AMAC Exclusive – By Alan Jamison
One of the first big political events of the new year is typically the president’s annual State of the Union Address, which is rightly considered the “Super Bowl” of presidential events. This most widely anticipated speech of the political year usually takes place in January, except for extraordinary circumstances like a government shutdown. In fact, no commander-in-chief of the modern era has ever given a State of the Union address later than February 12. This year, however, Americans may have to wait weeks or even months longer than usual to hear President Biden deliver his first formal State of the Union. According to reports, the White House is considering March 1 as a potential date for the speech, leading many political observers to ask an obvious question – why the delay?
While the White House hasn’t offered any explanation, one seemingly clear answer is that by any reasonable measure, the state of the union under Joe Biden is very bad. And when it comes specifically to his performance on COVID-19, Biden’s record is awful. Biden promised throughout his 2020 campaign to get the pandemic under control by using the authority of the federal government. But the country is now seeing more than 1 million cases per day, five times more than ever before. More Americans died of COVID-19 in 2021 than all of 2020, restaurants and businesses are struggling to keep their doors open, and schools are shutting back down in a similar fashion as to when the pandemic first hit the United States. Americans are even struggling to find over-the-counter COVID-19 tests weeks after Biden promised to make 500 million tests available for free.
To make matters worse, just days ago Biden appeared to throw up his hands in defeat, claiming that there was “no federal solution” to the pandemic. This also comes after Biden declared victory over the virus in a speech last summer, and before that was handed three vaccines and the most robust testing operation in the world by the Trump administration.
Given this objective reality, it makes perfect sense to postpone the State of the Union speech for as long as possible, hoping that political circumstances change before March 1. It will be hard to either ignore or explain away his failures on COVID-19 in such a high-profile speech if there’s no good news to report. So it’s a good bet for Mr. Biden to delay – as his pandemic performance can’t get much worse, while the natural course of the virus is likely to result in dramatically declining cases and deaths before March 1.
As Politico reported earlier this week, Biden administration officials “are hoping this surge drops dramatically in the next few weeks.” If that is the case, a decline in case numbers could provide Mr. Biden with a slight reprieve if he chooses to delay his State of the Union address until March. After all, at the current rate of infection, most Americans may have already had COVID-19 by March 1.
However, even if the pandemic does abate somewhat in the coming weeks, that likely won’t distract much from the litany of other crises facing the nation. The annual inflation rate in the United States recently reached the highest level in nearly four decades, as prices reportedly increased by 5.7% through November of last year. Supply chain issues have also ravaged the nation over the past few months, leaving store shelves empty as families prepared for the holidays. Add to that a border crisis, crime wave, and numerous foreign policy fiascos, and the American people are unlikely to buy any positive spin Biden’s speechwriters attempt to put on what was a disastrous first year in office.
The White House may also now find themselves grasping for what to say in the speech to rally Congressional Democrats given that they have already failed to pass his main agenda items despite having control of both chambers of Congress. Throughout his 2020 campaign, Mr. Biden promised to enact a sweeping far-left agenda to appease progressives, but Joe Manchin just delivered what could be a knockout blow to the White House’ signature spending plan that included many of those left-wing priorities like Green New Deal-type climate policies and massively expanded government welfare. Accordingly, Mr. Biden’s advisors may be trying to buy themselves time, hoping that Congress will pass something that they can tout as an accomplishment so that they do not have to send Joe Biden to Capitol Hill to pitch an agenda that appears to already be dead in the water.
There’s also the fact that Mr. Biden has struggled through a number of far lower-profile speeches throughout his first year in office, often appearing confused or misspeaking at the podium. Aides seem to be acutely aware of his shortcomings as a public speaker, and have made numerous attempts to shield him from the spotlight and prevent him from taking questions from reporters. Perhaps with more time to prepare, Biden’s handlers are hopeful that the President can deliver a passable performance.
Such motivations may have been at play last year as well, when Biden waited a shockingly long time to deliver his first Address to a Joint Session of Congress, the special name given to the State-of-the-Union-like speech a president gives shortly after taking office. Biden pushed it all the way back to April 28. When Biden finally did give the speech, it was to lackluster response, with even liberal commentators on television conceding it was an uninspiring “laundry list.” Biden also waited more than 100 days to give his first solo press conference, when all of his 15 most recent predecessors had given one within 33 days of taking office.
Even if Congress does manage to pass a bill, or virus case numbers do come down, Mr. Biden will still have a herculean task ahead of him when he finally decides to deliver his State of the Union Address this year. As Americans face one crisis after another and Democrats have been frustrated by divisions within their own party, it seems that few people on either side of the political aisle are satisfied with Mr. Biden’s leadership. For the White House, this creates the unenviable situation of trying to craft a speech that no one will be satisfied with, looking for answers that may, quite simply, not exist.
And if the State of the Union is anything like one of the major sporting events of the year, there’s also the question of whether this year’s speech will elicit echoes of the same cheer that has made its way to stadiums and race tracks across the country: “Let’s Go Brandon!”
Americans will probably have to wait another month or two to see.
Alan Jamison is the pen name of a political writer with extensive experience writing for several notable politicians and news outlets.
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