7 Takeaways From Biden’s State of the Union Address
He did not back off from those priorities, some of which he managed to achieve, at least in part, over the past two years, and he renewed his call for others. But on Tuesday night, his focus was on less ambitious proposals aimed at stepping up efforts to cure cancer, improve mental health care, fight opioid addiction and help veterans.
He emphasized threats to democracy at home and abroad.
At the end of the speech, Mr. Biden returned to one of the biggest themes of his presidency — that the United States and the world stand at an “inflection point” in history, with democracy at stake at home and abroad. As he has before, the president linked “the Big Lie” about the 2020 election to the war in Ukraine, which threatens the sovereignty of a European nation for the first time in a generation.
But unlike former President George W. Bush, who used his 2002 State of the Union address to declare an “axis of evil” on the eve of the Iraq war, Mr. Biden urged Americans to remain optimistic and hopeful as a way of inspiring supporters of democracy elsewhere. Declaring that “we are not bystanders to history,” the president said the United States must confront hate and extremism, referring to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The president talked up the economy, with a big focus on blue-collar workers.
Mr. Biden spent the first half of his speech describing what he said was the nation’s economic progress, including a record 12 million jobs created in the first two years of his presidency. He ran through the economic benefits — many of them just starting to come online — from bills he signed to invest in infrastructure, advanced manufacturing and low-emission sources of energy, along with reducing the cost of prescription drugs.
But the president lingered in particular on the parts of his agenda that he says would help blue-collar workers, often in parts of the country that have been left behind in the changing global economy. He stressed spending that will create high-paying jobs that do not require a college degree — clear outreach to the wide swath of swing voters in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan who did not graduate from college.
Aides had said Mr. Biden would acknowledge in his speech the continued economic pain Americans feel, particularly from rising prices, and he did to a degree. But he spent most of his energy trying to sell workers on the gains the economy has made on his watch and casting himself as a fighter for their interests.
He baited Republicans on Social Security and Medicare.
Mr. Biden has regularly hammered Republicans over some members’ plans to reduce future spending on Social Security and Medicare. He did it again in the speech, and this time, he baited some Republican lawmakers into agreeing with him on the issue.