Biden's speech: Calling 'All aboard' before all are in

Biden's speech: Calling 'All aboard' before all are in
© AP/Pool

In his State of the Union speech in 1790, President George Washington offered the timeless truth: “Every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people.”

Democracy is a wonderful but wholly unpredictable thing, as those who are temporarily empowered to define and protect it too often assume that everyone’s singing from the same hymnal.

Last night, in a half-filled House chamber, President Joe Biden delivered a full-out version of it, which — if adopted — would put government back in complete charge of our freedoms, our wallets, and our lives. Then he added the kicker by declaring this bullet train was leaving the station, like it or not, whether we’re on board or not, come hell or high water.


However well-intentioned or heart-felt, the President is calling for a Bernie SandersBernie SandersWyden: Funding infrastructure with gas tax hike a 'big mistake' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel The Memo: Outrage rises among liberals over Israel MORE-style revolution, threatening an economy still healing from a year of pandemic punishment, and families still reeling from a year (and loved ones) lost. 

It took 100 days before this president used less than 100 minutes to explain 100 ways he’s going to change America. He believes the 2020 election was a mandate when in fact it was more like pushing a reset button.

On this night of nights, when a president exercised his constitutional right to lay out an agenda, explain it, and if necessary defend it, Joe Biden spoke in dulcet voice, like a parent comforting his children that the deafening sounds of change outside were nothing to be concerned about; that father (aka government) knows best.

Give the president credit for a few things. His tenor was intimate and his feelings genuine, a tone that truly fit the times we’re living through and the perseverance still needed to overcome the wrath of COVID. His plea to every American that they get vaccinated was a virtuous call to national unity during a period where we’ve experienced too little of that.

Although their politics is not my cup of tea, it was refreshing to see history made by the two leaders behind him, that the glass ceiling of opportunity for every woman has been forever shattered by the march of modernity.


With that said, here are five key takeaways:

  • Do we really need an FDR-like WPA jobs program, especially one that includes a massive expansion of social safety net spending, when American restaurants (and other service industries) are having an historically difficult time recruiting workers? Our economy has been temporarily depressed by COVID, not permanently disfigured by it.
  • The nation’s credit company, the U.S. Treasury, will be issuing a new credit card to every American with no limits and no intent to collect what’s owed. The total bill for the (mostly non-COVID) stimulus act, infrastructure (plus everything else) program, and family assistance already nears $6 trillion. This could reignite inflation, hike the deficit, and spike national debt. Biden is committing us to over-spending to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
  • The president finessed or completely bypassed the elephants in the room, figuratively and politically. He ignored the illegal human surge threatening our southern border, the push to pack the Supreme Court, the drive for DC statehood (guaranteeing two more Democrat votes in the now-split Senate), what to do with climate-displaced oil/gas/Keystone pipeline workers, the lack of faith in America’s election system, and he did little to reassure our men and women in blue that he’s truly got their back while they risk their lives against a rising tide of homicides and violence in American cities.
  • Despite the momentous changes he’s advocating, Biden’s speech will not be remembered for the power of its words. Despite his policy prescriptions, there was little FDR (“the four freedoms”), scant LBJ (“many live on the outskirts of hope … some because of their poverty, others because of their color, and all too many because of both”) and no Lincoln (“we shall nobly serve or meanly lose the best hope of Earth”).

On a night any politician pines for — prime time television before the nation and the power elites — it will likely be remembered more for what was meant (the biggest expansion of government — and debt — in earth history) than what was said.

In that same 1790 speech, George Washington concluded that “knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.” Given President BidenJoe BidenKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' US officials testify on domestic terrorism in wake of Capitol attack MORE’s take-it-or-leave it manifesto, we’re not going to be all that happy with what we learn.

Adam Goodman, a national Republican media strategist and columnist, is the first Edward R. Murrow senior fellow at Tufts University's Fletcher School. Follow him on Twitter @adamgoodman3