A week in America | 4 March 2022

Martin Liptrot takes a look at President Biden's State of the Union address 2022.

Martin Liptrot

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Last night, the American public settled down to watch and listen to the annual State of The Union address.

This is the moment the President summons the collective members of Congress and outlines his status report and plans for the coming year.

It is a little like the Queen’s Speech but with less pomp and ceremony, much more advertising, a reality TV vibe, and a selection of invited celebrities and guests.

It is also a veritable treasure trove for social media content, memes and posts.

Joe Biden took to the podium for an hour-long speech which covered all the political and policy challenges facing the nation. Russia, Immigration, Money, Guns.

Biden isn’t the greatest orator, he stumbles over his words, has a stutter and goes off script frequently. For those with a passion to attack him, he offers plenty of own goal opportunities.

And true to form, he ‘wuddled his mords’ on more than one occasion confusing ‘Ukrainians’ and ‘Iranians’, ‘Pounds’ for ‘Pride’, and other tongue twisters. But generally, he performed better than many expected.

He was helped in part by the most raucous and virulent of his opponents having little respect for protocol or polite democratic debate and instead, indulging in pantomime or vaudeville music hall heckling and booing.

The two most guilty offenders were, unsurprisingly, two Republicans – Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia and Lauren Boebert from the cowboy state of Colorado.

Taylor Greene is no stranger to controversy, she was chucked off all her committees last year for inciting hate and spreading unsubstantiated conspiracy theories including her argument about ‘Jewish controlled space rays’ setting wildfires in the U.S.  

She is a first term and let’s all hope one-term representative who arrived in Washington DC last night fresh from having addressed a Pro-Putin rally organised by a white nationalist organisation. You really couldn’t make this stuff up.

Her comrade in heckling, the ever-spunky Lauren Boebert, decided the best moment to show her disapproval of the incumbent President was to try and shout him down while he eulogized the memory of fallen U.S. soldiers including his own son, Beau.

When the subject turned to the tricky issue of immigration and homeland security, the two fragrant members attempted, with absolutely no success, to start a ballpark chant of ‘Build the Wall’.

Classy as ever these broads.

The two outspoken hecklers were booed and groaned at by more established members on both sides of the House and roundly told to ‘sit down’.

In contrast, this was a momentous occasion for those standing up for women’s rights and equal opportunities in the U.S.

For the first time, the VP and Speaker of the House are both women, so the opening words of the address were ‘Madame VP and Madame Speaker’ – especially relevant as 1st March also marked the first day of Women’s History Month here in the U.S.

The most heart-warming moment was when, after Biden spoke about the strength of the Ukrainian people, nearly the whole House rose to its feet and applauded Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. who was in attendance as a guest of First Lady, Jill Biden.

President Biden took the opportunity to draw political contrasts. “In the battle between democracy and autocracy, democracies are rising to the moment, and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security,” he said. “This is a real test. It’s going to take time. So let us continue to draw inspiration from the iron will of the Ukrainian people.”

Biden also took the moment to confirm that he and the party he leads are centrists. In response to his angry left-wing critics, he countered:

“We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.”

And while the international agenda is grabbing all the headlines, Biden is a wily-enough political operator to know his and his party’s fortunes at the ballot box will be won and lost on domestic issues not a bloody battlefield in eastern Europe.

His flagship election policy – Build Back Better – was fatally-holed earlier in the political year when curmudgeonly members of his own party put their re-election prospects higher than the national agenda and refused to back the far-reaching program if it came to a vote in the 50/50 split chamber.

But like so much in politics, it was recycled, edited and re-badged this time as Building a Better America.

Like a pop band heading out for a major tour, the President and all his men and women have dropped much of the new experimental stuff and constructed a playlist of the classics which will appeal to fans young and old.

Putting a cap on spiralling prescription charges was near the top of the list, making being ill affordable again in America.

Climate change policies have been remixed into a medley of lower energy costs for American families, and while childcare costs, benefit reform and universal pre-K for all our children are on the playlist, they are billed as inflation busters now.

And like any aging stadium rocker knows, you need a big encore to close the show.

Biden went back to the classics for this as well, replaying what has possibly been his most successful line since coming to power – Gun Reform.

“I ask Congress to pass proven measures to reduce gun violence,” he said. “Pass universal background checks. Why should anyone on a terrorist list be able to purchase a weapon?

“Repeal the liability shield that makes gun manufacturers the only industry in America that can’t be sued,” Biden added. “These laws don’t infringe on the Second Amendment. They save lives.”

Rising to a crescendo, the Delaware front man hollered: “Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines – You think the deer have Kevlar vests?” Boom. Mike drop. Lights out. Backstage for the after party.

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