President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, March 7, 2024, in Washington.

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, March 7, 2024, in Washington. (Mandel Ngan, AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — President Joe Biden is angry.

When he ran for office in 2020, Biden promised to restore normalcy and unity to America. In his State of the Union address Thursday night, he gave a speech that was partisan, dishonest and, at times, incoherent. It wasn’t an update on America, nor was it hopeful, unifying or inspiring.

In a speech that ran over an hour and lacked any structure, the 81-year-old president covered a wide range of topics, from the border and the economy to Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump — referred to frequently as Biden’s “predecessor.” His delivery was unusual: Biden seemed mad and divisive and occasionally slurred his words and struggled to enunciate.

Rather than giving Americans a review of the last year or a list of future policy plans, Biden gave a campaign stump speech meant to reassure his base that he can still fight for a second term and rally Democrats to support him. The State of the Union address is not the place for that.

Biden is a Democrat, of course, so it makes sense that he would support liberal proposals. He did that. But he also made several claims that were either half-truths or altogether dishonest, garnering distrust among viewers. “If we change the dynamic at the border,” Biden said, as if his policies had nothing to do with creating the current surge of migrants we’ve observed the last three years.

In a bid to look empathetic and human, Biden mentioned Laken Riley, the young Georgia woman recently slain while jogging, a crime in which a migrant in the country illegally is charged. Biden misspoke, didn’t get her name correct, and seemed callous when mentioning she was killed by “an illegal.”

Biden’s flubbed border comment wasn’t the only thing he said that didn’t quite make sense. When referring to taking office during COVID, Biden says Americans are participating in a “comeback story never told.” While we’ve learned to handle COVID and are no longer suffocating in a pandemic, most Americans likely don’t feel like they’re coming back from anything, particularly because of the economy.

“I inherited an economy on the brink. Now it’s the envy of the world,” Biden said. But this seems to be a matter of interpretation. He claimed that unemployment was at a 15-year low. “Wages keep going up and inflation keeps going down,” he said. Even if some wages — like minimum wages — are going up as reports suggest, that doesn’t help people who don’t earn minimum wage.

For many groups, inflation still outpaced wage growth. And even if inflation is lower than it was two years ago, prices are still much higher than before he took office.

Biden was at his best slamming Trump, whom he never named the entire time. He mentioned the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and landed this quotable line: “Here’s the simple truth: You can’t love your country only when you win.” On this, we agree.

In the end, the speech was full of two things that aren’t good for Americans of any political persuasion. First, Biden advocated for policies that continue to hurt Americans, like abortion on demand, higher taxes for corporations and wealthy people, and government expansion of programs such as education spending. Government should provide people with a healthy robust structure to live their lives to the fullest; it should not act as a bank, a doctor, or a church that tries to solve everyone’s problems.

Second, Biden was the most partisan he’s ever been. He acted angry, dishonest and divisive. Where is the president who promised to unite Americans? Where is the president who promised to defend America’s traditions and norms?

Finally, the State of the Union address should be a moment of transparency, yes, but also an opportunity for inspiration. After all, this is America. The president should reflect on where we’ve been but offer hope and solutions for the future. Americans are struggling to make sense of a world on the brink of widespread war, living paycheck to paycheck, and wondering how either presidential candidate reflects any of the things they care about.

When the commander in chief is well, cognizant and prepared, even if the state of the union was weak, Americans could still be hopeful, inspired, unified — strong. Biden couldn’t convey any of those things. That’s too bad for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Nicole Russell is a Fort Worth Star-Telegram opinion writer.

©2024 Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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