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Smokin’ Joe’s Grate Of The Union: Was That Fire – Or Gaslight?


By Bob Maistros, Issues & Insights | March 8, 2024

One thing’s for sure: Smokin’ Joe Biden came out punching Thursday night in his campaign rally – oops, State of the Union address.

That is, when Biden finally got to the House chamber after dissing assembled members of Congress and a national audience by leaving the White House right when he was to enter the Capitol. Then rudely breached protocol by tromping all over the speaker’s time-honored, bipartisanship-building privilege of introducing the chief executive.

But those acts of contempt were nothing compared to 68 minutes of diatribe, disputation, deception, and most important, divisiveness then unleashed by America’s counterfeit commander in chief.

Let’s cut to the chase on the Delawarean octogenarian’s first assignment from yesterday’s preview: deal with the age issue.

And give credit where credit is due: Biden’s closing remarks masterfully flipped this vulnerability, insisting that the issue “isn’t how old we are, it’s how old our ideas are.” Then contrasting “the oldest of ideas” – the “hate, anger, revenge (and) retribution” attributed to his presidential opponent – with his own “vision for the future of what America can and should be.”


Yet: the White House clearly believed that an even better way to jettison that baggage was to burst out of his corner before the bell had even sounded – and let loose a shouted, shock-and-awe, bitter and blatantly political fusillade of blows against his opposition.

But the effect of the sudden assault of verbiage and volume inappropriate to the occasion was instead decidedly disturbing, deeply disconcerting – and downright grating on ears and soul.

Yes, Biden lit a fire. But only to ignite an hour-plus of “gaslighting” that should have insulted the intelligence of everyone watching in the hallowed halls and nationwide.

Thereby earning flunking grades on the incumbent’s second and third tests: 1. take responsibility for the real economic woes besetting voters and 2. “soften the rhetoric,” including “suggest(ing) common ground for cooperation.”

Just how did Biden, per one definition of the theatrically inspired term, engage in “an insidious form of manipulation” in which victims “are deliberately and systematically fed false information that leads them to question what they know to be true?”

Let us count just some of the ways (given limited space):

1. Opening with a jeremiad on the raging dispute over devoting hundreds of billions of dollars to the defense of Ukraine’s border while opening our own – as an entrée into outrageously comparing his political opponents’ alleged “assault on democracy” to Vladimir Putin’s cruel, unlawful aggression.

2. Mis-portraying Donald Trump’s claimed NATO-funding negotiating bluster to European leaders – to let Russia’s leader “do whatever the hell he wants” – as a genuine invitation to the Kremlin. (Versus the actual issuance of just such an invitation.)

3. Slandering Jan. 6 protesters as “insurrectionists” posing “the gravest threat to our democracy since the Civil War,” while maintaining that “(his) predecessor and some of you here seek to bury the truth of January 6th.” You mean like false claims that multiple police officers died that day and the administration’s refusal to come clean on the presence and possible instigating roles of informants?

4. Jumping directly into the cultural minefields of abortion and IVF – using stony-faced Supreme Court justices as political props (in true Obama fashion) and divisively playing the “sex card” by plugging girl power.

5. Gratuitously attacking Trump, who famously overreacted to COVID, for an alleged “failure to care” while ridiculously describing his multiple unconstitutional mandates as “turning setback into comeback.”

6. Comically characterizing the roaring-back economy he inherited as “on-the-brink,” claiming credit for inflation falling from 9% to 3% when it was 1.4% for Trump’s last full year, and bragging about 15 million new jobs that largely replaced positions lost during the pandemic.

7. Saying he “cut the federal deficit by over one trillion dollars” following a fiscal year in which it doubled – then insisting that future reductions would come from waging familiar class warfare against corporations and billionaires while walling off entitlements and proposing a raft of unaffordable programs such as universal preschool.

8. Trying to convince a quietly desperate public struggling to make ends meet that the solution was intrusive, unworkable efforts to counter “shrinkflation” and “junk fees,” as well as price controls that never control inflation but instead sap innovation.

9. Touting his toughness against a Chinese adversary that paid his son and brother millions for apparent influence-peddling, and whom he allowed to float a spy balloon coast-to-coast and insult American diplomats face-to-face. While averring it had “never occurred to (his) predecessor” to stand up to a Middle Kingdom against which he slapped tariffs and pursued controls on sensitive technology transfers.

10. Spewing forth extraordinary racial demagoguery about alleged “voter suppression” and “election subversion” when more than 8 in 10 Americans support voter ID and mail-in ballots have obliterated electoral integrity.

11. Devoting just 139 words to Hamas’ subhuman atrocities and cowardice, then 322 to:

  • Israel’s “responsibility” to reduce casualties among civilians used as human shields. 
  • Insistence on a ceasefire and increased humanitarian aid that will refresh and rearm its enemies.
  • And imbecilic assertions that a two-state solution will ensure the Jewish nation’s security when the opposite is the case, and deliver peace with Arab nations when the historic, Trump-midwifed Abraham Accords were accomplished by side-stepping the Palestinians altogether.

12. And in a world-record act of chutzpah, blaming border chaos on GOP rejection of a bill that would wave even more migrants through – and implying that refusal caused the brutal murder of a Georgia college student by an illegal repeat offender his policies allowed into the U.S.

But hey! the legacy media will slobber all over his scrappiness. And gaslighting? Like negative campaigning, it often actually works – for a time.

The challenge is that reality ultimately intrudes: Smokin’ Joe is still too old, woke, tied to failed economic, energy, and foreign policies; and out-of-touch with the real-life concerns even of his own constituencies.

Whether even that makes a difference in November in the face of continued lawfare and election-rigging efforts remains to be seen.

Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist, and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at

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