Joe Biden’s State of the Union was strong. Why am I not surprised?

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Al Pacino, in the film version of Glengarry Glen Ross, sat in a bar and said, “Our life is looking forward or looking back. That’s it. Where is the moment?“

Good philosophical advice. We can’t alter the past and we can’t see the future, so we should maximize the present moment. Live in it. Draw satisfaction from it. Savor it.

That’s what I did during Joe Biden’s State of the Union gig.

I have no clue – and neither do you – whether his spirited address will boost his polls, propel him toward a second term, and save us from the rapist insurrectionist deadbeat. But here’s what I do know, having just seen and heard Joe in the here and now:

If I am fortunate enough to make it to age 81, please may I have his marbles.

Yeah, he flubbed a few sentences (as he has done ever since his stuttering childhood). But this guy has more fire than a Game of Thrones dragon. The whining Dems who’ve kept wringing their hands about him being too old should zip their flapping yaps and get to work on getting him reelected. The mainstream media should cancel whatever too old stories they’re working on and focus instead on this fundamental fact:

He can talk governance and policy in complete sentences – corporate taxes, health care, rents, insulin, preschool education, computer chips, IVF and abortion, you name it. Veteran Republican strategist Mike Murphy got it right when he tweeted, “I see a brain working at 100 percent.”

The MAGAts and their fellow travelers were reduced to carping that Biden was too aggressive, too stoked up, too angry, yelling too much. Haven’t they been saying since forever that Biden is so demented and enfeebled that he barely knows he’s alive?

Optics matter. Biden’s first task – aside from hosing down fretting Dems – was to reassure independent swing voters that he has the requisite energy and articulation to do the job. Did he plant seeds of success for November? Who knows. Tens of millions of Americans simply don’t pay attention. But in that urgent moment, with arguably the largest audience he’ll get all year, he sounded a lot more substantive than the incoherent lummox who thinks that wind farms kill whales.

Biden sought to woo those swing voters – and Nikki Haley Republican voters – with substance. He drew a stark (and accurate) contrast: He believes in governance and democratic values, while Trump and his MAGAts believe in sabotaging governance and democracy.

At one point, he confronted the too old nonsense head on and gave it a savvy twist: “When you get to my age, certain things become clearer than ever before…My lifetime has taught me to embrace freedom and democracy…Now, other people my age see it differently. The American story of resentment, revenge and retribution – that’s not me…The issue facing our nation isn’t how old we are, it’s how old are our ideas. Hate, anger, revenge, retribution are the oldest of ideas. But you can’t lead America with ancient ideas that only take us back.”

Biden’s MAGA critics grumbled that Biden’s fiery State of the Union was unpresidential, that it was too “political,” too “partisan.” That’s hilarious, coming from people who applauded Trump for bringing Rush Limbaugh to a State of the Union and giving him the Medal of Freedom in the middle of the address. It’s an election year, everything is politicized, and since Trump is campaigning so hard to stay out of jail, Biden is fully entitled to talk policy in a campaign context.

Biden effectively fused policy and politics while talking about reproductive rights. He even called out the attending Supreme Court justices arrayed in front of him: “Look, in 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 or political power.’ You’re about to realize just how much you got right about that.”

Throughout his onslaught – and particularly when he called out the House GOP for killing the tough border security bill at Trump’s insistence – Speaker Mike Johnson, the lightweight MAGA puppet, sat there looking like a guy undergoing a colonoscopy without the benefit of anesthesia. It must’ve been tough for him, realizing there was an adult in the room. I was reminded of another Al Pacino line from Glengarry Glen Ross: “You child! Whoever told you that you could work with men!”

Biden clearly intends to channel “Give ‘em Hell, Harry!” In 1948, everyone assumed that President Truman would be toast on election day. The polls said it. The media said it. But Harry got his dander up and pounded away at the “do-nothing Congress.”

I sense the same vibe now. As Luke Russert, son of Tim, tweeted, “Never doubt an Irish Catholic with a chip on their shoulder.”

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]