Joe Biden received a rough reception from Republicans during his State of the Union address. Matt Purple explains in Spectator World that the raucous rebuff of Biden’s lies may not be such a bad thing. He writes:
When Biden accused “some Republicans” of wanting “Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years,” Republicans loudly booed and Marjorie Taylor Greene shouted “liar!” When he warned about the scourge of fentanyl, they retorted “secure the border!” and “it’s your fault!” And when he claimed that legions of fast-food workers were being made to sign noncompete contracts — what the actual what? — Kevin McCarthy couldn’t resist glancing at his caucus and chuckling.
This kind of thing is supposed to be a no-no at State of the Union addresses, which take our democratic institutions and submerge them in all the pageantry of the ancient Persian court. The president is supposed to be a sun-god in these moments, with everyone else his captive worshippers. When Republican congressman Joe Wilson dared to shout “you lie!” at Barack Obama back in 2009, he was promptly hooded like a falcon and hauled away to a prison barge. Yet in 2023 a more raucous approach managed to prevail.
As it should be. America’s most North Korean political ritual originates in Article II of the Constitution, which says the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.” It does not say he “shall get a free ninety-minute campaign speech during which his political opponents shall be Gorilla-Glued to their chairs.” Yet this is the way it’s often turned out. The State of the Union has become an inherently political event, an opportunity for the president to hit the stump during an off year. Speeches read like campaign wish lists: more teachers! More Pell grants! More EVs!
Yet if the president is allowed to be political, shouldn’t his opponents? This is all the more important if the president is lying, which Biden was. “Some Republicans” do not want “Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years”; one Republican, Senator Rick Scott of Florida, has endorsed that, and his proposal was dead on arrival in Congress. Fentanyl is indeed a crisis, but that’s because it’s spilling across our unsecured southern border, which Biden neglected to mention is far less safe because he dismantled Donald Trump’s immigration and asylum policies. And, of course, there is no rash of McDonald’s workers deep in talks with Wendy’s only to suddenly discover they’re contractually barred.
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