In-Your-Face Biden Takes on Trump and His Own Doubters

This was not Old Man Joe. This was Forceful Joe. This was Angry Joe. This was Loud Joe. This was Game-On Joe.

In an in-your-face election-year State of the Union address, President Biden delivered one of the most confrontational speeches that any president has offered from the House rostrum, met by equally fractious heckling from his Republican opponents.

It was an extraordinary spectacle that exemplified the raucous nature of modern American politics, one that made clear how far Washington has traveled from the days of decorous presidential addresses aimed at the history books. Mr. Biden again and again assailed his opponent in the fall election and the opposition lawmakers sitting in front of him. Republicans jeered and booed. Democrats chanted, “Four more years,” as if it were a campaign rally.

But that was the point. Frustrated by all the talk about his age and determined to dispel voter doubts, Mr. Biden, 81, used the most prominent platform of this election year, with what is likely the largest television and internet audience he will address before November, to exhibit his stamina, his vitality, his capacity and, yes, his umbrage. Defiant and feisty, he dispensed with the conventions of the format to directly take on former President Donald J. Trump and attempted to make the election a referendum on his predecessor rather than himself.

While he did not use Mr. Trump’s name, Mr. Biden referred to “my predecessor” 13 times and unabashedly denounced “you in this chamber” for being the former president’s lackeys by blocking security aid to Ukraine and a bipartisan border deal for political reasons. Every time they hooted or interrupted, he gave as good as he got, mocking their points and challenging them to pass important legislation.

He was so pumped up, so eager to get started, that he rolled right over House Speaker Mike Johnson, opening his speech without letting the neophyte Republican leader make the traditional “high privilege and distinct honor” introduction. Mr. Biden shouted his lines, clearly intending to use volume to demonstrate vigor. The prepared text had 80 exclamation points in it and he surely added more on his own as he went along.

Back to top button