On February 7, U.S. President Joe Biden delivered his annual State of the Union address, celebrating domestic and bipartisan achievements as Republicans dominate the Congress House. However, due to his goal to get re-elected, he did not focus much on foreign policy.
Biden’s main goal and tactic in his address was to convince and unite the audience into thinking that he is qualified to get re-elected. That is why he focused on highlighting his bipartisan and domestic accomplishments the most – such as lowering unemployment rates and gas prices and strengthening health care and abortion rights. CBS News reports that he said in his speech, “Don’t worry, I promised I’d be a president for all Americans.” He succeeded in his goal of highlighting this to the American people, as a CNN poll reports that after his speech, approval of his economic program went from 40 percent to 66 percent among political independents.
This also explains why he mentioned very little about foreign policy, only when he showed support for Ukraine and stood up to China. Surprisingly, transcripts of the address show that he did not mention a word about the Middle East or anything related to the major earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. As Foreign Policy predicts, this demonstrates that foreign policy likely will not be a major factor in the upcoming election.
Biden’s efforts to keep NATO united are a great victory for him and to foreign politics. As Biden views himself as the master of foreign policy, it is definitely needed for America to continue holding power over every other nation’s head. Additionally, reactions to Biden’s comments about continued support for Ukraine demonstrate that this is a position held by a majority of Americans, so mentioning that was a clever strategy to sway the audience for his political gain. But this might be complicated between the President and the GOP majority, who are considering pulling back funding for Ukraine, according to CNN. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has promised to improve oversight over where taxpayer funds go.
As China and the U.S. are the two most dominant global powers, mentioning China was essential. Biden’s comments on China mainly focused on democracy in the U.S., as democracy vs. autocracy is a motivating idea within Biden’s presidency. According to transcripts of the address, he stated that during his presidency, “autocracies have grown weaker, not stronger.” Through this comment, he is implying that if the U.S. can unite to address national issues, collective struggles can be more easily solved. He also states, “and let’s be clear: winning the competition with China should unite all of us. We face serious challenges across the world.”
According to The New York Times, former President George H.W. Bush learned that citizens are more attracted to domestic achievements than foreign policy ones. Bush lost in the 1992 election, which came a year after the U.S. achieved victory in the Middle East. This is what caused President Biden’s advisors to be fearful that this would happen to him as well if he focused on foreign policy achievements. As a result, Biden focused on domestic achievements, which is clear since he barely mentioned anything other than Russian and Chinese foreign politics. Even when it comes to Russia and China, he did not speak much on concrete issues; he rather focused on uniting the country and his listeners.
Should Biden have made more comments on foreign policy? It is fair to say for his political regain, it was best to mention egg and gas prices than other foreign policy, which might not have been beneficial to his reelection campaign. The point of speeches is to convince an audience for one’s goal, and Biden successfully used that strategy.
Image courtesy of House Creative Services photographers, United States House of Representatives