SOTU: President Biden’s Moment With History

Senator Mitt Romney was asked a few hours before President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address if he thought Russian President Putin would undertake a massive military move within Ukraine to upstage the annual event?

The Utah Republican politely stated something that could be inferred to mean it is hard to get into the head of a crazy man who is not making rational or logical decisions. With such questioning by reporters heading into the speech came the clear recognition that this SOTU, when a sovereign nation is being invaded with mounting deaths, would take on a far different tone. In so doing, this speech far more than in previous years, would reflect American values.

From a political perspective that can be a winning framework for President Biden, who is facing headwinds going into the midterm elections. From a historical perspective, it is a necessity at this time for the nation to promote our ideals about democracy.

While some conservative Republicans have had a warm fuzzy feeling regarding the nationalistic moves by Putin for many years, the nation as a whole now watching in almost real-time as missiles explode and the exit of Ukrainian families to bordering lands ramps up, have a different perspective. Though the colors of the flag being rallied around are yellow and blue, Biden is surely hoping the effect will benefit his administration.

His message to the nation reflected both the desire to promote democracy and also to frame a political message for the November elections.

Tonight, we meet as Democrats, Republicans, independents, but most importantly, as Americans with a duty to one another, to America, to American people, to the Constitution. And an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny.

Six days ago, Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the very foundations of the free world. Thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways, that he badly miscalculated. He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would’ve roll over. Instead, he was met with a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined. He met the Ukrainian people.

We, the United States of America, stand with Ukrainian people. Throughout our history, we have learned this lesson. When dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. They keep moving. The cost to America and the world keeps rising.

Jill Biden hugs the Ukrainian ambassador and wears blue in support

There is no missing the fact that over the years the usual laundry list of policy items a president hopes for usually lands in the SOTU. That was certainly the case as Biden barrelled through a litany of programs and plans for the nation. But with the horrific events of the past week in Ukraine making for headlines Biden started out his speech with strong words and a forceful attitude when it came to Putin, and the need to fight Russian aggression relentlessly with economic tools.

Yes, the gravity of the international events is painfully real. Everything from a very jumbled world order, how to deal with an ever-growing number of refugees, a growing threat of cyber attacks from Russia, and the issue that bites the average American the most–gas prices. None of those are easy to address, and without a doubt, most will get worse in the coming weeks and months.

I have watched the SOTU speeches since my years of high school, and other than the impeachment scandal when President Clinton was working to move past that political nightmare, no other president has stood before the nation during a crisis of the kind Biden finds himself. He came to the senate during Leonid Brezhnev’s time but now finds Putin’s lack of control over his emotions and resulting actions creating a supremely challenging crisis.

Biden has not only the responsibility of leadership on his shoulders but also the opportunity for this moment to make the man. Biden is meeting his moment with history, and if history is a guide the public will respond. CBS polling before the speech showed Ukraine was the number one issue Americans wanted to hear Biden address. That topic was ahead of both inflation and COVID.

How and why Ukraine matters to the nation is what Biden excelled at in his national address. Not only energy prices and NATO are at stake, but also the values surrounding democracy.

The battle between democracy and autocracy, democracies are rising to the moment. The world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security. This is the real test. It is going to take time. Let’s continue to draw inspiration from the Ukrainian will of the Ukrainian people. To our fellow Ukrainian Americans who forged a deep bond that connects our two nations, we stand with you. We stand with you. Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks but it will never gain the hearts and souls of the Ukrainian people. He will never weaken the resolve of the free world.

Biden spent the first 10 minutes of his 62-minute address to Congress speaking about the unfolding crisis in Europe. History will judge his words, tone, and determination of his resolve as an important part of the reason that Russian moves against Ukraine will not be allowed to stand.

And so it goes.

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