Biden’s First State of the Union Address (SOTU)—We Are in a Fight to Preserve Democracy Both at Home and Abroad March 6, 2022
March 1, 2022—the day President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union (SOTU) address. On April 28, 2021, Biden delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress after his 1/20/2021 swearing in as President. In recent times, it has been customary not to call this first prime-time major address by a new American President a State of the Union speech, but to apply the “first speech to a joint session of Congress” label (See latimes.com, Logan, E., 4/28/21). Biden’s first SOTU address was, therefore, delivered to a joint congressional session on 3/01/2022. The SOTU speech is constitutionally required. Article II Section 3 of that document states, “He (the President) shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Until the early 20th Century, Presidents did not deliver their SOTUs before a joint congressional session. Woodrow Wilson was the first POTUS (President of the United States) to give his SOTU to a joint congressional session. Since Wilson’s time, SOTU speeches have been given before joint sessions of Congress with much political fanfare and increasing media coverage.
Most SOTU addresses constitute a “laundry list” of items the POTUS wants Congress to pass and are quickly forgotten. However, these recent speeches were delivered when the U.S. and the rest of the world were not dealing with the biggest land war on the European Continent since WWII. As most of us know, on February 24, 2022, Russia, under the maniacal “leadership” of its President Vladimir Putin blatantly invaded neighboring independent Ukraine, an act of sheer naked aggression. Russia, a nation of over 146.9 million people went after its southern neighbor, an independent state the size of Texas with a population of 50.5 million (Atlas A-Z, DK). What on earth possessed Putin to do this? Many people who know Putin, the former head of the KGB, claim that he told them that the “worst day of his life was when Russia split apart in the Gorbachev-Yeltsin era.” Vladimir “Adolph” Putin/aka Czar Nicholas III, is, of course, a fanboy of our former “leader” Demagogue Donald. Putin, frankly, has his own MAGA slogan. His is “MRGA,” or “Make Russia Great Again.” Putin, an admirer of Czarist Romanoff Russia, wants to bask in that empire’s prior “glory.” What “glory?” Romanoff Russia brutally suppressed and maltreated its millions of peasants. The Czars went after their Jewish minority with pogroms or government-sponsored massacres, forcing millions to flee to the U.S. Romanoff Russia had a pathetic military that the Kaiser’s Imperial German Army was clobbering in WWI. After inept Czar Nicholas II was overthrown in the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Bolshevik/Communist government separately sued for a harsh peace with the Germans and abandoned the Allies. With the Romanoffs, Putin has picked one “heck of a role model!”
And like his Communist predecessors, Putin is a master of crude propaganda. Putin has the utmost nerve to call democratically elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a Nazi. Putin claimed Russia had to invade Ukraine to stop neo-Nazi Zelensky. Message to Putin-- Zelensky is Jewish! Zelensky’s grandfather heroically fought in the Soviet Army against the Nazis and several of Zelensky’s great uncles were murdered in the Holocaust (jta.com). However, “we are defending Mother Russia against Nazis” is the same ridiculous “party line” that the Communists used to suppress economic and political reforms in 1968 Czechoslovakia. At that time, that Soviet- satellite country was under the leadership of Alexander Dubcek, a liberal, and far from a Nazi. So what? Russian tanks and army units were brought in to brutally suppress these liberal reforms known as the “Prague Spring.” The Czech Republic and Slovakia only regained their freedoms when the entire Communist Empire crumbled in the late 1980’s (See “Oxford Guide To Countries of the World,” 2010).
Obviously, the 800 pound “Russian Bear” mauling Ukraine was the major issue Biden had to address in his 3/01/2022 SOTU. Prior to his SOTU speech, most Americans didn’t believe he was leading our European allies in punishing Russia with crushing sanctions. Biden sure was. Few American Presidents were ever able to corral our European allies so well. Biden also had to push for his domestic program in his SOTU. Even though Biden has handled the COVID vaccination situation well, few gave him credit for this. Biden has also passed, despite a 50-50 Democratic/GOP Senate margin, COVID relief and infrastructure reforms. These are “ y uu ge” programs already helping the American people. Instead, all the public heard about 48/7 was how conservative Senator Joe Manchin (D-WVA) destroyed “all of Biden’s legislative agenda.” Not true. Biden was able to deal with Manchin in passing both the COVID and infrastructure programs. Manchin has only rejected Biden’s BBB “Build Back Better” social agenda. Manchin is still against BBB and Democrats will probably have to win several more Senate seats in 2022 to get this program enacted (See latimes.com, 3/02/22). The media keeps reminding the public that Biden has a poor popularity rating in the low 40’s. And why is that? After Biden withdrew from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, the Taliban quickly seized that country. The press endlessly blamed Biden for this non-“graceful” exit and quick Afghan surrender. Few analysts understood that most Afghans could care less about who took over. Unlike the Ukrainians, the Afghans were not willing to fight hard. At the time of the Afghanistan withdrawal, which Biden had repeatedly promised he would do, commentators in the NY Times and LA Times decided that Biden, who had spent years dealing with heavyweight foreign policy matters, was nothing but a “lightweight” in foreign affairs. Several were quoted as saying he could not be trusted in this area or in anything else. The “inept/lightweight” Biden caricature filled the print and cable media with no stop. How could his polls not go down under these circumstances?
