PBS coverage of President Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening began with special pleading for the president on the NewsHour, with co-host Amna Nawaz querying Sen. John Thune (R-SD):
NAWAZ: Well I think a lot of people are waiting to hear on the economy, as you know, that is top on Americans' minds, and when you look at where things are now, unemployment is at a 50-year-low, inflation does seem to be cooling, right? The new jobs numbers last week topped 500,000, far exceeding expectations. The White House is arguing things are getting better and will continue to get better. Do you disagree?
(Not even the New York Times gave Biden a pass on his inflated claims on jobs and inflation, mildly fact-checking both claims.)
After Thune called for more bipartisanship from Biden, Nawaz insisted that President Joe “Jim Crow 2.0” Biden had in fact been more than bipartisan:
NAWAZ: On the issue of bipartisanship, I should point out that over the last year the President did meet with Republican leaders several times at the White House right? On pandemic relief and infrastructure. He actually appeared alongside Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at a major bridge repair project in Kentucky. Do you want to see more bipartisanship than that? That seems like a pretty strong message over the last year.
Minutes later, co-host Geoff Bennett posed the same question in reverse to Kate Bedingfield, White House Communications Director, who was asked why American’s aren’t buying what Biden is selling:
BENNETT: Big-picture question: Why aren't more Americans feeling the accomplishments that President Biden is trying to sell? As you know, there was a recent ABC News-Washington Post survey this weekend that found a majority of Americans, 62%, say they do not believe Biden has achieved much during his first two years in office. That's with unemployment at a 50-year-low. What accounts for that?
Before Biden’s long State of the Union address began, Bennett upped the ante, referring to Biden’s “objectively historic achievements” in a question to Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report:
BENNETT: And Amy Walter, as President Biden sort of ticks through the laundry list of his objectively historic achievements, this is coming at a time when there is growing dissatisfaction in this country. There was a recent poll that found more than six in 10 Americans believe that President Biden hasn't done very much….
Then Nawaz went to the show’s usual pair of political commentators, New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart. Capehart was one-note on the purported nationwide epidemic of police brutality, using the Tyre Nichols case to suggest all black contact with law enforcement was inherently risky.
CAPEHART: I'm looking forward to what the president might say with regard to, not just directly to the Nichols family, but to all those families around the country, particularly African-American families, for whom interaction with law enforcement is not usually a positive thing.
(You can read about the post-speech fit from Capehart here.)
As Biden prepared to speak, the hosts set the scene with an oblique reference to a past SOTU incivility controversy involving then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
NAWAZ: I believe the president will first hand copies of his speech to both Speaker McCarthy and to Vice-President Kamala Harris, as is tradition. They will hold onto copies of the speech because that in itself has made for some memorable moments in the past.
BENNETT: That’s right. And the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he’s not going to rip up the speech this year.
While congressional reporter Lisa DesJardins would later liken Republican pushback against Biden’s SOTU misstatements to a “barroom” brawl, the reference to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s classless behavior, ripping up Trump’s State of the Union remarks in 2020, was left vague, with Pelosi’s name unmentioned.