans in the House, led by Speaker Mike Johnson — and behid the-scenes by Trump — have blocked aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, as well as the border bill.

    Johnson tied aid the border with a challenge to the Senate to come up with a bipartisan border bill.

    When the Senate came through with a measure worked out by Republicans and Democrats, Johnson pulled a bait and switch and said no border bill was necessary.

    Biden reminded Republicans that the bill would deal with the influx of immigrants overwhelming the border by adding 1,500 more border security agents and officers, 100 more immigration judges and 4,300 more asylum officers.

    The additions, plus new policies, are designed to tackle a two-million-case backlog that has led to the current situation.

    It can take up to six years or more before an asylum request is heard by a judge.

    As a result, Immigrants seeking political asylum are being released into the country under what’s known as “catch and release.”

    Venezuelan immigrant Jose Antonio Ibarra was released and found his way to Athens, Ga. after being bussed to New York City by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

    He allegedly murdered University of Georgia student Laken Riley, whom Republicans have used to focus blame for the border crisis on Biden.

    But with the bill, cases could be heard in six weeks, Biden asserted. “This bill would save lives and bring order to the border.

    “It would also give me as President new emergency authority to temporarily shut down the border when the number of migrants at the border is overwhelming.”

    Republican claims are false that the president currently has the power to block immigrants at the border.

    Right now, by law, Immigrants seeking asylum must be allowed in the country no matter how they arrive here, including crossing the border on foot. That has contributed to the influx overwhelming the system.

    On issues like the border and Ukraine, Biden repeatedly turned the spotlight on Trump. He mentioned the former president 13 times, although not by name. He referred to him instead as “my predecessor.”

    “I’m told my predecessor called Republicans in Congress and demanded they block the [border] bill. He feels it would be a political win for me and a political loser for him. 

    “It’s not about him or me.   It’d be a winner for America,” Biden asserted.

    Biden also addressed the issue head on by drawing distinct differences with Trump on the issue.

    “I will not demonize immigrants saying they ‘“’poison the blood of our country’”’ as he said in his own words. 

    “I will not separate families. 

    “I will not ban people from America because of their faith,” he said.

    Biden reached out to the Africian-American community with a strong affirmation of voting rights, recalling the struggles of the early civil rights movement.

    “A transformational moment in our history happened 59 years ago today in Selma, Alabama. 

    “Hundreds of foot soldiers for justice marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, named after a Grand Dragon of the KKK, to claim their fundamental right to vote,” he said.   

    “They were beaten bloodied and left for dead. 

     “But 59 years later, there are forces taking us back in time. Voter suppression. Election subversion. Unlimited dark money. Extreme gerrymandering.  

    “Pass and send me the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act! 

    “And stop denying another core value of America our diversity across American life,” he scolded.  

    Biden called for an end to banning books, said he had the back of the LGBQT community, and reaffirmed his support for workers’ rights.

    On climate change, he restated his goal to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030, create “tens of thousands” of clean-energy jobs and build 500,000 public, electric car charging stations.

    He also emphasized conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters  by 2030 and addressing pollution in “fence-line” communities.

    The president also went through a litany of efforts to address crime and community safety and once again called for a ban on high capacity magazines and assault-style weapons and urged universal background checks.

    Biden waited until the end of his 68 minute speech to address the elephant in the room — his age.

    Both he and his 78-year-old opponent have weathered criticism they are too old to serve another term. Biden sought to dispell that once and for all with humor and straight talk.

    “I know I may not look like it, but I’ve been around a while,” he said.  

    “And when you get to my age certain things become clearer than ever before. 

    “I know the American story. 

    “Again and again I’ve seen the contest between competing forces in the battle for the soul of our nation. 

    “Between those who want to pull America back to the past and those who want to move America into the future. 

    “My lifetime has taught me to embrace freedom and democracy. 

    “A future based on the core values that have defined America. 

    “Honesty. Decency. Dignity. Equality.” 

    See the full speech here.