President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session Congress was the most ambitious ideological statement made by any Democratic president in decades—couched in language that made it sound as if he wasn’t making an ideological argument at all.
Make no mistake that he was. He called for trillions in new spending in a robust expansion of government’s role in multiple arenas of American life in ways that would have been impossible to contemplate in Barack Obama’s presidency. He plunged into subjects—racial and class inequities, immigration, gun violence—that were rubbed raw until bleeding in Donald Trump’s.
Usually these issues are framed with a question: Which side are you on? Though rarely described as gifted orator, Biden’s speech was a remarkable performance in part because it didn’t soar and largely didn’t even try to. In plain-spoken language, he depicted a breathtakingly large agenda as plain common sense.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
President Biden declared “America is ready for a takeoff” as he pitched a sweeping vision for greater government investment to boost the economy, including a $1.8 trillion proposal for new spending on child care, education and paid leave.
Addressing a joint session of Congress for the first time as president on Wednesday, Mr. Biden sought to strike a hopeful tone just ahead of his 100th day in office, stressing his efforts to combat the pandemic, expand Covid-19 vaccinations—which he urged all Americans to get—and spur economic growth.
“America is moving. Moving forward. And we can’t stop now,” he said, in remarks that ran just over an hour. “We’re in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century.”
USA Today reports:
It was the third role Biden has played in such speeches – and the first time he was the one delivering it. He attended many of them during his 36 years as a senator from Delaware starting with President Richard Nixon. Then, for eight years, he sat behind President Barack Obama on the dais as his vice president.
Early on in his speech Wednesday, he paid homage to his vice president, Kamala Harris, the first woman to hold that position and, as a result, the first woman to preside over the Senate during a presidential address.
“Madame Vice President,” Biden said as he turned to her. “No president has ever said those words from this podium, and it’s about time.”
Yahoo News reports:
The entire address was an obvious rebuke of Trump, whose primary legislative accomplishment was cutting taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals. More intriguing, and perhaps more telling, was Biden’s lack of reference to his former boss, Barack Obama.
Obama’s own grand ambitions became mired in efforts at bipartisan outreach, as well as in jockeying between progressives and centrists over how big to go, and how fast. Biden made it clear on Wednesday night that he does not share those concerns.