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What the pundits are saying about Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address

The Hill logo The Hill 2/8/2023 Dominick Mastrangelo
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President Biden had one of the largest captive audiences he will speak to all year on Tuesday night, delivering the annual State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress at a key moment in his presidency. 

Seen largely as Biden’s entrance into a campaign for a second term, his speech provided fodder for hours of analysis across cable news and debate in Op-Ed sections of leading news outlets. 

During his address, Biden focused primarily on the economy, jobs, police reform and a number of other wedge issues that telegraphed his messaging plans ahead of the 2024 cycle. Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, grabbed headlines of their own for vocally chiding the president during his speech.  

How Biden’s speech, and cascade of Republican rebukes, lands with the American public will depend largely on how it is portrayed in the media. 

Here are what leading pundits are saying about Biden’s prime time address this year: 

MSNBC panelists praise Biden’s demeanor 

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President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., listen. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Several pundits on the left-leaning cable channel spent the hours after Biden’s speech applauding what they said was the president’s ability to deliver the address calmly without getting flustered amid a frenzy of vocal opposition from Republicans. 

“It was a wonderful speech,” said Michael Beschloss, NBC’s presidential historian. “Didn’t you think he was Mr. Smooth? … He was elegant, he was civilized, he was conciliatory, he was reasonable and maybe most of all, he sounded like a centrist, which is exactly where he wants to be.”  

During the network’s coverage, before the president took to the dais, Joy Reid, a leading liberal host on MSNBC, remarked that Biden’s “superpower” is that he “is a regular person.” 

“A long speech from him will be interesting, because it will be more conversational than what you’d get with the great oratory of an Obama,” Reid said. 

Fox hosts pan POTUS, heap praise on Huckabee Sanders 

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Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, R-Ark., waits to deliver the Republican response to President Biden’s State of the Union address, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Little Rock, Ark. (Al Drago/Bloomberg, Pool)

After Fox News concluded live continuous coverage of Biden’s speech, the network turned to host Sean Hannity for punditry.  

Hannity, a longtime friend and ally of former President Trump, railed against Biden’s speech while praising Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R), who gave the official Republican rebuttal to the president’s remarks. 

“What you saw tonight was a weak crotchety old man, disconnected from reality, mumbling, bumbling,” the conservative firebrand said. “I think the star of the night absolutely positively was a governor by the name of Sarah Sanders.” 

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) appeared on Fox’s flagship morning program on Wednesday, and was pressed by host Steve Doocy about his members lashing out at Biden during the speech

“Apparently the White House comms team is delighted at the reaction because it looked like Joe Biden was standing up to the Republicans,” Doocy asked. “At one point it looked like you were trying to shush your side of the aisle. What happened?”

“Well, the president was trying to goad the members, and the members are passionate about it,” McCarthy responded.

CNN’s Chris Wallace: GOP heckling Biden played into president’s hands 

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Republican lawmakers gather in the House Chamber for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Political anchor Chris Wallace, who recently departed Fox to take a job at CNN, said House Republicans made a mistake in loudly chiding the president during his address. 

“I mean, they literally played into his hands. You know, I don’t know if the people at the White House as they were drafting it at Camp David this weekend envisioned that happening the way it did, but it played out perfectly,” Wallace said on CNN following the speech. “When he said ‘let’s all stand up for seniors,’ there was no politician who was not going to stand up for seniors.” 

Before the speech, Wallace said political observers and the American public writ large would be extremely focused on Biden’s energy level as voters consider supporting him in 2024. 

“It’ll be probably the biggest live audience the president gets this whole year,” he said. “This is clearly a campaign speech … how he says what he says tonight is almost as important as what he says. He needs to come off as vigorous and ready for six more years on the job.”

Host of ‘The View’ say Marjorie Taylor Greene should apologize for shouting at Biden 

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., reacts as President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The women of The View largely praised Biden’s speech, and took exception with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) screaming at the president during his remarks.  

Cameras caught Greene, clad in a white fur coat, and other Republicans as they stood and shouted “liar” at Biden as he spoke about the Republican agenda as it relates to entitlements and deficit spending. 

The conservative lawmaker has emerged as a lightning rod within McCarthy’s caucus, often sparking backlash from Democrats for her rhetoric and social media posts.

“I think if she yells liar at the president of the united states, she should apologize for it,” said Sunny Hostin, a co-host of the popular daytime political talk show. “And I wonder if Kevin McCarthy has the cojones to force her to.” 

Whoopi Goldberg accused Republicans of “showing their behinds, as my mother would say,” and engaging in “despicable behavior.” 

“You don’t have to like what he says, but you owe him the respect,” Goldberg said. “He is the president. And for god sakes we had to listen to you know who and nobody yelled and said you’re a liar. You need to get your party in order, man.” 

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