Joe Biden speaks in the US Capitol’s Statuary Hall
Joe Biden marked the first anniversary of the Capitol riot with a blistering speech condemning the attacks and – in stronger language than he has used up to this point in his presidency – former President Donald Trump.
Without mentioning Mr Trump by name, President Biden tore into his predecessor for his role in instigating the violence on 6 January 2021 and forcefully reminded Americans of what is at stake after Mr Trump and his followers “held a dagger at the throat of democracy”.
Supporters of Mr Biden hailed the speech as his best to date.
Author and journalist EJ Dionne wrote: “That was the most forceful, passionate speech Biden has delivered as president.”
He continued: “He put democracy itself at the center of the debate, condemned Trump in unyielding language, and called out Republicans who support Trump’s lies. A hinge moment in his presidency.”
On social media, many called it “the best speech of Biden’s presidency”, with writer Eric Boehlert noting: “The best part: nobody saw this Biden speech coming. Not this kind of ferocity.”
Other users wrote: “Angry President Biden is the best Biden”, and that his description of Mr Trump as “the defeated former president” was his best line.
“I never thought the word ‘riveting’ would apply to a Biden speech,” read one tweet, “But damn it did.”
That was the most forceful, passionate speech Biden has delivered as president. He put democracy itself at the center of the debate, condemned Trump in unyielding language, and called out Republicans who support Trump’s lies. A hinge moment in his presidency.#January6th
— EJ Dionne (@EJDionne) January 6, 2022
Dan Pfeiffer, a host of Pod Save America and a former Obama White House aide, wrote: “President Biden‘s forceful speech is an acknowledgment that uniting the country requires aggressively taking on those that seek to divide us for political gain and profit.”
His co-host Jon Favreau, who served as a speechwriter for Mr Obama, tweeted: “It’s pretty easy to tell when a speaker cares about the speech they’re giving, and nothing animates Biden like talking about the threat to democracy. He should do it more.”
It’s pretty easy to tell when a speaker cares about the speech they’re giving, and nothing animates Biden like talking about the threat to democracy. He should do it more.
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) January 6, 2022
Opinion write Jennifer Rubin tweeted: “His speech was among his strongest to date in tone, delivery and substance. It placed him, as he put it, “in the breach” to protect democracy. Biden put aside the notion that ignoring Trump is a way to deflate him. Instead, he was more blunt than ever.
Harvard professor and national security expert Juliette Kayyem wrote: “That speech was a counterterrorism speech. That’s how this ends, treating the elements that support violence or the threat of it for political gain as illegitimate.”
I thought that was Biden‘s best speech yet. Without naming him, he dispelled the Big Lie, and cited the “former President’s” “bruised ego” as rationale for an attempted coup. He brilliantly and poignantly put it in historical context and framed it as a battle for our democracy.🇺🇸
— Amy Siskind 🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Siskind) January 6, 2022
She added: “Biden didn’t try to negotiate; he sought to isolate. No other alternatives will work.”
Since the election, Mr Biden has been generally reluctant to speak at length about Mr Trump, even if that restraint is not reciprocated by the former president.
However, on Thursday, he broke that norm, using his 6 January address to paint Mr Trump and his supporters that stormed the Capitol as anti-democratic and unpatriotic.
“For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol,” the president said.
That speech was a counterterrorism speech. That’s how this ends, treating the elements that support violence or the threat of it for political gain as illegitimate. Biden didn’t try to negotiate; he sought to isolate. No other alternatives will work. #January6th
— Juliette Kayyem (@juliettekayyem) January 6, 2022
During his address, Mr Biden called Mr Trump “not just a former president” but a “defeated former president.” He made the distinction while discussing Mr Trump’s failed attempt to steal the 2020 election by spreading false claims of election fraud.
“He has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election,” Mr Biden said. “He’s done so because he values power over principle because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest.”
The president said that his predecessor “can’t accept that he lost,” and that Mr Trump’s “bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.”
the best part: nobody saw this Biden speech coming.
not this kind of ferocity
— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) January 6, 2022
He went on to discuss the attack on the Capitol, and asked Americans if they wanted their country to be the kind of place where political violence is tolerated.
“At this moment we must decide what kind of nation we are going to be,” Mr Biden said. “Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people? Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies? We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation.”
While the president’s supporters loved the strong condemnation of the former administration and the rioters. Those loyal to Mr Trump did not.
Detractors ranged from those calling on Mr Biden to quit talking about the Capitol riot and instead focus on the economy and the coronavirus to commenters defending the Capitol rioters, suggesting that the attack was a “mostly peaceful protest.”
Others engaged in whataboutisms comparing the Capitol riot – an organised and immediately violent attempt to end American democracy – to the protests and riots that broke out in 2020 following George Floyd’s murder.
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