Biden makes case for 2nd presidential term in State of the Union

WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden sought to draw stark contrasts between his policies and those of his Republican predecessor and likely election opponent, ex-President Donald Trump, during his State of the Union address on Thursday evening.

With just eight months to go until Election Day, Biden launched an oftentimes fiery and defiant speech that repeatedly singled out Trump and his Republican allies.

“My purpose tonight is to wake up the Congress, and alert the American people that this is no ordinary moment,” he said in his annual speech to both houses of Congress.

“Not since President Lincoln in the Civil War, and freedom and democracy and under assault at home as they are today. What makes our moment rare is that freedom and democracy are under attack both at home and overseas at the very same time,” he added.

But Biden did not stay on the defensive, instead touting his achievements, including record economic data that continues to pour in.

“Our economy is literally the envy of the world. Fifteen million new jobs in just three years, a record, a record. Unemployment at 50-year lows. A record 16 million Americans are starting small businesses each month. Each one is a little act of hope,” he told a joint session of Congress.

“Inflation has dropped from 9 percent to 3 percent. The lowest in the world and trending lower.”

Biden again brought up a tax plan that he said would eliminate Trump-era tax cuts that “overwhelmingly benefit the top 1percent, the very wealthy, the biggest corporations,” and which “exploded” the US deficit.

“The way to make the tax code fair is to make big corporations, (the) very wealthy begin to pay their fair share,” he said. “It’s time to raise corporate minimum tax to at least 21 percent.”

Hitting back at Republican barbs

The president repeatedly clashed with Republican hecklers in his more than one-hour address, engaging in exchanges in which he sought to highlight the differences between his agenda and accomplishments, and the vision put forward by his rivals.

Biden never mentioned Trump by name, but left little doubt who he was referring to at critical junctures in his speech, repeatedly referring to “my predecessor” instead as he lambasted his likely 2024 presidential rival.

That included singling out Trump for comments in which he said he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO allies who have not met the alliance’s commitment that allies spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense.

“A former president actually said that, bowing down to a Russian leader. I think it’s outrageous, it’s dangerous, and it’s unacceptable,” Biden said to raucous cheers from his Democratic allies.

“America is a founding member of NATO, the military alliance of democratic nations created after World War Two to prevent war, and keep the peace.”

Not one to sit on the sidelines, Trump reacted to Biden’s address in real-time on his Truth Social media website, issuing dozens of posts and memes, including one that sought to reject Biden’s Russia barbs.

“He said I bowed down to the Russian Leader. He gave them everything, including Ukraine. I took away Nord Stream 2, he gave it to them! He was a Puppet for Putin and Xi, and virtually every other Leader!” Trump said.

In response to the ex-president’s screed, Biden’s campaign issued a one-word reply: “Sad.”

On immigration, Biden called on the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to approve additional border funding he has long requested, saying it would “save lives” by clamping down on fentanyl smuggling, and would hire some 1,500 new border agents and 100 more immigration judges amid a massive backlog in cases.

The comments drew raucous Republican heckles, to which Biden replied: “Look at the facts. I know you know how to read.”

“I believe that given the opportunity, a majority in the House and Senate would endorse the bill as well, a majority right now. But unfortunately, politics has derailed this bill so far,” he said.

“I’m told my predecessor called members of Congress in the Senate to demand they block the bill. He feels it would be a political win for me, and a political loser for him. It’s not about him. It’s not about me.” (Anadolu)