Less than a month ago Joe Biden was facing considerable criticism chiefly because of his inability to unify the ranks of the Democratic Party and its reforms agenda, the highest inflation levels for thirty years in the US, his failure to build bridges of cooperation with the Republicans as he pledged in his inaugural speech a year ago and the increase in the crime rate, not to mention the possibility of the Democratic Party losing the midterm elections of November 2022. However, he succeeded thanks to the Ukrainian crisis and the Russian invasion that ensued to recapture the political momentum in his favour and to redirect the discourse towards Russia who represents the common enemy of the masses and the American political class, especially as the Democrats and the Republicans are in agreement over the standpoint vis-à-vis Russia and as Biden had been accused of being weak in dealing with Putin. Biden also succeeded in highlighting anew his main agenda which revolves around the issue of the “war of models” between democracy and autocracy, a state characterised by institutions, the concepts of freedom, justice, and the rule of law and the “tyrannical systems and dictatorship”. This moral and value-based tone in the speech of Biden was not directed at America alone, but also linked to the events in Ukraine and the forthcoming dealings with China. This means his speech was directed at Europe to muzzle the materialistic expedient tendency that has for so long impinged on the attempts at dismantling the relationship with Russia and made Europe hesitate on the economic relations with China and her companies such as Huawei.
On the other hand, and in an attempt to demonise Donald Trump and his followers in the Republican Party and cushion the blow of the Republicans’ libels, especially in respect of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden said, “He thought he could divide us at home…. But Putin was wrong. We are ready. We are united. And that’s what we did: We stayed united,” in a bid to compare Donald Trump’s defeat in the elections to what Putin gambled on in his war on Ukraine, Biden harnessed the emotional atmosphere overwhelming public opinion and hostility towards Russia and commented on being accused of failing to build bridges of cooperation with the Republicans by saying, “While it often appears we do not agree and that — we — we do agree on a lot more things than we acknowledge. I signed 80 bipartisan bills into law last year.”
It is clear Biden had designed his speech and initiated it with the Ukrainian issue in order to achieve this purpose, namely unifying the Senate and the House of Representatives; he said, “Yes. We, the United States of America, stand with the Ukrainian people.” He harnessed the Ukrainian crisis to remind his audience that, “Tonight we meet as Democrats, Republicans, and independents, but, most importantly, as Americans with a duty to one another, to America, to the American people, and to the Constitution, and an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny.” He focused on Putin personally, considering he is one of the fiercest opponents of Liberalism which the American political system across the board embraces. This was reflected in the several standing ovations he received, which in turn projected a very rare instance of unified ranks in US Congress which has often been the scene of deep rifts. This enabled Biden to allude to his major achievement, namely restoring the unity of the American people following the deep divisions that Donald Trump inflicted among the American people.
Biden also elucidated the leading role he had performed to rally the ranks of the Western alliance saying that it did not merely include European states but “the Asian and African continents” as well, and reiterating that, “The United States and our Allies will defend every inch of territory that is NATO territory with the full force of our collective power — every single inch.” He said that his unwavering standpoint towards Putin made Europe more united and harmonious, and led to the return of cohesion within NATO and the EU under US leadership. He also responded positively with the calls of domestic Russian opposition to call corrupt Russian officials to account; he announced that the US Treasury had set up a special team to monitor and investigate all the Russian oligarchs and confiscate their properties, funds, investments, and assets, and hold them accountable for their crimes; he said, “Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and the corrupt leaders who’ve bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime: No more.”
Joe Biden’s administration did not conceal the purpose of undermining the Russian economy through sanctions, namely drying up the arteries of the Russian defence budget and exerting pressure on the Russian masses to rebel against Putin and his entourage. As for America’s domestic file, he seized the moment to play down the impact of the sanctions imposed on Russia and their fallouts on the US economy, and to propagate his achievements for electoral purposes. He explained that all the sanctions would be counterproductive and costly for the US economy, but that was the price of supporting freedom; he said he had taken a host of steps to reduce the cost by releasing 30 million oil barrels from the US strategic reserves as part of a step taken by several states to release 60 million barrels. He also attempted to expound the importance of the financial decisions he had taken by reminding his audience that US economy had grown by 5.7% in 2021, and generated 5.6 million new jobs, and slamming the decision of his predecessor to spend $2 trillion in reducing taxes of which the top one percent of Americans benefitted and which failed to achieve the pledges made to justify this tax cut, and instead, led to weak economic growth, low wages and a huge economic deficit, in addition to causing the widest gap between the rich and the rest of the citizens. He said, “When we use taxpayers’ dollars to rebuild America, we’re going to do it by buying American. Buy American products. Support American jobs.”
As for inflation, and in an attempt to sedate the masses regarding the narrowing of class distinctions and the flaws in the distribution of wealth, and in an attempt to market himself and generate an opportunity to salvage his presidency and the credentials of his party in the next midterm and presidential elections, he said, “I think I have a better idea to fight inflation: Lower your costs, not your wages,”; he added, “Look, economists call this increasing the productive capacity of our economy.” He demanded from pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of drugs and wondered why insulin was sold at 30 times its cost.
Joe Biden also alluded to the forthcoming phase, namely the confrontation with China; and by doing so, he was attempting to hijack and outdo the discourse of the Republican Party. He said “I’ve told Xi Jinping: It’s never been a good bet to bet against the American people,” adding that he had submitted to Congress “the bipartisan Innovation Act that will make record investments in emerging technologies and American manufacturing.” He announced that microchips company Intel would build a new plant costing $20 billion and that Intel’s CEO pledged to invest $100 billion to execute the plan of his company. Biden wanted to reassure the American people about the fallout of the forthcoming confrontation with China. He said that Ford would be “investing $11 billion in electric vehicles, creating 11,000 jobs across the country.” And General Motors would be “making the largest investment in its history — $7 billion to build electric vehicles, creating 4,000 jobs in Michigan.”
This announcement is extremely important as it is the first American investment after the threat of strategic supply chains had been accentuated and highlighted with China playing a focal role, especially throughout the pandemic.
It seems Joe Biden has succeeded in harnessing the Ukrainian crisis in averting what has been described a shortcoming in his political performance, especially in respect of the withdrawal from Afghanistan on which the Republican Party spokesperson focused, in addition to his mishandling of the Coronavirus pandemic fallouts that led to a sharp dwindling in his popularity credentials, which recently slumped to 37%, the lowest among his 12 predecessors after the first year of their tenures.
Biden has made of the State of the Union speech a tool to embellish his image, increase the credentials of his party and enhance the chance of his party in winning the next midterm elections by projecting the unity of Congress and the level of support given to his domestic and foreign policies, especially in respect of the Ukrainian crisis and standing up to Russia’s belligerence. He was eager to project total support for Ukraine by hosting the Ukrainian ambassador to Washington, Oksana Markarova, who sat to the right of the First Lady and was one of the guests of honour, and with several congresspersons flying the yellow and blue colours of Ukraine.
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