President Biden was hardly settled behind the podium for his State of Union address Tuesday evening before launching into his denunciation of the Russian attack on Ukraine. After the usual opening remarks to the speaker, his vice president, and other dignitaries in the chamber, he announced that as Americans there is “an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny.”
For the next 15 minutes or so, Biden hammered away at Putin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “We countered Russia’s lies with the truth,” he declared. “And now that he has acted, the free world is holding him accountable.
“Along with 27 members of the European Union, including France, Germany, Italy, as well as countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and many others—even Switzerland—are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. Putin is now isolated from the world more than he has ever been,” the president continued, even as the Russians were unrelenting in their siege of Ukraine’s major cities, with an estimated 2,000 citizen casualties.
He took time out to praise the Ukrainian resistance, noting they “are fighting back with pure courage. But the next few days, weeks and months will be hard on them,” he lamented. “Putin has unleashed violence and chaos. But while he may make gains on the battlefield, he will pay a continuing high price over the long run.”
Then it was time to deal with other pressing issues, including the ongoing pandemic, which has to some degree lessened, and America’s rescue plan. He noted that the economy had created over 6.5 million new jobs, which like many of his comments brought the audience to their feet with applause. The economy, he stressed, has shown its strongest growth in nearly 40 years. “Invest in America,” he said, attempting to speak above the ovation. “Educate Americans.
Grow the workforce. Build the economy from the bottom up and the middle out, not from the top down. Because we know that when the middle class grows, the poor have a ladder up, and the wealthy do very well. America used to have the best roads, bridges and airports on earth.”
Keeping a focus on his achievements, he boasted about the improvement of the infrastructure, and the need to “buy American products.” Expanded efforts in technology, the broadband, more emphasis on electric vehicles, were among the items that had been addressed and would be given even more attention for development.
Interestingly, when the MSNBC cameras focused on Rep. Gregory Meeks, the House Foreign Affairs chair, Biden underscored his concern to make America stronger at home and abroad.
It took him some time to get to another key talking point during his hour-long speech, and he placed the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the proper context of saluting Justice Breyer’s long service in the Supreme Court and the need to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. And there was no pause in the applause when he spoke on the importance of immigration. He said that a pathway had to be provided to give
Dreamers citizenship, “those on temporary status, farm workers, and essential workers.”
Toward the end of his speech, he cited the importance of lowering the price of prescription drugs, the opioid crisis, and the need to end the spread of cancer, which he put in a personal context, recalling the death of his son, Beau.
And as the cameras focused on three military men in uniform, Biden said, “I’m also calling on Congress to pass a law to make sure veterans devastated by toxic exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and the comprehensive health care that they deserve.”
The litany of challenges he voiced could all be overcome because, he said, “We are the only nation on earth that has always turned every crisis we face into an opportunity. The only nation that can be defined by a single word: possibilities.”
The “American people are strong,” he declared. “This is our moment to meet and overcome the challenges of our time.”