President Biden on Tuesday evening gave his first State of the Union address, which was greeted with a lukewarm reception by critics across the political spectrum and marred by gaffes and errors — a sharp contrast the rhetoric of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has won international praise and brought translators to tears.
“The 2022 State of the Union was a mediocre speech poorly delivered,” The Week’s Damon Linker said.
“It’s dispiriting that a White House facing so many daunting challenges could come up with so little,” the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board said. “The President really does need to fire some people and get better advice.”
“It’s dispiriting that a White House facing so many daunting challenges could come up with so little. The President really does need to fire some people and get better advice.”
Rob Noel, a speechwriter for former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told Fox News Digital: “The intro on Ukraine worked well enough, but boy did he move on quickly, and not to anything particularly compelling or new.
“As a technical matter, the speech felt strung together and disjointed, with cram-ins and jumpy transitions,” he said. “The substance amounted to a dry list of policy points, like it was geared toward lawmakers in the room rather than people at home.”
There were some who liked the speech. David Litt, a senior speechwriter for former President Barack Obama, told Fox News that he gave it an “A.”
“This is a moment when he is trying to remind a lot of Americans who voted for him and who approved of his job performance as recently as June or even September, why they supported him. And I think he did that really effectively.”
Biden’s bad gaffe
Online, viewers of Biden’s speech noted a number of high-profile gaffes. At one point in the speech he mixed up Ukrainians and Iranians.
“Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks, but he’ll never gain the hearts and souls of the Iranian people,” Biden said in the gaffe.
The error was noticed even by Vice President Kamala Harris, who could be seen apparently mouthing “Ukrainian” right behind the president.
He later raised eyebrows at the end of the speech by declaring “Go get him!” after praising the troops. It was not clear to whom he was referring.
The president also took heat from fact-checkers for a number of claims made during the speech, on his statement from COVID to gun control. For instance, The Associated Press called out Biden for claiming “gun manufacturers [are] the only industry in America that can’t be sued, the only one.”
“That’s false,” the AP said, saying that while they have legal protections from being held liable for injuries caused by criminal misuse of weapons, they are not exempt from being sued. The Washington Post, meanwhile, said that claims Biden made about job creation and deficit reduction were “misleading.”
Zelenskyy’s passionate appeals
The lukewarm response to the speech stands in contrast to the reception besieged Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has been receiving for the way he has been rallying both his people and international support for aid to Ukraine as they attempt to fend off a Russian invasion.
Zelenskyy, who has been seen in the streets alongside Ukrainian troops and citizens, has been making passionate appeals to the world, and garnering international attention.
On Saturday, working for the German news service Welt, a translator could be heard getting choked up toward the end of Zelenskyy’s speech, before she apologized.
“Ukrainians, we know exactly what we are defending. We will definitely win,” Zelenskyy declared, as the interpreter began to break down. “Glory to each of our soldiers. Glory to Ukraine.”
“If children are born in shelters, even when the shelling continues, then the enemy has no chance in this — undoubtedly — people’s war,” Zelenskyy added. “To victory! Glory to Ukraine!”
Former CIA Moscow station chief Dan Hoffman said Zelenskyy “jolted the West out of its post-Cold War slumber.”
“The Jewish comedian-turned-populist president that’s a silver lining in these dark clouds,” he added of Zelenskyy.
“It’s a stark warning to China and all the other dictatorships around the world,” Hoffman added.
On Tuesday, hours before Biden was due to make his State of the Union, Zelenskyy received a standing ovation from world leaders after he delivered an impassioned speech for help — calling for European Union membership.
“We have proven that at a minimum, we are exactly the same as you are,” he said during an emergency session of the EU Parliament. “Prove that you are with us. Prove that you will not let us go.
“Prove that you indeed are Europeans,” he continued. “Life will win over death, and light will win over darkness.”
One reporter commented on the ovation by saying he had “never [seen] it speak with one, very loud voice like this before.”
There too, the official translator became choked up as Zelenskyy said: “We’re fighting just for our land and for our freedom. Despite the fact that all the cities of our country are now blocked. And nobody is going to intervene in our freedom and country and believe you me, every square of today, no matter what it is called, is going to be called Freedom Square.”
At his address, hours later, Biden praised Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people.
“From President Zelenskyy to every Ukrainian, their fearlessness, their courage, their determination, literally inspires the world,” he said.
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