If you skip all the parts where President Biden lied, screamed about “American Jobs,” and yelled, “FOLKS!” there was actually something he did a couple of times during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday that Republicans could really stand to learn from.
The first and most notable time was about halfway through the slog of a ceremony when Biden referenced the federal debt ceiling and started in to predictably accuse Republicans of preparing to gut entitlement spending, specifically Social Security and Medicare. (House Speaker McCarthy had publicly stated multiple times in recent weeks that no cuts would be considered for either in negotiations to raise the spending limit.)
“Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans, some Republicans, want Medicare and Social Security to sunset,” he said, to catcalls from Republican members. “I’m not saying it’s the majority. Let me give you — anybody who doubts it, contact my office. I’ll give you a copy — I’ll give you a copy of the proposal [by the GOP to cut entitlements].”
Biden did a similar version of this about 16 years later in the same speech when he broached the non-compete agreements some businesses require of employers. “It just changed — well, they just changed it because we exposed it,” he said to more hissing from Republicans. “That was part of the deal, guys. Look it up.”
This is what every Republican who plans to run for president in 2024 needs to do. Or, really, any Republican running for any office at all from now on. When confronted with a real-time “fact check” or objection from some obtuse cable news anchor or roving reporter — and they will do it every time, especially on issues where Republicans have an effective message — tell them they’re wrong and that they can look it up or check back for additional info at a more convenient time.
Almost no Republican understands the media, and the 22-year-olds they hire as press assistants don’t either, so here’s a crash course on the topic: When a given Republican has taken up an issue that’s popular with voters, such as, say, banning public schools from withholding health information from a child’s parents, the media will find any and every way to either minimize the issue or to controversialize the Republican who’s benefiting from it. The media can often achieve both by confronting the Republican with some (at worst) cooked-up information or (at best) some contested argument that aims to deflate the subject at hand.
Rather than seeing the deceptive little imp for what it is, Republicans instead grow frustrated and stutter out a defensive reply, apparently having been duped into believing they themselves must have gotten something wrong. This is a very stupid reaction and the media will have achieved its goal by provoking it.
Knock it off, Republicans. Just do what Biden did in his speech. It’s always best to be prepared, but you don’t have to have the facts on every subject at the tip of your tongue all the time. Even if you were unaware of the contradictory (mis)information presented to you in the moment, that’s no reason to panic. Assume it’s not even true. (Hint: It’s usually not!) Never trust a media person in an impromptu battle of wits.
Their entire profession is to do this on TV. Yours isn’t. It’s a boobytrap. “No, that’s wrong and I’ll get you the facts,” is a perfectly fine answer when you, unlike them, haven’t just memorized and rehearsed a moment that intends to make you look dumb and unserious.
It turns out that Biden’s speech wasn’t the usual vacuum of meaning. Republicans had something to learn from it.