As we mentioned before, opinions and judgments can change depending on circumstances, experience, and knowledge. Proof of this assertion was last night when Joe Biden delivered his ‘State of the Union’ (SOTU) address to an international audience. Biden, first of all, looked coherent, energetic, focused, and good-spirited. He was also quick on his feet and witty in the face of Republican heckling and jeering. Second, the content of his speech was extraordinary. Both Biden and the team who helped craft his speech deserve much credit and reward for their efforts. It also shows that challenging the system can prove fruitful, as long as one does not challenge the system just for the sake of challenging.
And based on instant polls after the speech, more than 70 percent of Americans approved his speech, and about the same number of Americans believed that the speech would take America into the right direction. Thus, Biden and his team addressed the credibility and legitimacy issue that all of us were concerned about. In one moment, Biden was able to regain the credibility and legitimacy that he was missing for a while now. The only obstacle for Biden, however, is Republican opposition, as well as the issue of how much of his upcoming plan can get passed. But these are perhaps obstacles which can be overcome in a variety of ways. As has been said: “If there is a will, there is a way.”
Also notable is the fact that in a speech that was more than an hour long, only about 40 seconds or a minute of it was spent on discussing foreign policy. This is telling, but also in a good way. There was no mention of the Middle East, a region of the world and a subject which most Americans want to forget about because it gives many of us cold sweats at night. It goes to show that the Middle East is no longer a core focus of Washington’s foreign policy, given that the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East proved to be highly unpopular and wasteful.
Biden framed the core challenge of American foreign policy as a contest between “freedom and autocracy” which was expected given that as we mentioned before, foreign policy has to be contextualized and framed in this manner in order to give it a moral basis. In addition to the reference to “freedom and autocracy” was a mention of Vladimir Putin and his “brutal assault” on Ukraine and how America has taken action to counter it. Thus, Russia and the moral basis provided for foreign policy are interlinked. And the contextualization and framing of the foreign policy focus last night by way of SOTU was for the most part a derivation and product of a Cold War type of situation which Washington finds itself in at the moment.
In sum, it was a brilliant speech, and it hit all the right notes and topics. All the topics discussed were proportionate to the attention and focus which they deserve. And it was a speech which even the worst critics and opponents of Joe Biden would have to give a nod to given its extraordinary delivery and quality.