Plus, a question about our editorial policies.

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Today's read: 13 minutes.

President Biden delivered his third State of the Union address. Plus, a reader question about why we link to suicide prevention hotlines.

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Quick hits.

  1. Sweden officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), becoming the alliance’s 32nd member and ending more than two centuries of military nonalignment. (The member
  2. A House panel unanimously advanced a bill that would keep TikTok out of app stores unless ByteDance, its Chinese parent company, sells it. (The bill
  3. Several fertility clinics in Alabama say they are going to resume operations of in vitro fertilization treatments after Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed a bill to protect providers. (The operations
  4. The United States military evacuated nonessential embassy personnel from Haiti amid ongoing gang violence. (The evacuations
  5. The Republican National Committee officially selected Michael Whatley and Lara Trump as chair and co-chair after the resignation of Ronna McDaniel. (The appointment) Separately, former president Donald Trump posted a $91 million bond as he appeals the defamation verdict awarded to writer E. Jean Carrol. (The bond)

Today's topic.

Biden's State of the Union. On Thursday night, President Biden delivered a combative, campaign-oriented State of the Union, contrasting himself with former President Donald Trump while also welcoming exchanges with Republicans who shouted out from the audience. The president spoke for 68 minutes and mentioned his "predecessor" 13 times. You can read a transcript of the speech here or watch it here

Biden began his address by focusing on funding for Ukraine, January 6, abortion and the state of the economy, issues that have already become pillars of his 2024 campaign. On the economy, he called out an unfair tax code and accused Republicans of handing wealthy billionaires and corporations $2 trillion in tax breaks under Trump. He promised to raise corporate taxes, combat "shrinkflation,"and continue to fight junk banking fees.

On abortion, Biden accused Trump of celebrating the fall of Roe v. Wade and urged voters to look at the chaos that has ensued since the Supreme Court decision. He added that some Republicans in Congress were going to push for a national abortion ban.

Biden also ran headfirst toward the issue of his age, which has become a major concern among voters. He noted that he was born during World War II, and emphasized that his experience growing up in the 1960s taught him to embrace freedom and democracy.

“I know I may not look like it, but I’ve been around a while,” Biden said. “And when you get to my age certain things become clearer than ever before.”

In one of the most dramatic moments of the night, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) yelled from the audience for Biden to "say her name," a reference to Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student from Georgia law enforcement says was killed by a Venezuelan migrant who was in the United States illegally. Biden then held up a white button Greene had given him as he entered the dais.

Biden mispronounced Riley’s first name but called her "an innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal.” He then expressed his condolences to her family. The use of the word "illegal" drew criticism from some Democrats, and Biden later apologized for using the term and said he should have said "undocumented."

Before his speech, the White House said the U.S. military would install a temporary pier off the Gaza coast for cargo ships to deliver food and emergency supplies. During the speech, Biden referenced that announcement.

“This temporary pier would enable a massive increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance getting into Gaza every day,” he said during the address. “But Israel must also do its part. Israel must allow more aid into Gaza and ensure that humanitarian workers aren’t caught in the crossfire.”

After the speech, Biden stayed on the House floor speaking with lawmakers for more than 30 minutes. At one point, he was caught on a hot mic telling Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) that he had just spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I told him, ‘Bibi,’ don’t repeat this, but I said, ‘you and I are going to have a come to Jesus moment.’” An aide came over and alerted him he was on a hot mic.

At one point, a Gold Star father whose son was killed during the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 began heckling Biden. He was removed from the audience and arrested, which has drawn criticism from Republican lawmakers.

On Truth Social, former President Donald Trump called it "may be the Angriest, Least Compassionate, and Worst State of the Union Speech ever made. It was an Embarrassment to our Country!” Immediately after the address, Alabama Sen. Katie Britt (R) delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union address.

