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Biden's Unserious Lecture on Political Violence

Jacquelyn Martin, Pool

Truthfully, I don't have very many thoughts on President Biden's State of the Union Address.  It was energetic by his standards -- uncomfortably so, at times -- and filled with the usual laundry list of anecdotes, claims, and proposals.  It was disjointed, offered no thematic arc, and was delivered fairly well.  On the Biden grading curve, that is, which is to say: not terribly well.  On substance, some of it was fine.  Some of it was objectionable and misleading, but good politics.  Some of it was outright dishonest or demagogic.  Some of it was stirring and uplifting.  Some of it was trivial and petty.  Almost none of it was memorable.  Most of it will be forgotten by Friday, at the latest. I could once again have done without most of the jeering and heckling, even if some of the president's points were shameless. would like to make three points: First, for all the president's familiar rhetoric about unity, bipartisanship and working together, it largely rings empty coming from a man who delivered this appalling speech not long ago


Second, Republicans loudly objected to Biden's unfair characterization that they support cutting entitlement programs as part of the debt ceiling negotiations.  House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has repeatedly stated that any such proposal is "off the table," in this context.  Biden didn't trick the GOP into agreeing with him, as some high-fiving liberals are claiming.  He badly distorted their position, got raucously fact-checked, then decided to take the bipartisan agreement on this point (about which he was actively misleading the country) as a 'win.'  I agree that using the leverage point of a debt limit fight is an inappropriate moment for trying to extract reforms on this front.  That being said, Social Security and Medicare desperately need reforming, to salvage their solvency for future seniors.  The math keeps getting worse, and very few people in Washington are willing to tell hard truths and make hard compromises to grapple with that reality these days.  Republicans are mostly unserious about it.  Democrats are flagrantly reckless about it.  None of that changes the black-and-white, arithmetic-based reality.  Perhaps someday, when left with no choice, Washington will tackle this issue in a clear-eyed way.  That day is not today, and doesn't appear to be coming any time soon -- unlike some of the fast-approaching solvency deadlines.

Finally, President Biden devoted a portion of his remarks to condemning political violence.  His hook for this passage was the recovery of Paul Pelosi, the former Speaker's husband, after a disturbing attack at the couple's San Francisco home.  Biden framed it as right-wing violence, fueled by election conspiracies.  Pelosi's assailant has reportedly embraced an array of unhinged beliefs over the years, many of them decidedly left-wing.  Presenting this illegal immigrant as a partisan in either direction, especially of the Right, is ridiculous.  The man's own son has identified him as a non-right-winger.  Not attempting to associate him with any "side" would have been the more fair-minded approach, but Biden couldn't resist.  He also whiffed on a glaring opportunity to call out an example of dangerous radicalism within his tribe, which was literally staring him in the face:


The Kavanaugh assassination plot, to my knowledge, has never been directly condemned by this president.  The news media, which frequently harps on 'attacks against our democracy,' ignored the episode to a scandalous extent. There are several reasons why trust in the press has cratered to catastrophic lows, and this sort of hackery is one of them.  Biden could also have rejected the campaign of terrorism and threats against pro-life centers and churches.  The FBI Director recently revealed that the large majority of post-Dobbs criminal violence and intimidation in the abortion space has come from pro-abortion extremists.  But Biden leads a party whose Speaker-emeritus pointedly refused to disavow such terrorism last year, whose House caucus almost unanimously voted against a resolution doing just that last month, and some of whose members wore abortion celebration pins to his speech last night -- ghoulishly featuring a heart symbol inside a letter 'O' in 'abortion.'  

Biden could have lent some credibility to his expressions of concern over politically-motivated violence by speaking even one important, if awkward, truth to his own coalition.  He chose not to.  So his message will not resonate as authentic, and his professed interest in unity and healing will not be advanced.  Speaking of which, I'll leave you with these numbers, which served as a backdrop to his speech:


One more thing:

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