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‘Divisive:’ Biden substitutes fiery campaign speech attacking Trump, justices for State of the Union

Biden attacked his "predecessor" on abortion, immigration, Russia, gun control and COVID during his State of the Union address and even criticized the Supreme Court justices who were sitting in the chamber

Published: March 8, 2024 12:19am

President Biden substituted a fiery campaign speech attacking his 2024 opponent Donald Trump for the State of the Union address on Thursday evening, drawing derision and eye-rolls from Republicans in Congress.

Biden attacked Trump without mentioning his name — referring to him as his "predecessor" — on abortion, immigration, Russia, gun control and COVID-19 during his third State of the Union and also criticized the Supreme Court justices who were sitting in the chamber.

The president's repeated criticism of Trump throughout his Capitol Hill address drew eye rolling and head shaking from House Speaker Mike Johnson, who was seated behind Biden and next to Vice President Kamala Harris.

Biden looked in the direction of the Supreme Court justices and criticized their ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, which effectively ended the constitutional right to abortion.

"Women are not without electoral power, excuse me, electoral or political power, you're about to realize just how much you brought about," he said.

The critique was reminiscent of former President Obama attacking the justices during his 2010 State of the Union speech for their Citizens United ruling, which upheld that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment.

Biden argued that Trump is "the reason" Roe v. Wade was overturned.

"And he brags about it," he said.

Biden also attacked Trump over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"My predecessor failed the most basic presidential duty that he owes to the American people, the duty to care. I think that's unforgivable," he said.

Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., the House majority whip, described the speech as "one of the most divisive State of the Union addresses in history."

Former GOP presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said the speech sounded like an angry tirade. 

"What a bizarre ranting and angry tirade from POTUS at SOTU! Is this his idea of unifying America?" he said on social media. "His peeps gave him the wrong meds and he is screaming like an old man 'Get off my lawn!'"

Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., said Biden's address was the 14th State of the Union he has attended.

"I have never seen a more partisan campaign speech disguised as a SOTU. It was a speech full of falsehoods, half truths, liberal policy wish lists and revisions of history," he said.

CNN's John King said Biden's address was the 36th State of the Union he's watched.

"Never heard one so political. Never heard one that is such a campaign speech," he said.

Former Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said Biden delivered a "divisive angry campaign speech."

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, described the speech as a "campaign rally."

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., said the State of the Union is a "great opportunity for a president to deliver a forward thinking and unifying message about the spirit and promise of America."

"Tonight, President Biden delivered a divisive and partisan campaign speech," Capito said. "The American people can see through this and are looking for leaders who are ready to solve problems."

Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio, said in a post on X he decided to leave the speech early.

"President Biden mentioned President Trump more times than he talked about inflation, the border, or energy prices. This speech wasn’t about the issues Americans are facing. It was a nakedly political campaign speech by a failing president & that’s why I left," he wrote on his X account.

Democratic lawmakers praised Biden's speech.

"President Biden laid out a bold vision to the American people that shows Democrats are working for a safe, stable, strong America – one that prioritizes the needs of working families and leaves no one behind," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

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