How should you watch President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday night?
With a wary eye on Ukraine, of course. Russia’s invasion has the world on edge. Biden reportedly has revised his speech, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, to include it. This has been said many times by many people about many things in the last couple of years, but it remains true: We are at a historic moment, and history demands to be seen and recorded.
It should be fascinating television, as will the media reaction to the speech. TV pundits don’t make or break domestic or foreign policy, but as we’ve seen in the last few years in particular, they can have a big effect on shaping the message.
For instance, will Fox News condemn Biden and the speech out of hand? (When Biden announced Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, the network ran a chyron under its live shot that said, "Biden Names Supreme Court Pick As Russia Wages War.")
Is its dismissal already crafted and ready to roll? Depends on who is doing the talking.
How will Sinema and Manchin react to Biden's speech?
Typically the State of the Union focuses most of its energy on domestic issues and a president’s plans and policies. Clearly Biden can’t ignore what’s going on in the world right now. It would be unseemly to pretend all is well, that optimism abounds, or to ignore the slaughter of Ukrainian people trying to hold their country from an unprovoked invasion.
It’ll be interesting to see if Biden includes a take on the traditional phrase, “The state of our union is strong.” It’s always a sure-fire standing ovation, at least from those in the same party as the president. No matter what’s happening at home or abroad, that’s what he’s selling — that’s the point of the annual speech.
Here’s hoping a camera is trained on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, two Democrats who sometime serve as thorns in the side of Biden’s efforts to pass legislation. Will they stand when other Democrats do? Sit on their hands as most Republicans doubtless will?
And what will Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is scheduled to deliver the Republican response to the speech, say? It's unlikely she will join the fringe elements of the party who are soft on Putin. But how strongly will she criticize Biden's Ukraine response? How strongly will others?
Things like that aren’t just random TV entertainment, not on a night like this. They’re clues to how Biden and the country may move forward.
The state of the union is divided
In reality, of course, the country is badly divided. In some ways, the Democratic and Republican parties are, as well. Thus the attention to Sinema and Manchin, during the speech and otherwise.
Events have led to Biden appearing on TV more than he did his first year in office. Obviously the State of the Union isn’t an interview and he isn’t going to take questions afterward. (It would take all night, among other things.)
Policies and politics aside, Barack Obama and Donald Trump were certainly more interesting orators, if you can call Trump an orator. (The interesting part for sure, though.) Biden is more along the lines of a George W. Bush, a competent speaker who is occasionally prone to gaffes. Yet like Bush, Biden can rise to the occasion.
Particularly when he’s angry or frustrated, Biden is quotable and interesting to watch. That happens more often during back-and-forths with reporters. That won’t happen Tuesday night. But what does happen should prove eventful. The media’s coverage of it will be, too.
How to watch President Biden's State of the Union address
7 p.m. Tuesday, March 1, on all major broadcast and cable news networks.
Also streaming live on azcentral.com.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Joe Biden's State of the Union address: Here's what to watch for