The Right’s Big Night


The Right’s Big Night

Readers, among the jobs your narrator has had over the years, one of them was speechwriter (including, at one point, for a Presidential candidate) (um, don’t ask).

So: writing from that perspective, I find this take unavoidable: the State of the Union speech Joe Biden gave last night was a mistake in strategy and execution.

Here’s why.

First: Despite the rhetoric, it was backwards-looking. What the speech ignored was that Joe Biden is badly underwater in the latest polls (under 40%, last I saw). What Team Biden seems to have taken from this is the idea that he is not perceived as “strong” enough — that he is too old, his mental acuity is failing, etc.

All that is true — but it’s not the problem he really needed to solve. If the American people felt (a) safe, and (b) prosperous — they would barely care if Jill was running the country.

As a result, instead of forward-looking concrete solutions — i.e, “I’m going to fund more cops by doing xyz” or “I’m going to close the border” — he spent the entire time telling us what a great job he’s been doing.

That’s the piece they blew. Biden gave the hard-left plenty of red meat — but is that what he needed? Those voters will never vote Trump anyway.

A tactic I used to use to see if a speech did what I intended was to attempt to summarize it in one sentence. The summary for President Biden’s SOTU was: “Don’t you idiots realize what a great job I’ve been doing?”

(Hey, America, get off my lawn…!)

Second, the tone was unvarying. The language was fine, and there were a few memorable lines (“you can’t only love your country when you’re winning”), and Joe delivered it fairly botch-free (I’m sure they kept the language in his safe zone). But there were few peaks and valleys. It was all one long shout.

I guess that was supposed to be the “strength” part? Well, as Ernest Hemingway once said: “Never confuse movement with action.” Shouting is movement, not action.

Further, you do need some soaring rhetoric — and the speech had some. But those moments have to be built on a concrete foundation. And generally, you deliver that foundation in a softer tone and a more deliberate cadence.

And when you’re polling at 39%, the high points need to peak off of solid, cognizeable measures that you’ve convinced the audience you will be doing — not stuff you’ve already done that, by implication, you’re telling the audience they’re ungrateful for.

You can’t shout your audience into feeling uplifted.

Third, there were too many numbers. I know, it seems like a minor thing. But statistics in a speech look great on paper — and die in the air. This is particularly true for very large numbers. Does any listener really feel, in the moment, a difference between “a billion” and “a trillion”?

In my speechwriting days, we had a shorthand for this phenomenon: “Numbers numb.” In the social media age of short attention spans, that’s truer than ever.

I’ve noticed Biden’s speechwriters often default to this, particular when he is looking to burnish his accomplishments. As I said, it becomes — numbing.

In sum: The chant of “four more years” that erupted at various points actually sums up the problem here. Without signaling that you’re changing course, “four more years” is not a compellling prospect when you’re at 39%.

A better chant for the Dems in the chamber might’ve been: “Four more different years.”

So Joe got through the speech. He scolded his opponents and gave the hard left the sort of endorphin rush they usually watch The View for.

And the legacy media will undoubtedly confirm for us that it was an historic speech delivered by one of history’s great orators. But did Biden gain any new voters?

And that’s not the only reason this was a good night for the right.

Dark Brandon’s Playbook

So as I wrote last night, Joe trumpeted his “historic” drops in crime — despite the fact that the official FBI numbers have not been published, and that 2023 could only be considered a good year on crime if compared to the disastrous years preceding it.

What that — and his recalcitrance on the border — makes clear is that he won’t be changing tack. He’s convinced that we’re all wrong — that the cities are safe, that the border mess isn’t sticking to him, that inflation is all in our minds, etc.

The true “tell” here was the one prospective measure on security he did telegraph. He didn’t mention any executive action on the border or crime. Instead, he alluded to an executive order on “police reform.”

Oh, and also his vague mention of the need to fund “more community police officers….”

Translation: Cops who won’t enforce.

If that doesn’t indicate that this was a speech targeted to his hard-left….

And that’s truly why this was a good night for the right. Because by yelling and telegraphing a faux strength, Biden has cemented the nomination — there will be no more talk of Newsom or Michelle.

And second: He won’t be changing what has not been working.

So with this SOTU, the right got what it wanted. They can run against an aging Joe Biden polling at 39%. From where I sit, only Kamala could’ve been better.

And only Trump can blow it now.

Random Speech Notes

Funniest Moment: “I want to thank Vice President Harris for being an incredible leader….”

Oh God. Stop. My side hurts. No more. Please.

Most Surreal Moment: The same Kamala leading a standing ovation re: the decriminalization of marijuana. You know — the crime she made her career on as California AG.

What Biden Could’ve Just Done And Been More Effective: “Good evening, my fellow Americans. Abortion! Thank you and good night.”

Somebody Please Tell Him: “Shrink-flation” is painful. Fire whatever millenial thought this was brilliant. It makes Joe sound like your grandfather telling you how much better Spam used to be. Snickers? In a presidential speech?

Structural Error: Starting off with foreign affairs. Americans are thinking about their family’s safety and prosperity, not that of Ukrainians — not mater how malevolent Vladimir Putin is. And the Gaza pier thing sounds bizarre and worrisome to the average American’s ears just now.

Shameful Moment: Being heckled into saying Laken Riley’s name — and then getting it wrong. I normally hate the heckling stuff, but Joe had this one coming.

Bridge to Nowhere: His story about meeting with the CEOs and discussing a “well-educated workforce.” This story was essentially pointless. Oh and P.S: It didn’t happen.

Incomprehensible Fact: The President made villains of America’s corporations. Yet most will still donate to him. If he wins, they deserve what they get.

So I hope they get it.

Thanks for reading The Ops Desk. Stay Safe!



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