WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid unrest at home and danger abroad, President Joe Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address at a time of heightened tension as he seeks to navigate a way out of the pandemic, relaunch his plans to the country and confront Russian aggression.
The White House had intended Tuesday night’s speech as an opportunity to highlight the improving outlook on the coronavirus and characterize domestic policy priorities as a means of reducing costs for families beset by runaway inflation. But it has taken on new importance with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats.
Biden plans to highlight the courage of Ukrainian defenders and the resolve of a reinvigorated Western alliance that has rearmed the Ukrainian military and imposed sanctions on Russia to cripple its economy.
The president will speak about “the importance of the United States as a leader in the world, a defender of values, a defender of global norms, but also the efforts that it has made to mitigate the impact on the people here,” the secretary said on Monday. White House press officer Jen Psaki.
The president will speak before a packed room in which the use of the mask is optional, a sign that the threat of the coronavirus is diminishing. But he, too, will speak on Capitol Hill surrounded by fences because of security fears since last year’s insurrection.
Rising energy costs as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine may exacerbate inflation in the United States, which has reached its highest level in 40 years, attacking people’s incomes and threatening economic recovery after the pandemic. And while the geopolitical crisis in eastern Europe has helped cool partisan tensions in Washington, it is not enough to erase the political and cultural discord that calls into question Biden’s ability to deliver on his promise to promote national unity.
Biden will speak at a time when Americans are unhappy with his performance as president. An AP-NORC poll in February found that more people disapprove of his management, 55% to 44%. In July the survey gave a favorable result of 60%.
People recognize that the country’s mood is one of “bitterness”, a fact that they attribute to the fact that the pandemic does not finish going away and inflation is increasing. Biden will highlight the progress since last year — most of the country is vaccinated and millions have returned to work — but acknowledge that the task is not done as evidenced by the general malaise.