“Right now, our commander-in-chief is not in command. The free world deserves better than a dithering and diminished leader,” Britt said in a video shot from her home kitchen. “America deserves leaders who recognize that secure borders, stable prices, safe streets, and a strong defense are the cornerstones of a great nation.”

Britt's response was widely panned on the left as overly dramatic and inauthentic, and even drew criticism from many conservative pundits who thought it didn't meet the moment. She also conceded that a graphic story she told about a migrant being sex trafficked happened during George W. Bush’s presidency, not President Biden’s, as her speech implied. 

Several flash polls of viewers of the State of the Union came back positive for Biden, including a CNN/SSRS poll that found 62% believe his policies will move the U.S. in the right direction. Following the speech, Biden's campaign, already flush with cash, had its two biggest fundraising hours of the cycle since last April. The president also received several prominent fact-checks, including one for misstating where the U.S. stands globally on inflation.

Today, we're going to cover some responses to the State of the Union address from the left and right, then my take.

What the left is saying.

  • The left praises Biden for a rousing speech at a much-needed time. 
  • Some say the address was lacking in substance on key issues like the economy and the war in Gaza. 
  • Others suggest Biden should scale back his partisan messaging going forward. 

In The New York Times, Ezra Klein wrote “fine, call it a comeback.”

“If the Joe Biden who showed up to deliver the State of the Union address last week is the Joe Biden who shows up for the rest of the campaign, you’re not going to have any more of those weak-kneed pundits suggesting he’s not up to running for re-election. Here’s hoping he does,” Klein said. “Biden’s refrain of the American comeback is a sharp one. It does two things simultaneously. It reminds voters that there is something America is coming back from — namely, the dislocations of the pandemic, and the wild, erratic management style that Trump brought to it — and it lets Biden point to progress without declaring victory.”

“Biden is practiced at talking about the threat that Trump poses to democracy. It’s clearly what motivates him in this campaign. But he, not Trump, is the incumbent, and Biden has lacked a simple frame to tell the story of his presidency — one that balances what he’s achieved with what Americans still consider undone, and that reminds voters of what he inherited while still laying out a vision for where he’s going.”

In Jacobin, Branko Marcetic said “Biden’s State of the Union showcased a president in denial.”

Biden’s “address made official what we’ve heard now from countless pieces of reporting: despite every warning sign about his handling of both the economy and Israel’s genocide in Gaza, President Joe Biden will continue stubbornly doubling down on his approach to both — despite the majority of both official and public opinion rejecting his handling of the two issues,” Marcetic wrote. “A closer read of the speech suggests that, rhetoric aside, the president is continuing to resist pressure, both from the streets and from within his own governing coalition, to change course on his handling of the Israeli war and to run on an ambitious progressive platform akin to the one he won the 2020 election.”

“The president and his team are undoubtedly thrilled with the speech. Aside from pandering to the far right, Biden made no major embarrassing trip up, was far more energized than his average public appearance, and included just enough populist notes to strike a nerve with the public,” Marcetic said. “More worrying for anyone concerned with preventing a Trump win in November is what the content of the speech signals: that the president is sticking to the course he’s charted thus far that has made him the most unpopular president in modern history.”

In Bloomberg, Matthew Yglesias called on Biden to “focus more on the concerns of swing voters.”

“As a piece of political theater, President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address was an energetic success. He effectively answered questions about his age, delivering a forceful speech that included several back-and-forths with interrupting Republicans,” Yglesias wrote. “As a matter of substance, however, the question is whether Biden can turn back political time and win an age-old economic policy argument. To do that, he is going to have to risk offending members of his own party and engage in what Republicans have traditionally criticized as class warfare.”

“Biden did not offer any ideas to address the cost of living that you wouldn’t expect to see a progressive endorse. There was no bipartisan fiscal commission. No call for belt-tightening on the part of the federal government. No plan to relax regulation in any area. The president didn’t even tout the record levels of oil and gas production unfolding on his watch,” Yglesias said. “Partisanship has its place, and that now apparently includes the State of the Union address. My point is only to ask whether the best way to win over persuadable voters is with a pure left-populist economic message rather than an appeal to the moderate middle.”

