President Joe Biden, 79, stayed up well past his bedtime on Tuesday to deliver the first State of the Union address of his faltering presidency.
Leading off his speech with the topic on everyone's minds, Biden praised the "pure courage" of Ukrainian citizens in resisting the Russian invasion. Members of Congress from both parties applauded the president's words, careful to make sure that their oversized blue-and-yellow tchotchkes were still visible to the cameras.
Freshly botoxed, forehead smooth and gleaming under the lights, our commander in chief got almost all of his words right when he proclaimed that Vladimir Putin "may circle Kyiv with tanks, but he will never gain the hearts and souls of the Uranian [sic] people." The Russian strongman "has no idea what's coming," Biden ad-libbed.
For the first time in history, two women sat behind the president during a State of the Union address. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) fidgeted like an over-caffeinated chain smoker who couldn't wait to light up as soon as the cameras were off, and Vice President Kamala Harris stared into the distance as if deep in thought, perhaps deciding which staffer to berate after she inevitably embarrasses herself on the Wednesday morning show circuit.
Biden proceeded to change the subject from Ukraine, a largely bipartisan issue, to his controversial domestic agenda, which has already died in Congress and will be even deader after the midterm elections in November. Perhaps due to a plagiarism issue—it wouldn't be the first time—Biden rebranded his "Build Back Better" initiative as "building a better America," before almost coughing his lungs out. He went on to tout policies that even a popular president with a large congressional majority would struggle to pass.
Biden, who boasts a job approval rating of just 40.6 percent in the RealClearPolitics polling average, conceded that hardworking Americans were "living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to keep up with their bills" due to inflation. His plan to combat inflation, however, did not inspire confidence. Biden urged businesses to simply "lower costs, not your wages" by manufacturing their products in America and spending more money to fight "climate change." New York Times editor Blake Hounshell was as confused as the rest of us. "It's not clear to me how making more goods in America will make things cheaper, but I guess it's a good applause line," he wrote. (It was, at least for the intended audience of low-information college graduates.)
The Times‘s fact-checkers were similarly unimpressed with Biden's suggestion that the 2017 Republican tax reform bill only benefited "the top 1 percent of Americans." They charitably described the claim as "exaggerated." Biden reiterated his desire to make sure rich people are paying their "fair share," while promising not to raise taxes on the Democratic Party's most influential voting bloc: lawyers, tech bros, and consultants earning up to $400,000 a year.
In any event, some wondered: What was the point of promoting all these doomed policies? "I'm having a really hard time caring about Biden laying out a series of policies that will mostly never pass in the midst of arguably the biggest geopolitical crisis in post-Cold War history," wrote Vox reporter Zack Beauchamp. He wasn't alone. Not that any of it really mattered, because most Americans had better things to do than spend an hour watching a tired old man struggle to pronounce "ruble."
Perhaps the most notable aspect of Biden's speech was his stunning rebuke of the Democratic Party. "Our kids need to be in school," he said, in a remarkable shift from his party's longstanding support for making children suffer during the pandemic. When it comes to keeping communities safe, Biden once again attacked his party's preferred policy. "The answer is not to defund the police. It's to fund the police," he said. "Fund them. Fund them." On immigration, he rejected the Democratic Party's bizarre opposition to the concept of borders. "If we are to advance liberty and justice, we need to secure the border," he bellowed.
Biden did not mention the disastrous withdrawal of Afghanistan. Can you blame him? He also didn't discuss his party's obsession with masks. That's because Democrats finally decided it was okay to stop wearing them in front of the cameras, just in time for the speech. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland posted a group selfie with other maskless cabinet members prior to Biden's address. Unlike at Haaland's wedding in November 2021, she and her colleagues weren't in violation of any Democratic-issued mask mandates. More than 540,000 Americans have died from COVID on Biden's watch. He didn't mention that, either.
Eventually Biden stopped talking. "Thank you. Go get him!" he concluded, shouting at no one in particular, as if disoriented. Americans could rest easy, knowing that the state of our union is "[coughing] [incomprehensible]."