I don’t make a habit of tuning in to political speeches, because I don’t hate myself that much, but I did feel obligated to tune in to Thursday’s speech by President Joe Biden on the “battle for the soul of the nation.”
Mainly because I figured there was no way it wouldn’t be a trainwreck of a speech. A cognitively impaired Biden trying to be deep about the “soul of the nation”? What a disaster that was going to be.
Fortunately, for my entertainment purposes, I was right.
The setting of Biden’s itself was pretty goofy. Against a creepily dark backdrop in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, amid sirens and heckles, with Marines standing in the background, Joe Biden stammered for half an hour in a speech that could’ve been condensed to “MAGA bad, democracy good.”
The ostensible goal of the speech was to call out Trump and “MAGA Republican,” who he awkwardly tried to say are “not even the majority of Republicans,” which is wrong. Most Republicans are in fact loyal to Donald Trump. Biden was obviously trying to cover himself by pretending he wasn’t about to heap a bunch of rhetorical abuse on tens of millions of Americans.
“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” he said.
While babbling about manufacturing, he characterized his critics as “white supremacists and extremists.”
He was, in effect, calling the tens of millions of Americans who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 white supremacist extremists who threaten the foundations of our republic.
Now, as I’ve written many times before, I’m not a fan of Trump, Trumpism, populism or even the GOP.
But it doesn’t require much insight to realize how self-defeating it is for a president in Joe Biden whose whole 2020 presidential campaign was about uniting Americans and restoring a sense of normalcy and civility to smear one of the two parties in our two-party system as “semi-fascist” (as he said before the speech) and a threat to America itself.
Rather than uniting Americans or promoting civility, Biden has decided to add more fuel to the fire with overly broad condemnations of way too many people.
There’s nothing wrong or especially hard about condemning Trump for his many faults, or condemning particular ideas expressed by Trump and his supporters.
But Biden chose instead to indulge in hysterical, partisan bomb throwing that will do nothing to achieve the “unity” he says he wants.
If America wants a unifier, Biden’s clearly not the person suited for that role. While political unity is mostly a farcical concept, if one is going to attempt it, a reasonable starting point is to recognize that most people who support Donald Trump aren’t evil, awful fascists and have interests and ideas that can probably be spoken to by a vaguely perceptive politician.
Here are a few other oddities of the speech that jumped out.
Democratic hypocrisy on the MAGA threat
With all of Biden’s apparent concern about MAGA Republicans, no one told him, apparently, that his own party has spent tens of millions of dollars across the country to boost MAGA Republican candidates to beat non-MAGA Republicans.
“President Joe Biden’s speech emphasizes the ‘danger’ of ‘MAGA Republicans’ in 2022 midterms but Democrats spent over $44 million boosting election deniers who believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump in GOP primaries against more moderate candidates,” noted Anna Massoglia from Opensecrets.org.
One successful instance that comes to mind is the Democratic boosting of the far-right John Gibbs to oust Republican Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan, who voted to impeach Donald Trump, in the primaries. With the help of the Democrats, who didn’t like their odds against Meijer, Gibbs, who Biden evidently believes is a threat to America, could very well end up in Congress.
Here in California, there was an unsuccessful attempt by Democrats to boost Trumper Chris Mathys in his primary challenge to Rep. David Valadao, who voted to impeach Trump. Likewise, in northern California, as first chronicled by my colleague Matt Fleming, Democratic Assemblyman Ken Cooley boosted a member of the Proud Boys in the primary in an unsuccessful effort to prevent a more mainstream Republican from making it through.
If Democrats are truly concerned about “MAGA Republicans,” they have an odd way of showing it.
“I give you my word as a Biden”
As I said at the top of this column, I don’t listen to political speeches very often, so I was caught off guard by Joe Biden using the following line: “I give you my word as a Biden: I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s future.”
It turns out “as a Biden” is a thing Biden does. The first article to pop up as I was sorting out whether I heard him say it correctly was a 2019 Washington Post piece. The Post piece focused on a story Biden told on the campaign trail about how, as vice president, he was asked to travel to Afghanistan to honor a Navy captain.
“This is the God’s truth,” Biden said. “My word as a Biden.”
This is where it gets good: “In the space of three minutes, Biden got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, the military branch and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony.”
The Post explained, “[A]lmost every detail in the story appears to be incorrect. Based on interviews with more than a dozen U.S. troops, their commanders and Biden campaign officials, it appears as though the former vice president has jumbled elements of at least three actual events into one story of bravery, compassion and regret that never happened.”
So when Biden says he’s “never been more optimistic about America’s future”…run.
Revisionist history on election denialism
Throughout Biden’s speech, he condemned Republicans for denying the results of the 2020 election. “We can’t let the integrity of our elections be undermined, for that is a path to chaos,” Biden said.
Democrats have, justifiably, seized on this as a talking point going into the midterms. Claims the 2020 election was stolen is, in my humble opinion, nonsense. You know Republicans have nothing when they’ve resorted to invoking a documentary by grifter Dinesh D’Souza as validating their worldview. Clearly, the events of Jan. 6, 2021 were an outburst of lunacy and a uniquely disturbing one at that.
But here’s the thing, and here’s a thing older Republicans and even non-Republicans remember: election denialism isn’t new. It’s not a Republican thing.
I first became politically aware around the Bush-Gore election of 2000 and clearly remember Bush critics denying that he won the election.
“In polls conducted since December, a little more than one-third of all Democrats have said that Bush stole the election, while roughly half have said that Bush won the presidency on a technicality, and just 15% said he won fair and square,” reported Gallup in 2001. Even one Joe Biden is on video repeatedly saying he thought Al Gore won the 2000 election.
I also remember, as a young hater of Bush, wanting to believe in 2004 that Bush stole that election too, this time in Ohio.
“As we look at our election system, I think it’s fair to say that there are many legitimate questions about [the election’s] accuracy, about its integrity, and they are not confined to the state of Ohio,” one Hillary Clinton said in 2005. That year, 31 members of Congress (insurrectionists?), objected to counting electoral votes in favor of George W. Bush.
Oh and speaking of Hillary, who can believe the wild conspiracy theory that the Russians stole the 2016 election?
My point here is not to say that the election denialism of the Democrats cancels out or mitigates the lunacy of Trump’s election denialism or the objectively insane events of Jan. 6, but rather that it’s an error to pretend that only Republicans have kooky views about American elections. Neither party, especially when fronted by people who themselves have indulged in such talking points, can credibly condemn the other on this point.
Biden and Trump should go away
As I’ve written before, American politics would be better off without Biden and Trump.
Trump is an insane person who induces Trump Derangement Syndrome in both his critics and supporters.
As confirmed by his speech, Biden isn’t the unifying figure he was elected to be, he’s presided over a massive attack on the bank accounts of all Americans with his inflationary policies and he carries a whole lot of baggage. A person who was dumb and/or evil enough to vote for the Iraq war isn’t the person who is going to save the soul of America. Nope. (And may God bless/may the police state institutionalize anyone who thinks Kamala Harris is the one to do it, either.)
Sal Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org