What the right is saying.

  • The right criticizes the partisan tone of the address, calling it tantamount to a campaign speech. 
  • Some note that the GOP’s messaging about Biden’s age and mental acuity may have backfired on them. 
  • Others say Biden destroyed any credibility he had on being a bipartisan leader. 

The Wall Street Journal editorial board called the speech “Biden’s partisan state of disunion.”

“President Biden’s address on Thursday was memorable for all the wrong reasons. His address was one long, divisive pep rally for Democrats, goading Republicans throughout the speech, and targeting multiple and various villains for partisan attacks. It really was extraordinary,” the board wrote. “Most such speeches make at least an attempt at reaching across the aisle, if only as a gesture. This one had none.”

“Given the foreign threats to democracy, Mr. Biden could have made a bipartisan pitch to increase defense spending. Even Jimmy Carter made that pivot in the final year of his Presidency when the Soviets were on the march. But Mr. Biden wants to spend and spend on everything else instead. This could turn out to be a historic miscalculation as the threats from Iran, Russia and China mount,” the board added. “There is much in the speech to critique on policy, and to correct on the potted history of his Presidency, but policy wasn’t his point on Thursday. This was a campaign rally disguised as a State of the Union.”

In The Daily Beast, Matt Lewis wrote “Biden’s SOTU easily cleared the very low bar set for him by the GOP.”

“I can’t recall a State of the Union speech that was more overtly political or combative than the one Joe Biden delivered on Thursday night. This is not a criticism. This was far more entertaining and relevant than a typical SOTU address,” Lewis said. “Biden does not have the ability to make viewers believe he feels their pain, but he does have the potential to channel a sort of populist ‘Scranton Joe’ image. He tapped into these kitchen table issues by attacking corporations, price gouging, junk fees, and ‘shrinkflation.’”

“For Biden—an important caveat—he seemed sharp. He was a bit shouty—which is much better than the whispering Joe alternative—but he was passionate and energetic (again, there is a low bar for Biden, but he was able to hurdle it),” Lewis wrote. “Whether it was the cheering crowd, the caffeine, or the adrenaline (or something stronger), Biden showed flashes of his younger self while under the national spotlight.”

In The Spectator, Ben Domenech said the speech was “the worst State of the Union in history.”

“We all know what the best version of Joe Biden sounds like — a throwback to images of old Irish bipartisan politicking, itself an act of role-play for a senator who has more often than not been an angry partisan and constant fabulist both away from the cameras and in front of them. But at least there’s something respectable about that caricature,” Domenech wrote. “There was no such respectability to be found in Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech last night. It is without question the most divisive, vindictive and downright vile expression of American partisanship ever given from that honored stage. 

“It marks a legacy-defining moment eradicating forever the idea of Biden as the deal maker, defender of norms and champion of some vague idea of bipartisan unity — this was Biden unhinged, spewing invective at half the country. He lied about them. He called them racists and bigots. And he used the most prominent speech he will give this year to promise even more division and vengeance against his foes,” Domenech said. “Biden’s media friends will seek to spin this as ‘feisty,’ ‘passionate’ or ‘energetic’ — but that’s not what the nation saw or will remember from this speech.”

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, don't unsubscribe. Write in by replying to this email, or leave a comment.

  • In contrast to the 24 hours around the Michigan primary, the 24 hours around the State of the Union were very good for Biden.
  • All in all it was a strong speech, and despite some stumbles the president looked energetic and presidential.
  • The question now is whether Biden can continue to convincingly answer questions about his fitness between now and November.

On February 29, right after the Michigan primary results, I wrote that it had been a very bad 24 hours for President Joe Biden. The purported ceasefire he touted had not come to fruition, the Supreme Court had scheduledTrump's immunity challenge too late in the season for it to be meaningful, a new poll had come out showing him losing to Trump in all seven swing states, Mitch McConnell had announced he was stepping down, and questions about his fitness were hitting a fever pitch.

