President Biden delivers his second State of the Union address on Tuesday. Expect praise no matter how badly he does; after all, even last year’s speech was touted by liberals as “brilliant,” “very unifying” and a “return to normalcy,” with straight-faced reporters insisting “it didn’t have a partisan edge to it.”
CNN’s Van Jones sounded exactly like the alumnus he is of the Obama-Biden White House, shamelessly spinning: “Uncle Joe is back....I was impressed....I am proud tonight we have a leader like him. I’m proud tonight.”
For a hint of what those outside the liberal bubble thought, National Review ruled Biden’s 2022 speech an “incoherent address,” one “delivered with nothing resembling panache or basic diction.” The New York Post said it was “an unserious speech for deadly serious times.” By any measure, the positive reviews from liberal reporters were an undeserved gift.
Yet Biden can never hope to garner the gushing praise the media habitually lavished on his onetime boss, former President Barack Obama. From his first speech to Congress in 2009 to his final State of the Union in 2016, liberal reporters were always thrilled whenever they were privileged to hear their hero delivering predictable liberal platitudes from the well of the House of Representatives.
Here’s a roll call of journalists melting before Obama’s rhetoric:
February 2009: “We Have a President Again!”
■ “It was his debut and he wowed us. That’s the running headline from last night’s presidential address to Congress.”
— MSNBC’s Chris Matthews opening Hardball, February 25, 2009.
■ “It made me feel pretty good. I thought it was a great speech....You know, a friend of mine said, ‘Oh my God, we have a President again!’ Now, in some ways, that’s not fair to Bush, but that’s the way you felt. You felt this was a guy who was totally in charge.”
— NPR’s Nina Totenberg discussing President Obama’s address to Congress, February 27, 2009 Inside Washington.
September 2009: “A Touch of Greatness”
■ “It was, to say the least, a broad and forward-thinking speech. On the rhetoric and the phrasing and the pacing and the design of the speech itself, there seems to have been a touch of greatness.”
— MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann after Obama concluded his speech to Congress pitching ObamaCare, September 9, 2009.
■ “This might have been the most emotional speech I’ve seen President Obama give....I don’t think I’ve ever seen him get caught up emotionally in the way he did in those final couple of paragraphs, where there was even a catch in his voice — not even in his Inaugural Address back in January. This is very close to President Obama’s heart.”
— ABC’s George Stephanopoulos following Obama’s speech, September 9, 2009.
2010: He’s Ready for Mount Rushmore
■ CBS’s Jeff Greenfield: “This was very much like he was in the campaign. He went five or ten minutes without a single applause line. He said ‘let me tell you how we got into this mess,’ he reached out and said to people ‘I’m not giving up my idea that we can change the tone of politics.’...”
Anchor Katie Couric: “Well, as [New York Times columnist] Tom Friedman said, ‘He’s better at making us smarter than making us angry.’”
— From CBS’s live coverage following the State of the Union, January 27, 2010.
■ “If presidential leadership were only about giving speeches, the jackhammers would already be at work on Mount Rushmore. I thought the guy dominated the room, used humor, occupied the middle ground....In many, many ways, this is one of the most conservative speeches that a Democratic president has given since, I think, the middle of Bill Clinton’s time.”
— Newsweek’s Howard Fineman on MSNBC after President Obama’s State of the Union address, January 27, 2010.
2011: Applauding “Reaganesque” State of the Union
■ “Full of sunny optimism, very Reaganesque, on and on about American exceptionalism in many, many instances and full of Kennedyesque encouragement to break a new frontier. That Sputnik moment was remarkable....”
— ABC’s Christiane Amanpour during coverage of the State of the Union, January 25, 2011.
■ “In many ways, you felt this speech tonight was almost downright Reaganesque. There have been some comparisons made in recent days about how this could be his Reagan moment.”
— CBS News anchor Katie Couric during her network’s live coverage, January 25, 2011.
2012: “Positive and Optimistic in Every Way”
■ “Any viewer watching this, despite personal prejudices pro or con, or partisan differences, would look at this speech and it would be very hard to say that he is apologizing for America. This was resoundingly positive and optimistic in every way....”
— NBC’s Andrea Mitchell disputing Mitt Romney’s characterization of Obama’s speech, live coverage January 24, 2012.
■ “His speech was equivalent to Ronald Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ speech, which was a positive outlook on the world and I think that Republicans can embrace him because of Ronald Reagan. It is very similar to that. It’s positive, it’s optimistic....From his mouth to God’s ears, they should start cooperating and get this country going and stop this gridlock because it’s not patriotic!”
— Co-host Joy Behar on ABC’s The View, January 25, 2012.
2013: Obama Made Beautiful Music
■ “This was a speech that had some music to it, as they used to say. He coined a few phrases in there, talked about the ‘unfinished task before us,’ sort of reminiscent of what Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address.”
— Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer during CBS’s post-State of the Union coverage, February 12, 2013.
2014: Don’t Forget That Obama Is Wonderful
■ “With all the talk about the President entering this period where ‘lame duck’ has been tossed around, this period in his second term, it was David Remnick in The New Yorker magazine, a long, long article, a long, sustained-access interview with the President over many stops, who put a sentence in the middle of the article to reset everyone’s expectations and remind us what it took to get here. And I’m going to quote from it. ‘A President who after all,’ quote, ‘won two terms as only 17 of 44 presidents have, and did so as a black man with an African father and a peculiar name one consonant away from that of the world’s most notorious terrorist.’ Something I think everybody forgets in the day-to-day game here.”
— NBC’s Brian Williams during live coverage of the State of the Union, January 28, 2014.
2015: Halfway Between a Liberal and a Ultra-Liberal
■ “I think it’s the best speech he’s made in awhile....He seemed more relaxed and more at ease than I can recall in a long time....This was a State of the Union speech that had more soaring rhetoric in it. It was uplifting at the end.”
— CBS’s Bob Schieffer during his network’s live coverage of the State of the Union, January 20, 2015.
■ “The economic message, also, is so politically in tune with where the broad spectrum of the American people are. He’s laying out themes that are equidistant between the Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton branches of the Democratic Party.”
— Correspondent Andrea Mitchell during NBC’s live coverage of the State of the Union speech, January 20, 2015.
2016: So Smart, Like George Washington
■ “It reminded me — I mean, this is going to sound ridiculous, like I always think about George Washington, but it reminded me of George Washington’s Farewell Address.”
— Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin assessing Obama’s final State of the Union speech on PBS’s Charlie Rose, January 12, 2016.
■ PBS’s Charlie Rose: “I want to raise two big issues about him that are fascinating to me and, Jon, all of you. How smart is he? What’s the sense of — is he one of our brightest presidents?”
Longtime Newsweek editor Jon Meacham: “Absolutely. I think so and I think it has the pluses and minuses.
Rose: “I’m asking from a real standpoint.”
Meacham: “It’s a keen analytical intelligence.”
— Exchange on Charlie Rose, January 12, 2016.
For more examples from our flashback series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.