Georgia’s ’embarrassment’ hard at work during the State of the Union Address
The State of the Union Address is an annual message delivered by the president of the United States to a joint session of the United States Congress near the beginning of each calendar year on the current condition of the nation. It is a time-honored tradition where federal leaders peacefully and respectfully gather to hear from the President on the state of the union.
Those days of honor and tradition seem to be behind us as Republican heckles and boos turned the hollowed chamber into the American equivalent of the British Parliament, where catcalls, shouted insults, and the occasional fistfights are tradition and expected from the opposing party.
Instead of the respect the moment deserved, President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address was filled with outbursts in the chamber as well as jeers and mocking laughter from members of the opposite party. As Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif, looked on, the room seemed more like a local sports bar as Republicans refused to contain their animosity towards the president, even for this occasion.
As he made his speech, Georgia’s Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green tried to shut Biden down as she rose from her seat and yelled out “Liar”. Ignoring her outburst, Biden laid out his speech which included a reference to ending the fentanyl crisis in the United States.
A different Republican lawmaker, Rep. Andy Ogles of Tennessee, yelled out, “It’s your fault”. Yet another lawmaker yelled out an expletive as Biden pressed on. Abandoned was the diplomacy that should have been observed during this moment.
During a 2009 speech that President Barack Obama delivered to Congress, the breach of decorum quickly became the evening’s most notable moment when South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” which was considered a travesty at that time.
Members of both parties quickly condemned Wilson’s outburst. After being booed by his colleagues, Wilson issued an apology and expressed contrition to Obama’s chief of staff.
Times have changed as we fast forward to now, the year 2023, where jeering, heckling, and yelling during the State of the Union address at the President are the norm. No one appeared shocked as lawmakers shouted comments that made them look more and more less congressional, and more like a common street mob.
Many of the American people watching the address, knew that Biden was coming before them with low approval ratings, but nothing could have prepared them for this embarrassing show as Biden was interrupted multiple times throughout his speech by Republican outbursts. Some felt they were cheated from hearing the address unvarnished, while others likened it to a continuation of the January 6 crowd that stormed the capital. Instead of breaking in, these rebel rousers were invited in, yet their manners and agenda were still the same.
A clever moment came during the speech when Biden suggested that the Republicans were threatening Social Security. When the Republicans shouted back no, Biden smiled upon obtaining an affirmation of his position from the room saying, “So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare are off the books now, right? All right. We got unanimity.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) praised Biden for forcing Republicans to go on the record as being opposed to cutting the two social programs. Schumer said, “Joe Biden was so deft. He let them walk into his trap. He rope-a-doped them. And now all of America has seen the Republican Party say, ‘No, we’re not going to cut Social Security and Medicare.’ He did a service.”
For his part, McCarthy tried at moments to shush the crowd and appeared willing to play peacemaker when tensions threatened to boil over, but the speaker knows he is walking a tightrope in the role he won by a narrow vote. Included in the concessions he made was the ability to be removed at a moment’s notice.
Pressing on with his delivery despite the ruckus, Biden used his speech to call for police reform by spotlighting the grieving parents of Tyre Nichols, who died after a brutal beating on Jan. 7 at the hands of Memphis police officers. He emphatically called for more research to end cancer and spoke directly to “forgotten” Americans who are struggling financially.
OTHER KEY POINTS
■ President Biden reissued his appeals for Congress to get behind his agenda to address the opioid epidemic, mental health, veterans’ health, and cancer.
■ He also challenged lawmakers to work with his administration on capping insulin costs, confronting climate change, and banning assault-style weapons.
■ The president renewed his calls for trillions of dollars of new federal programs, including for child care and community college.
Democratic strategist James Carville blasted the Republicans who heckled President Biden during the State of the Union as he described their troubling actions. He directed much of his criticism at Greene, whose roots and rhetoric cemented her position as a far-right provocateur who promoted the QAnon conspiracy.
A resident of Rome, Greene represents a deeply Republican district in northwest Georgia. When questioned about her antics before the American people during the state of the union, Greene told reporters she has no plans to change, saying that Biden “got exactly what he deserved” in the booing and shouting during his prime-time address. “I’m not sorry one bit,” Greene said.
Polls showed that many Americans do not feel Biden’s economic policies have helped them, but it’s a mixed bag as to what the American people are feeling after the spectacle at our nation’s Capitol, led by one of the Congressional members from Georgia who was front and center, and accounted for among the ruckus.