A solemn but sturdy President Joe Biden took to airwaves tonight in his first presidential primetime address to tell a divided and coronavirus-battered America that help is truly on the way, with vaccines and financial aid. Just 50 days in office, Biden’s carefully crafted speech also proved a steady but stark contrast to his predecessor in both style and substance.
“A year ago, we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked,” Biden started off, in remarks that never mentioned Donald Trump by name. “Denials for days, weeks, then months. That led to more deaths.”
Joe Biden Dons Unifier-In-Chief Role For First Primetime Address; Says Violence Against Asian-Americans “Must Stop”
Covered on all the broadcast networks, cabler newsers and even Newsmax and OAN, the just-over-20-minute address from the White House’s East Room, like so much of Biden’s new presidency, was torn straight from the Ronald Reagan playbook, with a 21st century tweak. Or, as CNN’s Anderson Cooper said after the speech of the Ernest Hemingway-quoting and sometimes near-whispering Biden, “There was sort of a grandfather approach to his presentation.”
Indeed, there was a lot of Uncle Joe tonight, and for the most part, it was a flawless performance that moved from Commander-in-Grief to the Great Unifier.
“I need you. I need every American to do their part. That’s not hyperbole. I need you,” the president said, almost leaning over the podium and looking deep into the camera.
“If we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there is a good chance that you, your family and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or your neighborhood and have a cookout or a BBQ and celebrate Independence Day,” Biden added, at one point sounding a bit like fictional POTUS Thomas Whitmore. “After this long, hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.”
“How after a long dark year, one whole year, there is hope and light and better days ahead,” Biden added, as he wrapped up on a high of reopened schools, economic growth, and vaccinations.
“My fervent prayer for our country is that after all we’ve been through, we’ll come together, as one people, one nation, one America,” Biden said, leaving his vice presidential days far behind as the top dog.
“I believe we can and we will. We’re seizing this moment, and history, I believe, will record we faced and overcame one of the toughest and darkest periods in this nation’s history …I promise you, we’ll come out stronger, with a renewed faith in ourselves and a new commitment to one another, to our communities, to our country.”
Then again, unlike anything the 40th POTUS would have said, the early part of the 46th POTUS’ speech was a message to Republicans and independents who distrust the government, a tenuous situation at a time when convincing much of the public to get vaccinated is necessary for herd immunity. “We need to remember that the government isn’t some foreign force in a distant capitol; it is us, all of us, we, the people,” Biden said.
The speech comes at a moment when Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Act has become the law of the land and Covid-19 cases have seemingly plateaued. But 1,500 or so are still dying every day, and a challenge for Biden was striking the right balance between empathy and reassurance. Halfway through the first 100 days of his administration, and with plans to take his legislative victory on the road next week, the president clearly wants to catch the rising tide of the 77% of Americans who feel the worse of the pandemic is behind us.
“If it fails, I will acknowledge it failed, but it won’t,” a defiant Biden stated of the wide-ranging and big bucks in the American Rescue Plan near the end of his speech, letting the Uncle Joe personal slip just a second to show the steely politician he is and has long been.
To that end, Biden’s initial news out of the speech — that he would direct states to make vaccines available to all adults by May 1 — also is in line with the way that his team has approached their response to the pandemic: don’t overpromise. As it is, vaccinations are very quickly becoming much more widely available, and vaccination rates have shot up.
Taking full advantage of his audience and his bully pulpit, Biden strongly denounced rising vicious hate attacks on Asian-Americans in language the nation hasn’t heard from a President in years. “So many of them are fellow Americans, are on the frontlines of this pandemic trying to save lives – and still are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America,” Biden declared. “It’s wrong. It’s un-American. And it must stop.”
Not that there weren’t some sharp blows from expected sources tonight
Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson opened his show by saying that they would go live to the East Room, but still said he found it “odd” that the White House would pick this date, the anniversary of the lockdowns, as a time to “celebrate.” It was a now-typical shiv by Carlson on the Democrat. While Biden’s team spent a great deal of time preparing for the primetime moment, the White House has never suggested that the president’s speech would be a time of jubilation.
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