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President Joe Biden hit the road Wednesday with trips to the election battlegrounds of Wisconsin and Florida, after a barnstorming State of the Union speech reinforcing expectations that the 80-year-old will seek a second term.
Biden hasn't announced a reelection bid yet and given his age, many -- even from his own party -- feel he should step aside in 2024.
But his Tuesday night address to Congress and tens of millions of television viewers laid out what amounted to a campaign platform, which he will now pursue in DeForest, Wisconsin, with a speech on the economy, before heading Thursday to the increasingly Republican stronghold of Florida.
Standing before a packed chamber on Capitol Hill, Biden appeared to be energized as he delivered a carefully focused message aimed at what he called "forgotten" working class voters and everyday issues like the price of healthcare.
Casting himself as a centrist in an era where partisan politics has become something of a bloodsport, his sunny optimism, complete with jokes and frequent pauses to smile, contrasted strongly with aggressive jeering from the ranks of Republican lawmakers.
On multiple occasions, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the Republican heading the party's narrow new majority in the House of Representatives, stood to applaud Biden -- and appeared to try to quiet his more radical members.
But the raucous far-right wing that effectively has a stranglehold on the party's congressional leadership broke with convention to hurl boos and insults.
Biden emphasizes contrast
"Liar!" erupted Representative Marjorie Taylor Green, a conspiracy theory peddling acolyte of Donald Trump, the man Biden defeated in 2020 and who has already opened a bid to stage a rematch and win back the White House in 2024.
The Biden team quickly sought to profit from the Republicans' behavior, seeing it as a way to highlight the president's message of normalcy and seriousness that worked against Trump in 2020 -- and which Biden evidently hopes to use again in a reelection bid.
Biden spokesman Ian Sams went on Fox News -- the network that was crucial to Trump's rise -- to castigate Republicans in Congress for holding a hearing Wednesday on their allegations that Twitter and the Democrats colluded to suppress damaging news about the president's son, Hunter, during the 2020 campaign.
The hearing, Sams said, showed Republicans out of touch, staging a "bizarre political stunt" while Biden addressed "Americans' top priorities like tackling inflation, raising wages, and investing in manufacturing and infrastructure jobs."
Tuesday's speech, clocking in at 72 minutes, was remarkable for the granular focus on kitchen table issues, rather than soaring rhetoric or foreign affairs.
The first mention of Ukraine, which Biden vowed would get US support against Russia for "as long as it takes," came nearly an hour in. And China -- which Biden warned would face a US response whenever it "threatens our sovereignty," as in last week's shooting down of an intruding high-tech Chinese balloon -- came even later.
The Republican rebuttal was jarring for its different tone, choosing to focus on culture war issues that have inflamed the right and currently look set to dominate the party's 2024 agenda.
Speaking for the Republicans, Arkansas governor and former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lashed out at the "radical left" and what she said was an attack against the "freedom and peace" of patriotic Americans.
© 2023 AFP
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) earned a mild rebuke from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Wednesday when he chided her and other Republicans for letting themselves get "baited" by President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address.
During Biden's speech, Greene could be seen repeatedly heckling the president and shouting the word "liar" at him.
During an appearance on Fox News, McCarthy urged Republicans to resist the urge to yell at Biden during the State of the Union.
"We need to be smart, don’t take the bait, stay with the American public about what we want to do," he said.
CNN's Manu Raju caught up with Greene, who grew defensive when informed of McCarthy's criticisms.
"I did not take any bait," she insisted. "I am a representative of the people, that is what I did last night. I got so many messages from people in my district and it was like I won my election again! People are pissed off! For the president of the United States to come into the people's house and lie about the economy, the border, and act like he is terrified of China and unwilling to talk about the fact that they spied on us!"
Greene then emphasized that she felt not remorse for her behavior.
"He got what he deserved and I'm not sorry one bit!"
Marjorie Taylor Greene gets defensive over Kevin McCarthy's criticism: 'I didn't take any bait' www.youtube.com
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) lambasted Republican investigation into Twitter's handling of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal as the House Oversight Committee hauled former Twitter executives before it Tuesday.
The hearing focused on a decision in October 2020 to restrict a link to a New York Post article on the laptop, which appeared to have violated platform prohibitions against sharing hacked materials. The social media company's ex-CEO Jack Dorsey has already expressed regret for the decision, and Raskin questioned the need for a congressional probe.
The New York Post had reported contents it said were found on the president's son's laptop by a computer repairman.
"This morning we return not to focus on advancing this robust agenda of progress but instead to take up an authentically trivial pursuit all based on the obsessive victimology of right-wing politics in America," said Raskin, the panel's ranking Democrat.
"The majority has called him to revisit a two-year-old story about a private editorial decision by Twitter not to allow links to a single New York Post article made for a two-day period that had no discernible influence on anyone or anything. The New York Post published an article in its own pages and it was carried by lots of other media outlets."
"It was widely discussed, including on Twitter itself, and even during the brief moment in time when links were not provided, and it was a fixture in right-wing media for the next three weeks before the election," Raskin continued. "I think even the chairman and other members of this committee were out on TV and social media talking about it. But instead of letting this trivial pursuit to go, my colleagues have tried to whip up a faux scandal about this two-day lapse in their ability to spread Hunter Biden propaganda on a private media platform. Silly does not begin to capture this obsession."
"What's more, Twitter's decision is has been analyzed and debated ad nauseam," he added. "Some people think was the right decision, some people think of the wrong decision, but the key is it was Twitter's decision. Twitter is a private media company. In America, private media companies can decide what to publish or how to curate content however they want. If Twitter wants to have nothing but tweets commenting on New York Post articles run all day, it can do that. If that makes such tweets mentioning New York Post never see the light of day, they can do that. That's what the First Amendment means."
02 08 2023 10 09 22 youtu.be