Well, the 24 hours following the State of the Union were just the opposite.

Before his speech, four new polls came out from Emerson, Kaiser, Morning Consult, and TIPP. All four showed Biden leading Trump by one to three percentage points, and each showed major three-to-seven-point swings since the last time they had released a poll. This is what many Democratic strategists have hoped for: That when it became clear the race is between Biden and Trump, Biden would take the lead. Then Kyrsten Sinema retired, giving Democrats a very good chance of retaining their Arizona Senate seat, where Democrat Ruben Gallego is up on Republican Kari Lake by as much as 10 points in some polls. Biden also got a campaign gift with the victory in North Carolina’s Republican gubernatorial primary of Mark Robinson, who he can now rally support against in the presidential race.

And then the president had a strong showing at the State of the Union.

I know many conservatives are going to disagree, the same way Trump could give the best speech in American history and a lot of Democrats would hate it. But my job is to try to put my emotions and political biases aside to look at things with a fair lens, and I think by most measures it was a very good night for Biden.

He looked energetic. He had some routine slip-ups and gaffes, but compared to what we've seen over the last few months he sounded strong and forceful. He chopped it up in real time with Republicans and did not have any major, night-defining blunders. He hammered the issues where he'll be strong in a general election, like abortion, Ukraine, and January 6. He goaded Republican hecklers into booing an immigration bill endorsed by the border patrol, then got them to effectively promise they wouldn't give tax breaks to the rich or cut Social Security. He went after Trump repeatedly, which is what many in the Democratic base want.

The worst thing most Republicans are saying about the speech is that it was divisive and full of invective, which is true. It's also true that that ship has sailed. Biden is operating in the most divisive political climate in history, and as much as I hate it — and I do — I don't think the fact he was divisive in his speech is either all on him, or going to hurt him politically.

In sum, he looked the part. He looked presidential. That left some Republicans accusing him of using performance-enhancing drugs. Meanwhile, liberals like Ezra Klein, who had been calling on him to drop his reelection bid, were suddenly backtracking. That only happens if Biden gives a strong speech. And that's to say nothing of the fact he had his best campaign fundraising night of the cycle. Given that Democrats already had a strong cash advantage, they used that money to immediately blanket swing states with tens of millions of dollars of TV ads

The moment is also a reminder of the great flaw of the current GOP strategy: The more they talk about how Biden is brain-dead, riddled with dementia or way too old to do this, the lower the expectations get. If former President Barack Obama had delivered this same speech — with all the same mutterings and off-the-cuff remarks — the response would have been far less positive. But voters tune in and see Biden having a relatively normal night and, compared to expectations, it looks to them like he hit a home run. This same thing happened ahead of the 2020 debates, and it's clear Republican critics haven't learned the lesson.

It becomes clearer every day that Biden’s biggest hurdle to re-election in 2024 is the question of his age, mental fitness, and capacity to serve. Policy debates like immigration and the economy will, of course, matter a great deal. But more than anything else, polling shows he needs to win over voters on the question of his fitness. On Thursday night, he ran right at that problem by speaking directly about his age and delivering a speech that will convince some people who are on the fence he can still do the job. It was a step in the right direction. And for a president with his approval numbers facing the issues he’s facing, that is as much as Biden’s campaign can hope for. 

Disagree? That's okay. My opinion is just one of many. Write in and let us know why, and we'll consider publishing your feedback.

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Your questions, answered.

Q: A legitimate question: what is the rationale for having a "suicide prevention" blurb at the end of the Aaron Bushnell question response? This seems to be a now-common practice, but what's the INTENT? Should a person infer from the "need" to do this that hearing a story about X makes a person more likely to do X? If that's the logic, should stories about high-speed chases include blurbs about not driving too fast (as a silly example)? I'm truly trying to understand the mentality for this practice. Thanks!

