Joe Biden had a message for the nation, and it was: The aviators are back, baby! For those of us who remember Uncle Joe’s VP days, his State of the Union address was a vintage performance. He was folksy; he was charming; he was assertive, and with the Republican congressional delegation acting like 7 year olds on sugar. He was the adult in the room.
The heckling from the GOP was the highlight of the night, from the loud and deeply meme-able Marjorie Taylor Greene in her Cruella phase to multiple people calling Biden a murderer as he described the impact of fentanyl deaths. You’d think that after the public humiliation of that interminable Speaker vote and their comical debt ceiling threats, congressional Republicans would at least try to fake sober statecraft to improve their standing. Instead, they were so raucous and wild that Ole Joe Biden was running rings around them on national television.
At one point, as Republicans shouted at him for calling out their plans to cut Social Security and Medicare in order to successfully shrink the national budget, Biden goaded them into an internationally-broadcast agreement via standing ovation not to touch the programs in any budget deal. T’was some masterful shit. And it was perfectly timed for Biden, because exposing the GOP for what they are helped distract from what he’s not.
Despite the theatrics of his opponents, Uncle Joe provided little more than tweaks to the status quo. Long minutes were spent (rightly) excoriating major companies and wealthy individuals for hoarding cash and profits at a high cost to society, but vanishingly few specifics were offered on how this will change. Biden generated thunderous Democratic applause for capping the cost of insulin for everyone (not just seniors) and expanding Medicaid, but said little to nothing about expiring COVID support from the federal government or the calamitous impact the virus has had on our so-called healthcare system. And even as the Dobbs decision provided the animating force to neutralize the factors of an anticipated “red wave,” abortion was a blink-and-you-miss-it moment in Biden’s national address.
So in a way, this successful State of the Union was a display of Biden at his best and his worst. He gave as good as he got to an out-of-pocket GOP, but was giving nothing, honey, to the base. But whether you’re cheering him for reveling in Republican rowdiness or disappointed in his reticent refusal of radicalism, one thing was made very clear last night: Joe Biden is here to stay.