If Joe Biden is keeping the suspense alive by not announcing his candidacy for president in 2024 right away; his speech left no doubt about his desire to fight.
Since 2008, the year Joe Biden faced-off against Barack Obama before becoming his running mate, I’ve lost count of the number of speeches and press conferences on which I’ve had to comment in the media. Biden’s performance last night figures prominently on the list.
While his detractors take every opportunity to highlight his age, physical capacity or cognitive function, the president has remained focused, determined and strong.
On numerous occasions, Biden alternated between humor, compassion, authority and defiance. With a touch of provocation, he goaded the extremist elements among congressional Republicans. In the face of insults, he donned his most confident smile, as if to say bring it on!
In substance, Biden performed as expected. A big portion of his speech was reserved for the economy. His accomplishments are very real, and he owes it to himself to hammer the message.
With regard to the debate on raising the debt ceiling, he made sure to put the Republicans on the defensive, challenging them not to touch Medicare or Social Security.
Another high point in the speech, and potential trap, was the subject of police brutality. Biden skillfully highlighted the difficult work of American law enforcement, which represents the last line of defense in a society that struggles to regulate issues that lead to police intervention. If the desire is to reform the way police are trained, we must examine the violence that too often plagues the country.
If Biden reserved less time for foreign affairs, he made sure to present the United States as an unwavering defender of democracies, while also underscoring the positive efforts his administration has made on the matter of the invasion of Ukraine.
It May Not Be Enough
Even if Biden’s speech was flawless, one wonders if it will be enough to revive hopes and change perceptions in a lasting way. Public opinion has changed little over recent months.
If the context of the last campaign worked in Biden’s favor, this time around he will be unable to content himself with delivering speeches comfortably from the basement of his home in Delaware. It could be difficult for him to make multiple appearances in multiple states all in the space of a single day. Last night he had time to master the content and the form of the address; the brutality and the speed of an election campaign will not give him that luxury.
Despite a laudable performance since January of this year, many of Biden’s constituents and members of his party believe he may not be in a position, as he continually repeated last night, to “finish the job.”