Well, analysts and the public met the real Joe Biden in his 3/01/2022 SOTU speech. And what a difference it was from the post-Afghan “Biden is incompetent” meme nonsense! Biden, of course, immediately addressed the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine. Biden commended the Ukrainian people for refusing to roll over in the face of Putin’s invasion. Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., was First Lady Jill Biden’s guest at the SOTU. Zelensky stood with his countrymen and courageously refused to leave Ukraine. Biden warned that Putin and his cronies must not go unpunished. Biden strongly stated, “Throughout our history we’ve learned this lesson—when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos…And the costs, the threats to America and America to the world, keeps rising (nytimes.com, Baker, 3/01/22).” Biden stated that the U.S. was then “joining with our European allies to find and seize the moneyed moguls’ (Putin’s oligarchs) yachts, luxury apartments, and private jets (Baker, nytimes.com, 3/01/22).” Biden spoke of how he spent “months building countless hours unifying our European allies and building a coalition of freedom-loving nations around the globe.” Biden stated how he shared with these allies just what Putin had planned to do against Ukraine and refuting all Putin’s attempts to falsely justify his aggression, brilliant use of intelligence (See whitehouse.gov/state-of-the-union-2022). Biden fighting Putting with crippling sanctions without putting American “boots on the ground” is excellent strategy. Few people believed Putin would attack Ukraine. Biden was the exception, and he was ready to lead his allies as the world’s global leader. Biden, with his strong stance against Putin, has helped restore our alliance with Europe. Biden discussed how we must all be united against this aggression and made the case, in commentator Van Jones’ words, that “we must all unite against autocratic aggression (cnn.com, 3/02/22).” Van Jones and other commentators finally called Biden a “seasoned, experienced, and the competent foreign policy hand we voted for (cnn.com,3/02/22).” And for once, Biden received bipartisan applause and backing.
President Biden not only pushed a pro-democracy message on the international stage. He also spoke of defending democracy at home, just as crucial. To fight for democracy at home, we must, as Biden noted, pass voting rights reform. He gave a shout out to retiring Supreme Ct. Justice Stephen Breyer. Biden urged that Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first African American female ever nominated to SCOTUS (the Supreme Court of the United States) be confirmed. Judge Jackson, a superb jurist, clerked for Breyer. I discussed her awesome record in two of my prior blog posts. Biden promised to bring steadiness and knowledge to our foreign policy and he has. Biden and his top foreign policy advisors, Sec. of State Tony Blinken and National Security Chair Jake Sullivan, are an awesome trio standing ready to confront dictator Putin. By nominating Judge Jackson, the first African American female to the High Court, Biden fulfilled his promise to appoint a woman of color to SCOTUS. Her confirmation would also be one more step in preserving democracy at home while we fight its brutal enemies abroad. Biden indicated that he understands people’s fears over inflation. He himself noted that he had to leave his Scranton, PA home as a child and move to Delaware because inflation cost his father his job. He called getting “prices under control my top priority (nytimes.com, Baker, 3/01/22).” He declared attacking inflation must be done, not by lowering wages, but by lowering costs and building more cars and semiconductors in the U.S (Baker, nytimes.com).
And Biden handled himself well in the face of GOP heckler wacko Lauren Boebert (R-CO). Biden talked about cleaning up burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan that had taken the lives of many veterans, who had died of cancer probably caused by these toxins. He mentioned that his own son’s fatal brain cancer could have been caused by such chemicals. Boebert then started screaming, “You put them in all 13 coffins.” She was referring to 13 troops who had died in an attack on Kabul. Democrats rightfully booed her (huffpost.com, Lavender, 3/01/22). Imagine if H.W. Bush, whose 3- year- old daughter Robin died of childhood leukemia in 1953, was heckled by Democrats while he talked about fighting cancer. Boebert, however, never had any decency. Her fellow GOP wacko Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) also heckled Biden about “build the wall” when Biden discussed immigration (huffpost.com, Lavender). Again, these Congressmembers represent far too many of today’s Trump GOP. They are not outliers and must not be allowed to recapture the House.
A post-SOTU CBS Poll found that Biden received a 78%-22% positive rating over his speech. In addition, after hearing Biden discuss his responses to Putin’s Ukrainian aggression, 70% of the listening public support his strategy. Before his speech, the public believed that Biden was handling Russia badly. What changed? Again, the public saw the real Biden. And surprise, surprise. An NPR Poll found that Biden’s approval rating jumped up 8 points, from 39%-47%. Probably Biden’s skillful handling of the Russian-Ukraine War is getting through to the public. It’s about time!
Outnumbered Ukrainians are fighting strongly against their Russian aggressors. Americans can only watch these scenes in horror. However, we can help defend democracy both here and abroad. How? We can go to the polls in droves plus in 11/2022 and give Biden and his fellow Democrats a strong boost in the House and Senate. “Team Blue,” will put the strongest pressure it can on Trump’s “Best Friend” Vladimir Putin. Democracy is fragile and must be constantly defended in every generation.