Despite White House suggestions that the address would not be political, it’s hard to not see how it would not be seen through a partisan lens, or that it even makes any difference.
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Just as the midterms kick into high gear, Biden turned the attention on his 2020 rival, Trump, who, by endorsing candidates like Dr. Oz and Blake Masters, has given Democrats new hopes of avoiding a wipeout by highlighting their opponents’ weaknesses and wild statements.
Biden’s pitch was that, while he’s worked with plenty of Republicans when he was in the Senate and during his presidency, the driving force of the party is Trump, with an agenda of denying the results of free and fair elections and, if they don’t get their way, threatening violence.
Against the backdrop of Independence Hall, with two Marines standing attention behind him, Biden said, “We must be honest with each other and ourselves. Too much of what is happening in our country today is not normal.”
Biden even echoed warnings from J. Michael Luttig, a prominent conservative who testified before the January 6th Committee, and presented this moment in American history as an “inflection point.”
As fragile as democracy is, Biden suggested that most Americans recognize the threat.
“This is a nation that honors our Constitution. We do not reject it,” he said. “This is a nation that believes in the rule of law. We do not repudiate it. This is a nation that respects free and fair elections. We honor the will of the people. We do not deny it. And this is a nation that rejects violence as a political tool. We do not encourage violence.”
In a “pre-rebuttal,” delivered about an hour before Biden’s address, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that Biden should apologize for referring to MAGA philosophy as “semi fascism” when the president spoke at a fundraiser last week. Biden didn’t apologize, but he tried to make a distinction between MAGA Republicans and the mainstream GOP.
CNN and MSNBC carried the speech, but Fox News stuck to Tucker Carlson Tonight, as Carlson gave his own take as the president was delivering the address. He offered rambling commentary that made the claim that Taylor Lorenz, technology columnist for The Washington Post, was the “ideological anchor of the Biden White House.”
Her response below:
Biden trying to figure out who the hell I am and why our names are trending together pic.twitter.com/OCN99htWX9
— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) September 2, 2022
Broadcast networks skipped the speech, as they have shied away in the past from giving up time in primetime for overt political rallies and other campaign events.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain argued on Twitter that the speech defended freedom, equality and democracy. “They are as ‘political’ as Ben Franklin, saying in 1787, that the framers had given us ‘a Republic, if you can keep it.’ ”
Yet Biden also ran through his administration’s accomplishments, something that has given D.C. Democrats new optimism over the party’s prospects. CNN Republican analyst Scott Jennings quickly labeled the speech like one that Biden would give at the next Democratic Convention, what with its repeat of his 2020 theme of “the battle for the soul of the nation.”
The immediate commentary after Biden delivered the speech, to little surprise, was his forceful attacks on Trump and the MAGA movement. Whether that is out of lofty principle or hard partisanship or both, Biden set up a contrast and, come November, a stark choice.
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