Tuesday’s State of the Union marked a turning point. This was an aggressive and expansive progressive political, economic and social agenda set against Putin’s worn out GOP cat-calling clown caucus.
President Biden was in full force, speaking clearly and forcefully, with the full weight of two years of concrete achievements to his credit, making amateurish fools, frankly, of the “usual suspects” among the so-called Freedom Caucus of the GOP who kept trying, and failing, to disrupt him.
In fact, it was Biden’s confident and deft ability to turn those fools against themselves that made for the most entertaining moment of the evening.
When he stated that “some” in the GOP want to cut Medicare and Social Security, the GOP disruptors in the audience started yelling “No!” and “Liar!” and booed loudly. Biden offered to document his charge. After some exchanges he said, “So, folks, we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare are off the books now, right? They’re not to be touched!”
As big applause then accompanied his remarks, he said, “All right. All right. We’ve got unanimity! (Applause). Social Security and Medicare are a lifeline for millions of seniors. Americans have to pay into them from the very first paycheck they’ve started.
So, tonight, let’s all agree – and we apparently are – let’s stand up for seniors. (Applause). Stand up and show them we will not cut Social Security. We will not cut Medicare!” (Among those who could be seen standing at that point was House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, seated along with Vice President Kamala Harris behind Biden).”
Biden added, “Those benefits belong to the American people. They earned it. And if anyone tries to cut Social Security – which apparently no one is going to do (laughter and applause) – and if anyone tries to cut Medicare, I’ll stop them. I’ll veto it. (Applause).
“I am not going to allow them to be taken away. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. But apparently it’s not going to be a problem!” (Laughter and applause).
What a great moment. What went largely unnoticed was his subsequent promise to cut the deficit by another $2 trillion in a way that “won’t cut a single bit of Medicare or Social Security, and doing it by extending the Medicare Trust Fund by at least two decades.”
He added, “I will not raise taxes on anyone making under $400 grand, but by making sure that the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share.”
He added, “Here’s my message to all of you out there: I have your back.”
Indeed, for working Americans, as much as he is able, he clearly does.
Touting the achievements, underway and soon to be, of the American Infrastructure Act. “The story of America is a story of progress and resilience, of always moving forward, of never, ever giving up. It’s a story unique among all nations. We’re the only nation that has emerged from every crisis we’ve ever entered stronger than we got into it. That’s what we’re doing again.”
“Two years ago,” he said. “The economy was reeling. As I stand here tonight, we’ve created 12 million new jobs, more jobs created in two years than any President has created in four years. Two years ago, Covid had shut us down, our businesses were closed, our schools robbed of so much. Today, Covid no longer controls our lives. Two years ago, our democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War. Today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken.
“As we gather here tonight, we’re writing the next chapter in the great American story, a story of progress and resilience…That’s always been my vision for our country, and I know it’s many of yours: to restore the soul of this nation, to rebuild the backbone of America, America’s middle class, and to unite the country.”
It was as impressive and strong a State of the Union address as I’ve ever heard, and I’ve watched them all dating back to the 1960s.
This is a man not defined by his chronological age, but by the greatest age in American history that saw victory over global fascism and the realization of the promises of the New Deal.