President Joe Biden held his politically divided audience rapt Tuesday night as he blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin and his corrupt entourage of billionaire oligarchs while cheering Ukraine’s heroic fight for freedom. The standing ovation Biden’s words received from both sides of the aisle worked wonders to reassure Americans that, despite mountainous political differences at home, the state of this union is strong when it comes to defying tyranny and extremism.
For far too long, the knee-jerk reaction of both parties has been to find fault with anything and everything the president from the opposing party says or does. During Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Biden found more than one way to elicit enthusiastic support from his Republican counterparts. In other words, all is not lost, even for a president whose election prompted an insurrection in the very chamber where he addressed Congress.
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Biden made a bold choice by splitting in significant ways from the extreme left of his own party and appealing to moderates on the other side. Switching from Ukraine, he turned to crime and public security at home, making clear exactly where he stands: “We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.” Interrupted by GOP applause, Biden repeated himself three times, “Fund them. Fund them. Fund them with resources and training.”
The far left was not amused. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan issued a bizarre “Democratic response” to Biden.
Rep. Cori Bush of St. Louis complained that Biden omitted any reference to “saving Black lives.” She tweeted that police funding yielded increased fatal police shootings in 2021, adding, “Defund the police. Invest in our communities.”
Bush tweeted on Feb. 24 her opposition to both “military escalation” and “inhumane sanctions” against Russia, putting her in odd alignment with incoherent isolationist Republicans like Sen. Josh Hawley.
That wasn’t lost on Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who told the Ripon Society: “I think one of the real challenges that we have faced in our party has been a growing sense of isolationism. … Now we see it on the Democratic side, as well. But those people in our party who are advocating for the United States to withdraw from the world, who are advocating that somehow the United States shouldn’t lead in the world anymore” are only leaving a void for Russia, China, Iran and North Korea to fill.
Moderate Republicans still have plenty to disagree with in Biden’s agenda, but both sides should find common ground in the president’s closing words: “Now is our moment to meet and overcome the challenges of our time. And we will, as one people. One America. The United States of America.” If they’ve got a problem with that, the nation really is in big trouble.