The Speech No President Should Have to Give
The speech no president should give.
We’re all parsing Joe Biden’s “Soul of the Nation” address about the growing anti-constitutionality of Republican extremism. But we must first consider how difficult it is to predict a speech that no president should give.
Here are three recent articles from The Atlantic before we discuss Biden.
- •Don’t trust generals.
- •What if Joan of Arc had not been a woman?
- • Abortion could define California’s election.
A sad duty
Last night, Joe Biden warned us that there is a threat to American democracy. He did so in plain language and left no doubt as to the serious nature or source of the threat. Most significantly, he used specific names, including Donald Trump at the end.
The President took a political risk and spoke the harsh truth: that a significant number of the citizens of the United States of America, concentrated in the rotten shell of the Republican Party, have become extremists who are engaged in unconstitutional opposition to us. system of government.
Every time a president delivers a speech, commentators, experts, and regular people rush to assign a grade. Was it merely a decent speech or was it great? Did he hit the right marks? Did it serve the right constituency? Did it harm or harm his party?
However, this speech defies such an analysis. (I have some serious complaints about the optics and the staging. I’ll get to those.) Instead, we should be deeply upset that Joe Biden had to give this speech at all.
And make no mistake: it had to give. His duty demanded it. As Biden rightly put it, American democracy faces an “ongoing assault” from what he called “MAGA Republicans” who have no respect for the Constitution, the rule of law, the outcome of fair elections, or the will of the people.. No president can remain silent in such situations.
I’m not sure it was strong enough. I was a little worried when the president talked about the reasonable Republicans he could work with. (“Joe Manchin?” I wondered.) Who are these Republicans? where are they If you’re going to give a speech about how millions of people now live, as Biden put it, “in the shadow of a lie,” and you think there are reasonable people among them, you need to encourage them? They should be encouraged to come forward and fight with you.
As someone who once wrote speeches for a few politicians, I’ll also drop points here and there to lose focus. I’m sure it was important for some staff to delve into prescription drugs, guns, and clean energy, but whoever got the final pass on the draft should have pulled out the red pen. This was not the time.
Mostly what I felt watching the president was sympathy and a kind of horror that he had to say any of this. And so I can think of it as nothing more than a sad duty, the kind of speech a president should give in a time of national tragedy.
These are not speeches one wants to write or give. After all, if I had to pick a line that will resonate in history, I think — or I hope — it would be Biden’s reminder that democracy requires sane, tolerant, and mature human beings to function. :
Democracy cannot survive when one side believes that elections have only two outcomes: either they win or they are cheated… You cannot love your country only when you win.
It’s as simple as that.
Substance aside, if there was one place where this speech was awkward, it was in the staging. optics matter; Bathing the president in red to make him look like his infernal eminence, Joseph Biden, Lord of the Underworld, was a bad idea.
The podium looked as if it had been set up to read from the Necronomicon. Biden, using light as a metaphor, should have stood in real light.
I’ve also picked up a galactic amount of steam on social media for being among those objecting to the placement of two Marines in semi-darkness behind Biden. People on Twitter flooded me with pictures of presidents and military people, just proving that no one understands the problem.
Yes, presidents routinely use military people as backgrounds, something I rarely like to see. It almost always happens, however, at the White House, on military bases, before military audiences, at military-themed events, etc.
To give a speech about democracy in the city of Philadelphia and bring your marines is not something I have ever seen. Frankly, Trump would love to position the Marines as if they were the president’s praetorian guards.
In any case, Biden took the necessary action. A turning point in American politics has occurred. The President of the United States has told us directly that our system of government is under attack. In every aspect, the course of events is in our hands.
•Justification of Joe Biden’s speech
•Biden gambles that “we the people” still exist.
1. U.S. job growth slowed but remained generally strong in August, according to the Labor Department’s latest jobs report.
2. Russia is postponing the reopening of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, one of Europe’s main gas supply routes. Malik said he discovered a problem during maintenance.
3. A detailed inventory from the Mar-a-Lago search, released today, revealed classified documents were mixed with personal items in storage boxes and officials found empty folders containing classified documents.
• Wilderness: Imani Perry gives eight college tips that people don’t give enough.
• Book Briefing: Nicole Achampong explores the boundaries that a romance novel can break.
You may have seen yourself in your memories.
By Jacob Stern
Choose a memory. It can be as recent as breakfast or as far away as your first day of kindergarten. It’s important that you can see it. Keep the image in your mind.
Now consider: Do you see this scene with your own eyes, as you did then? Or do you see yourself in it, like you’re watching a character in a movie? Do you see it from a first-person or third-person perspective, to put it another way?
Usually, we associate this kind of difference with storytelling and fiction. But like a story, each visual memory has its distinct place. Everything is watching from somewhere. And sometimes, in memories, that place isn’t where you were then.
Read the full article.
More from The Atlantic
• What children hear when you sing them.
• Photos of the week, from La Tomatina to the Steam Festival
(Obie Oberholzer / Redux)
Read on. An author and parent recommend five books that are helping her raise children in a broken world. And there’s still time to grab something from our summer reading guide, which has a book for every mood.
If you’ve been trying to read lately but nothing seems to stick, we recommend checking out this list of 12 books to get you reading again.
In Dekho theatres, Three Thousand Years of Longing showcases the thrilling, intellectual chemistry of its stars.
At home, available to stream on multiple platforms is Benediction, a biopic of a celebrated poet by a sympathetic filmmaker. (Or check out the rest of the options on our list of 10 must-see indie films of the summer.)
Want to start a TV show? Rutherford Falls, at the Peacock, is a delightful comedy about a small town struggling to respect local rights and traditions. (And be sure to read our full list of must-see TV shows.)
Play our daily crossword.
A while back, I wrote about the addiction to late-night television, specifically the wonderful and strange network known as MeTV. Unfortunately, I can’t get MeTV anymore — rest assured, I’m working on it — so I thought I’d offer two offbeat movie recommendations for those of you who are just like me.
Suffering from nightmares. These are two 1980s gems that take place in the middle of the night: Into the Night, directed by John Landis, and After Hours, a Martin Scorsese picture. I drove a cab in graduate school, and what I love about both movies is how they take on a different persona after the city bars close. And they are both entertaining.
Both were flops when they were released within months of each other in 1985, but have found their cult audiences in the years since.
Their plots, oddly enough, are similar: young men (Jeff Goldblum in Los Angeles, Griffin Dunn in New York), restless late at night, stepping out on the town, wandering far from home, and beautiful but potentially But mix with unstable women. (Michelle Pfeiffer and Rosanna Arquette, respectively).
Dark comedy, violence, and general silliness ensue. To say more would be giving away too much, but check out a cameo by David Bowie in LA and a kooky turn by Verna Bloom in New York.
The Daily is closed for Labor Day, but I’ll be back with you on Tuesday. Enjoy your weekend.
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