An optimistic President Joe Biden will seek to lift the spirits of a tense nation Tuesday with a State of the Union address showcasing his efforts to fire up the US economy -- and demonstrating he still has what it takes to seek reelection at the age of 80.
Biden will deliver his remarks at 9 p.m. ET. Watch live video below:
Watch Live: President Biden to deliver State of the Union address | CBS News www.youtube.com
After two years of managing the exit from the Covid pandemic, an end to the 20-year Afghan war debacle, the Western response against Russia's Ukraine invasion, and extreme US political tensions, Biden feels he has much to celebrate.
"I want to talk to the American people and let them know the state of affairs," Biden said Monday. "Just have a conversation with the American people."
On Capitol Hill, he'll address the full Congress, nearly every senior government member, and a vast television audience, buoyed by news that the economy is recovering strongly from the pandemic, with the lowest unemployment in 50 years.
"This is a president who is incredibly optimistic," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Tapping into his powers of empathy -- honed in a series of personal tragedies -- Biden will show his skill at "connecting with the American people," she said Tuesday on MSNBC.
But the dramatic downing on Saturday of a huge Chinese balloon by a US Air Force fighter leaves the unstable relationship with the communist superpower literally looming over Biden. A new CBS poll shows only 39 percent approval for the administration's general China policy.
And there are troubles closer to home, with multiple polls showing strong dissatisfaction on the economy and hostility toward the idea of Biden, the oldest person ever in the presidency, seeking a second term in 2024. The CBS poll, for example, found only 27 percent of Americans think Biden's policies are making the economy better.
The White House announced the guests of First Lady Jill Biden for the speech. These include Ukraine's ambassador, Oksana Markarova, and rock band mega star and HIV/AIDS campaigner Bono.
The most eye-catching, though, may be Brandon Tsay, the 26-year-old man who disarmed the gunman in a January mass shooting in California, and RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the parents of Tyre Nichols, a man whose death after a prolonged police beating in Memphis, Tennessee, shocked the nation.
For Biden, here's the good news.
Inflation, which just a few months ago seemed a near-existential threat to the Biden presidency, is steadily ticking downward. Hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars are starting to flow out into programs passed under Biden to spur high-tech manufacturing and repair infrastructure.
On Friday, new figures showed joblessness hitting that half-century low. This inspired Biden to boast: "I'm happy to report that the state of the union and the state of our economy is strong."
Even if Biden has yet to formally announce his 2024 candidacy, the speech -- followed by two very campaign-like trips Wednesday and Thursday to Wisconsin and Florida -- is expected to give him a big push.
However, the Chinese balloon drama -- Beijing claims it was an errant weather research balloon but the US government says it was a high-tech espionage device -- shows how narratives in Washington easily take dangerous new turns.
When Biden speaks, half of the Congress members in the chamber, as well as Speaker Kevin McCarthy sitting directly behind him, will be Republicans vowing to use their new, narrow House of Representatives majority to block his policies.
"The state of the union is weaker and American families are suffering because of Joe Biden," Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. "But all they'll hear from Biden are excuses."
Already, a major crisis is brewing over Republican refusal to extend the US debt limit, usually a rubber stamp procedure. Biden's government warns of financial calamity, with major international implications, if Republicans stick to their guns, potentially pushing the United States into default.
Those kinds of uncertainties, as well as doubts over Biden's ability to serve a second term that would end after his 86th birthday, may be partly to blame for pessimism in the polls. An ABC News-Washington Post Poll found that 58 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said the party should find someone else for 2024.
In his address, Biden will seek to "meet the meet people where they are, understanding that they are still indeed struggling," Jean-Pierre said.