President Joe Goes to Congress

Rodney Clough
4 min readMar 9, 2024
March 7, 2024, The State of the Union Address. Screenshot by author. Photo courtesy Reuters.

A State of the Union without listeners.

In UK’s Parliament, peers are free to voice assent or dissent by vocalizing — not cat calls or boos — and punctuating their sentiment with either foot stomping and desk slapping (no clapping). it’s a curious blend of cacophony and decorum, like a curated school rally without cheerleaders.

Wednesday night, prime time, America’s “People’s House” was treated to a split audience, one half cheering and clapping, sprinkled with white wearing Congresswomen; the other half looking somber, dressed in dark colors except for MTG, the Palace Fool, parading in red, white, Trump supporter buttons and a red MAGA hat. This latter half, didn’t clap even as legislative initiatives their party had at one time participated in were mentioned by the invited President. Even as past Republican scions, Reagan and Bush, were evoked by the current President.

Even as invitation after invitation to govern — to do something — were lofted their way.

Could America learn perhaps a little decorum from our British colleagues? Some nuance, perhaps? Or is it that Republicans prefer their new tribal affinity for self-loathing? To appear ready to serve the unmentioned “real leader?”

The Republican House leader, Speaker Johnson, looked like he was having a hemorrhoidal attack. Early on in the State of the Union, we learned not to look at him, lest his empathy triggers distract. Rather we shifted our gaze to Vice President Harris who looked regal and serious, as in “another day” on the job. Biden identified her accomplishments — immigration, women’s reproductive rights, education. This lady, no longer a work in progress, gets things done. There was the affirming acknowledgement Vice President Harris brought to the President’s gesturing towards the women in the gallery among the First Lady’s invitees — “another day” survivors of partisan, gerrymandered justice. (1)

Despite the obvious innuendos of a President campaigning for re-election, Biden’s exhortations were more a Congressional “stump speech.” Biden knows his math — both chambers are in play — neither chamber majority will be decided until November. So he addressed his colleagues not as folksy “fella’ Americans,” but as survivors:

Show a little gratitude for what we — including you — can accomplish TOGETHER.

Stony silence from across the aisle.

Biden allowed his divided, unconvinced audience a vivid glimpse of his agenda by offering an object lesson in democracy. Chiding the Supreme Court justices — all six attendees — for overturning Roe v Wade, the President used the words of one of their body, Justice Samuel Alito — among those who did not attend the State of the Union — to challenge their majority opinion in Dobbs,

…Many of you in this chamber and my predecessor are promising to pass a national ban on reproductive freedom. My God, what freedom else would you take away? Look, its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court majority wrote the following — and with all due respect Justices — “Women are not without electoral — electoral power” — excuse me — “electoral or political power.” You’re about to realize just how much you were right about that.

This, despite Biden’s notable oratorical stumble of the evening, went largely unnoticed, testimony to the historical moment. Never before during a State of the Union had the President singled out the Supreme Court for seizing political advantage by rejecting years of deliberation and legal interpretation.

Touché.

As the evening’s tension took hold, one could imagine what Republicans had to be quiet about. As a political party struggling to capture America’s right wing rapture, there is virtually nothing in the realm of governing to show for the effort, raising the question what or whom do these Congress members and their leadership represent.

Their supreme leader, bunkered in Florida, is preparing to entertain a dictator from overseas — hardly the patriotic look. There was a foreign leader in attendance at the State of the Union — the Prime Minister of Sweden, a country once aligned with neutrality, now under pressure to stand up with her neighbors against Putin’s empire building and Republican complicity. (2)

Rather than provide a platform for their leader to perform, the GOP Congressional leadership selected the junior Senator from Alabama to provide the party rebuttal from her kitchen, stove stage right.

Hardly the ‘liberated woman’ look.

Cynically, some media savants wrote off the evening’s State of the Union as a campaign stop for the President. However, just what Biden was stumping for was made abundantly clear: stumping for his former turf, Congress, those represented, whose voices are heard in the halls of democracy.

Stumping for what’s represented by this audience, half of whom opted for puerile affrontery.

March 9

Notes

1-

History is watching another assault on freedom. Joining us {tonight} is Latorya Beasley, a social worker from Birmingham, Alabama. Fourteen months ago — fourteen months ago,she and her husband welcomed a baby girl thanks to the miracle of IVF. She scheduled treatment to have that second child, but the Alabama Supreme Court shut down IVF treatments across the state, unleashed by a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. She was told her dream would have to wait.

…Joining us tonight is Kate Cox, a wife and mother from Dallas. She’d become pregnant again and had a fetus with a fatal condition. Her doctor told Kate that her own life and her ability to have future in the fil — children in the future were at risk if she didn’t act. Becuase Texas law banned her ability to act, Kate an dher husband had to leave the state to get what she needed.

-Excerpt from the transcript, courtesy whitehouse.gov

2- Author, “Russia House,” medium.com

https://medium.com/@rodneyclough/russia-house-85324c884a70

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Rodney Clough

Refuses to nap. Septuagenarian. Cliche’ raker. Writes weekly.