Biden’s disastrous State of Disunion address

The stage was set and the world was watching. Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, Riyadh, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Seoul, Pyongyang, and every European capital was listening to his words, assessing his gestures, noticing every slurred phrase, and making critical policy decisions. President Biden’s first State of the Union address was one of the most important speeches given by a world leader in decades. Much of the world fears that Russia’s attack on Ukraine may be the beginning of World War III, and could lead to nuclear confrontation. They were looking for a strong expression of principles and a clear vision for the future of the world, and especially for freedom, democracy and the rule of international law.

The speech ended leaving much of the world discouraged. There was no sign of vision or leadership. Empty bluster replaced strength and resolve. Other, more dangerous, parts of the world probably left the speech emboldened to follow Russia’s lead and strike while America is weak and confused. It was clear that America is guided by short-term political tactics, while our adversaries in Russia, China, Iran and elsewhere are driven by a different world vision and long-term strategies. Erratic increases in American defense spending and sanctions are in no way a vision, nor a strategy. 

Biden devoted a little less than 15 minutes to the new Russian aggression and global threats. He seemed to be unaware that Russia appears fully committed to crushing and annexing all of Ukraine very quickly. He gave no reassurance for how the likely Russian aggression against the Baltics and Poland would be met. He appears to have given little thought to what his strategy should be against nuclear threats that clearly are on the table

Biden referenced Russia and Vladimir Putin 30 times, but he mentioned the far bigger threat of China three times and Chinese leader Xi Jinping only once. Iran and North Korea went unmentioned.

After the first 15 minutes, any hope for a strong, united America to respond to these global threats was crushed as Biden continued to give one of the most divisive and destructive speeches in memory. On a global stage, Biden showed himself to be a small-minded, retail politician. He devoted the rest of his speech — nearly 50 minutes — to an endless laundry list of identity politics and large spending initiatives, receiving rousing cheers from only half of the highly divided room. 

In context, America may be entering an era of global war and must be strong and united. Pledging to unify us doesn’t make it so. 

Strength and unity starts with a strong economy. Yet Biden continued to press for expensive new domestic spending bills, which would hobble critical spending to strengthen our defense, as well as weaken the economy further with even higher inflation. He said there would be no new taxes on families earning less than $400,000 per year. Of course, that’s not true. At an annual rate of 7.5 percent, inflation has taken a huge bite out of all American families’ incomes. Biden implored the Senate to confirm the Federal Reserve chairman, who has stood by while inflation raged out of control.

The second pillar of strength for America, especially during war-like eras, is energy. If the Russian strategy has shown one thing, it is that America and its allies must be energy independent. The skyrocketing prices for gasoline and home heating and lighting in America are clear evidence that precipitous decarbonization is extremely dangerous to our economy and national security. But Biden refused to move to return America to energy independence and again held out his assurances that wind and solar are the answer. He seems to not grasp that it is becoming clear to most Americans that wind and solar are unreliable; that it will take decades to upgrade the American power grid; and that there may never be enough battery power to support homes and industry during solar and wind downtime. 

Again, Biden is unwilling to formulate a strategy to transition to new energy by using widely available bridge energy such as natural gas and nuclear. Simply look at Germany, which impulsively shut down its nuclear power plants, only to find itself — along with much of Europe and the U.S. — held hostage by Russian fossil fuels, the one major thing Biden did not dare put serious restrictions on purchasing. 

On the other major role of government and social coherence — public safety and law and order — Biden again drove a huge wedge though the country. He had to walk back the Democrats’ battle cry of “defund the police,” but he failed to get at “root causes” of crime, as Vice President Kamala Harris is prone to say. As if tone deaf, he called for stronger law enforcement but seemed unaware that liberal, Democratic prosecutors and city governments in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and other cities are refusing to enforce the law. He said he wanted to “hold law enforcement accountable.” Most Americans would like to hold local prosecutors, city councils and school boards accountable. While he bemoaned the crisis of opioid abuse, he failed to mention that most drugs cross our open southern border and often originate in China, reflecting policy failures that weaken the country.

The bottom line is that our global rivals, drug cartels, and other enemies saw nothing but green lights from Biden’s speech. Putin acted now because he sensed serious weakness in Biden and this administration. Americans should look for more to follow soon.

Grady Means is a writer (GradyMeans.com) and former corporate strategy consultant. He served in the White House as a policy assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Follow him on Twitter @gradymeans1.

Tags 2022 State of the Union China energy independence Inflation Joe Biden Kamala Harris Russian invasion of Ukraine Vladimir Putin

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