Go ahead, call me—a conservative journalist for more than 40 years and speechwriter to Ronald Reagan—a RINO if you like, but I’ve never been more embarrassed to be associated with the Republican party than in the middle of the State of the Union when House members started openly heckling the president of the United States.
They screamed “liar and “bulls—” in the House chamber when Biden said there were Republican proposals to “sunset” Social Security and Medicare.
In point of fact, Biden is narrowly correct here. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida issued a weird proposal to make all federal legislation sunset after five years. That would include Social Security and Medicare. It was a stupid and ill-considered proposal, in part because it opened up the GOP to exactly the attack Biden staged last night.
And these barbaric House members fell right into Biden’s trap. Rather than shaking their heads, as Speaker Kevin McCarthy did behind Biden, they behaved goonishly. That’s exactly what Biden wanted. In yelling at him like drunken attendees at a WWF match who seem not to know the proceedings are fake, Marjorie Taylor Greene and her hearty band of repellent maniacs provided Biden and the Democrats with visuals and sounds they can use for the next two years to rally their own troops—and independent voters sickened by the bad behavior of politicians generally—against Republican crassness and incivility.
Polling data over the past couple of weeks have made it clear that Biden remains a highly problematic candidate for reelection. He spent most of the time in his State of the Union trying to convince Americans that he has done good things that are making their lives better or are going to make their lives better pretty soon. It’s pretty clear the American people aren’t buying it. Biden’s positive case for himself will only resonate with Democrats who would vote for any Democrat.
But what Biden and his people do seem to understand is that what saved Democrats in 2022 from the chopping block might save them in 2024: the fear among voters who will decide Biden’s fate—and the fate of Democrats running down ballot—that too many Republican politicians are weird, unpleasant, and crazy.
Biden’s speech was risible in parts, and often spectacularly beside the point. What on earth was the president of the United States doing, spending several minutes talking about resort fees paid by hotel guests, for example? “The Junk Fee Prevention Act,” which he touted out of nowhere, is an embarrassing political gimmick.
Biden devoted 271 words to the Junk Fee Protection Act. Then he disposed of America’s conflict with China in 182 words. Of those, only fifteen—“if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did”—dealt with the balloon incursion last week, a matter so serious it forced the postponement of an official visit to China from our secretary of state.
This was not a serious speech. It was a pretty silly one, in fact. But the only thing people are going to remember is Greene screeching. It used to anger me when people insulted the GOP by adopting the old British term for the Tories—“the stupid party.” Still, better that than the “embarrassing party,” which has the advantage of being at least partly true.