Posted by Curt on 2 September, 2022 at 10:24 am. 48 comments already!



Joe Biden’s speech last night at Independence Hall in Philadelphia was a disaster — several bad ideas terribly executed at once. It was a speech that couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, delivered by a man who didn’t believe it. And it will come back to bite him in court and on the campaign trail. Let us count the ways.
Problem #1: Giving the speech at all. Biden’s greatest political asset is when Americans are focused on Donald Trump and not on the bumbling, rambling fossil in the White House and his overreaching and under-delivering presidency. A big, set-piece Biden speech that was supposed to highlight Trump instead consumed media attention that would be, for the Democrats’ interests, better spent on more news cycles about Mar-a-Lago and Trump talking about holding a do-over election.
Problem #2: The title. Biden’s speech was entitled “The Continued Battle for the Soul of the Nation.” If Biden is trying to present himself as a unifying, back-to-normalcy figure who can calm the waters — a guy who, in the words of the speech itself, wants to “see politics not as total war but mediation of our differences” — talking about a “continued battle” won’t help. If he wants to reassure us that the president is sticking to his day job, talking about how he wants to shape “the soul of the nation” won’t help. And really, talking about a national crisis of soul is reminiscent of nothing so much as Jimmy Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” speech, which is remembered today simply as the “malaise” speech. The scorched-earth partisanship of the speech is a replay of his disastrous Georgia voting-rights speech.
Problem #3: The staging. Independence Hall was lit up as if somebody directing one of the later Star Wars sequels said, “We want the new Empire to look just a little more Nazi.” The building was dark, but with blood-red eagle wings and Marines flanking an angry, fist-shaking Biden, the photos from this speech are certain to be used by a lot of campaigns this fall — none of them Democrats. Even aside from the politics, if Biden wanted to reassure ordinary Americans that he isn’t declaring some sort of war on his political enemies — taking a page from the Democratic Party adviser who declared that “the Republican Party is basically a domestic terrorist cell at this point and they should be treated as such” — he accomplished precisely the opposite. The best thing you could say about the staging is that it reminds us that this White House is run by incompetent amateurs who couldn’t get jobs on the Obama team.
Problem #4: Indecision. Biden still can’t decide what kind of president he wants to be, so he couldn’t decide what kind of speech he wanted to give. Did he want to use the moral authority of the presidency to speak in nonpartisan terms about a threat to the country? Did he want to give an arch-partisan speech denouncing the other party’s leadership? Did he want to lay out a contrast between the two parties on social issues? Did he want to offer a laundry list of his accomplishments and his agenda? Yes, he wanted to do all those things, so he tried to cram them all into a 3,000-word speech that stepped on its own messages.
Problem #5: Insincerity. Time and again, Biden accused “MAGA Republicans” of the things he refuses to denounce when they come from his own side, his own White House, or his own mouth and pen. He told us that,  “There is no place for political violence in America. Period. None. Ever.” He denounced “rioting in the streets” and thundered, “We can’t allow violence to be normalized in this country. It’s wrong. We each have to reject political violence with — with all the moral clarity and conviction this nation can muster.” But in 2020, Biden was conspicuous in not naming any of the violent actors and rioters on his own side as they torched their way through American cities. That pattern continued last night: “We saw law enforcement brutally attacked on January the 6th. We’ve seen election officials, poll workers — many of them volunteers of both parties — subjected to intimidation and death threats. And — can you believe it? — FBI agents just doing their job as directed, facing threats to their own lives from their own fellow citizens.” Notice what’s missing from that list? Firebombings of pro-life crisis-pregnancy centers. An assassination attempt on Justice Brett Kavanaugh. If Biden really wanted “all the moral clarity this nation can muster” against political violence, his Justice Department wouldn’t be cutting sweetheart deals with political protestors who threw Molotov cocktails into a police car during a riot.
Examples proliferate. Biden wrapped himself in the mantle of the “rule of law,” which his administration has so flagrantly disregarded with illegal orders on the CDC eviction moratorium, the OSHA vaccine mandate, and now student-loan debt. He talked about the Constitution, yet his list of rights he intends to protect — “right to choose,” “right to privacy,” “right to contraception,” “right to marry who you love” — consisted entirely of things the Constitution never mentions; he couldn’t spare a word for free speech, free exercise of religion, the right to bear arms, or due process of law, all of them punching bags for his administration. He complained that, “Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election: either they win or they were cheated,” that, “You can’t love your country only when you win, and that, “I will not stand by and watch — I will not — the will of the American people be overturned by wild conspiracy theories and baseless, evidence-free claims of fraud.” Again, he attributed this only to his political opponents, ignoring all manner of offenses against this norm by his own side, ranging from Biden himself branding the 2022 elections as illegitimate unless Congress passed a bunch of bills that won’t pass, to Chuck Schumer calling American elections a “rigged game,” to election-deniers Terry McAuliffe (whom Biden eagerly supported in 2021) and Stacey Abrams (whom Biden is eagerly supporting in 2022).
Indeed, if Biden really believed that “MAGA Republicans” were an existential threat to the country above politics, he would speak out against his own party spending tens of millions of dollars to intervene in more than a half-dozen Republican primaries across the country to boost such candidates solely for the purpose of yielding less-electable Republican nominees. Biden acted as if that isn’t happening.

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