— Anonymous from Farmington, Connecticut

Tangle: It’s a fair question. Sharing a disclaimer about how to access the suicide prevention hotline whenever we write about suicide is a journalistic guideline that I follow.

That said, there are a few journalistic guidelines that I don’t follow with Tangle. I, and my editors, like to look critically at guidelines and ask why they are the way they are, and then decide if we agree with them. For instance, language nerds may notice that we make a couple of non-standard punctuation decisions: We always capitalize clauses that follow a colon to indicate a new thought, we never hyphenate “well known” since “well” is an adverb that modifies an adjective, and we use the serial (or “Oxford”) comma for all lists — unless those lists are followed by a comma.

Last year, we published a special edition explaining some of our more controversial editorial decisions, like why we don’t capitalize the “b” in “black” (when referring to race) and how to identify a transgender person. One of those guidelines was to not name mass shooters. We follow that guideline to avoid the well known contagion effect, which is when people who are even slightly considering violent actions see the notoriety that comes from acting on violent impulses are then motivated to do the same.

There’s a similar contagion effect among people who may be suicidal. To actively discourage copycats, there’s a journalistic guideline to follow stories about suicide with a disclaimer. That reason makes enough sense to us that it’s a guideline we follow. The website Reporting on Suicide suggests many such journalistic rules and a surfeit of evidence to support them; in particular, I find their evidence supporting disclaimers very convincing. That’s why you’ll see us end stories about suicide with a note saying that if you’re feeling suicidal, you should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or go to for a list of additional resources.

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Under the radar.

The United States might be running out of power. Vast swaths of the U.S. are facing power shortages as electricity-hungry data centers and clean-technology factories continue to pop up around the country. Utilities and regulators are trying to find ways to expand the nation's power grid, but no clear solution is on the horizon. One major factor is the rapid adoption and innovation in artificial intelligence, which is driving construction of massive computing infrastructure. The Washington Post has the story.


  • 32.2 million. The number of people who watched President Biden’s State of the Union address live, according to the ratings agency Nielsen.
  • 27.3 million. The number of people who watched Biden’s State of the Union address live last year.
  • 29%. The percentage of Americans who watched Biden’s State of the Union address who said Biden performed better than expected, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll.
  • 65%. The percentage of Americans who watched Biden’s State of the Union address who said they had a positive reaction to the speech, according to a CNN/SSRS poll.
  • 72%. The percentage of Americans who watched Biden’s State of the Union address last year who said they had a positive reaction to the speech. 
  • 62%. The percentage of Americans who watched the State of the Union who said the policies Biden proposed will move the US in the right direction. 
  • 45%. The percentage of Americans who said Biden’s proposed policies would move the country in the right direction in the week prior to his State of the Union address.
  • 49%. The percentage of 18-29 year old Americans who said they didn’t see, hear, or read about this year’s State of the Union address.

The extras.

Thursday's poll: 857 readers took our poll on Kyrsten Sinema’s (I-AZ) legacy with 45% saying it was a mix of positive and negative. “I was disturbed by Sinema’s mid-point party switch and felt it was a betrayal to her constituents. I wish we had more people in congress willing to negotiate and compromise, but in many ways Sinema seemed too enamored with the publicity that came with her rogue actions,” one respondent said.

What do you think of President Biden’s State of the Union address? Let us know!

Have a nice day.

A collaborative study between engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a publicly owned engineering firm in Greece identified several key factors in roadways that lead to crashes, including incomplete signage, changes in speed limits that are too abrupt, cracks that stretch across the road, and webbed cracking referred to as "alligator" cracking. To identify these features, the researchers used a dataset of 9,300 miles of roads across 7,000 locations in Greece. “We have all these measures that we can use to predict the crash risk on our roads and that is a big step in improving safety outcomes for everyone," said Jimi Oke, a faculty member at the UMass Transportation Center. ScienceDaily has the story.

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.