The Mardi Gras SOTU Speech

For only the second time, the state of the union address coincided with Mardi Gras Day. The first was 2/12/2013 when Vice President Joe Biden sat behind President Barack Obama; a sweaty and thirsty Marco Rubio gave the GOP response. It was also the latest SOTU ever, the vast majority took place in January.

First, some media criticism.

Two pundits- Ezra Klein and Jennifer Rubin- have said it “seemed like two speeches.” Of course, it was. The opening segment about Russian aggression was written on the fly in the last few days. It’s an impressive accomplishment as it was the best and most passionate part of the speech.

Pundits make me scratch my heads sometimes, the marriage of two speeches was obvious. But Klein seems to have a shaky grasp on how things work in the real world. He’s very much in his own head as pompous people often are.

I watched the speech on MSNBC. Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid wanted the Biden to go after Trump. That’s best left to a more political setting. The SOTU is a programmatic speech, which is why it can be boring at times. Biden has already attacked the Impeached Insult Comedian for his “Putin is genius comments,” last night was neither the time nor the place. The media remains fixated on former President* Pennywise. He’s not always the story, you just think he is.

Yo, Joy, there’s nothing “centrist” about trying to unite the country with a SOTU. It’s the goal of all presidents except for this guy:

Image by Michael F.

On to the speech itself.

Because of his stutter, a lengthy Biden speech is always an adventure. He seems to do best when he keeps talking. The stutter is more likely to manifest itself when he pauses for applause. The right-wing press and pols claim the halting nature of delivery at times is down to senility. It’s his stutter.

I give Biden a solid B for his delivery. He’ll never be a Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, or Obama but his sincerity always impresses.

The most memorable lines made news:

The United States Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of the Russian oligarchs.

We’re joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets.

The pundits were mystified by the oil reserve passage. It’s for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz who has done more than expected to sanction the Russians.

I was also reassured by this passage:

But let me be clear: Our forces are not engaged and will not engage in the conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine.

Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our NATO allies in the event that Putin decides to keep moving west

Those of us who support Ukraine in this conflict will have to harden our hearts. The Ukrainian government and emigrees will demand direct military intervention. But an American shooting war with Russia over Ukraine is out of the question given Putin’s evident instability. He seems quite capable of using nukes at this point.

The Russia-Ukraine segment of the speech grades out at an A. Foreign policy is this president’s wheelhouse. He showed it again.

The original SOTU aka the policy part was your basic laundry list of things Biden has accomplished as well as future proposals. It was again solid but unspectacular. I would have liked more emphasis on voting rights, but the COVID segment was on the money.

This part was again a solid B. It’s hard to make a list of programs compelling but it’s the essence of any SOTU.

I enjoyed Justice Breyer’s reaction to the President’s praise:

My reaction to that is to cringe. Dr. A has learned over the years that I dislike being sung at or having a surprise party sprung on me.

Biden’s SOTU was a good, not great speech. Then again, SOTUs rarely are. The most memorable moments I can remember involve the lies told by George W Bush in his 2002 and 2003 addresses.

On this Ash Wednesday, I have little to regret about Biden’s speech and much to praise. He’s not a great orator BUT his closing peroration was stellar:

And my report is this: the state of the union is strong because you, the American people, are strong.

We are stronger today than we were a year ago.

And we’ll be stronger a year from now than we are today.

This is our moment to meet and overcome the challenges of our time.

And we will, as one people.

One America.

The United States of America.

The last word goes to Harry Connick Jr.