So Far, Not Much in the Way of Quotable Quotes

We knew going into tonight’s State of the Union that Biden originally planned to focus more on his domestic agenda, compelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to shift his emphasis. Those opening remarks included some stirring rhetoric in support for Ukraine – “light will win over darkness” – but I’m still waiting for more memorable rhetoric to put this address in the annals of historic presidential addresses. So far the only other phrase I’ve heard to catch my ear was Biden’s appeal to new job opportunities as a “field of dreams.”

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump was well-known for rhetorical flourish that captured the attention of both audiences and political analysts. Compare Biden’s phrasing to the imagery with which Trump began his own final State of the Union address in February, 2020:

Tonight, I stand before you to share the incredible results. Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, crime is falling, confidence is surging, and our country is thriving and highly respected again. America’s enemies are on the run, America’s fortunes are on the rise, and America’s future is blazing bright. The years of economic decay are over. The days of our country being used, taken advantage of, and even scorned by other nations are long behind us. Gone too are the broken promises, jobless recoveries, tired platitudes, and constant excuses for the depletion of American wealth, power, and prestige.

Trump and his speech writers knew well how to draw upon his appeal to voters: a straight-talker who combined frank optimism with grave assessments of the state of America. That language of decay dovetails nicely with Trump’s own inaugural address and his claim that “this American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

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