Biden speech takeaways: War in Ukraine transforms focus

Mar 1, 2022, 8:35 PM | Updated: Mar 2, 2022, 10:06 am
President Joe Biden arrives to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congres...
President Joe Biden arrives to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Washington. (Win McNamee, Pool via AP)
(Win McNamee, Pool via AP)

Sound up for discussion on Dave and Dujanovic about President Biden’s State of the Union Address. More info below, too.

 WASHINGTON (AP) — Only a little more than a week ago, President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address was focused largely inward, looking at the economic and public health woes besetting the U.S. But Russia’s invasion or Ukraine and the war that has ensued changed all that.

Here are key takeaways from Biden’s address.


The speech and the war in Ukraine gave Biden both the platform and the urgent reason to talk about the fight between democracy and autocracy not as an abstraction but as an urgent reality.

Biden has repeatedly talked about the battle of between the values of liberal democracies and autocrats like Russian President Vladimir Putin as the greatest foreign policy test facing the world.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and the surprising unity that U.S. and European allies have shown in response — gave the president a chance to speak about the issue in a visceral way to a global audience.

“In the battle between democracy and autocracy, democracies are rising to the moment, and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security,” Biden said “This is a real test. It’s going to take time. So let us continue to draw inspiration from the iron will of the Ukrainian people. “

He celebrated the West for coming together on hard-hitting sanctions that are “choking off Russia’s access to technology that will sap its economic strength and weaken its military for years to come” he announced news sanctions to close off U.S. air space to all Russian flights. and he paid tribute to Ukrainian people for “fighting back with pure courage.”


Biden found himself caught in the middle of culture wars for much of his first year in office. With his State of the Union, the president who has made his long career in politics living in the ideological — had moments where he sought to pivot to the center.

He dismissed those on the left of his party who have advocated for reducing funding of police in the midst of national reckoning on policing in Black communities.

“We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.”

After months of Republicans beating him up on immigration, he allowed that “we need to secure the border and fix the immigration system.” But he also called on Republicans — and the American public — to look at the issue in a pragmatic way, alluding to the country’s worker shorter as the nation emerges for coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s not only the right thing to do — it’s the economically smart thing to do,” Biden said


Even as he appeals to the higher ideals of democracy, Biden believes that many Americans would process the war through prices at the pump instead of geopolitical risks.

It’s a jarring contrast in priorities as Ukrainians beg the U.S. and its allies for weapons to protect themselves, while the U.S. and Europe are focused first and foremost on energy costs in their own economies that are generally experiencing growth instead of an existential threat.

“I’m taking robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted at Russia’s economy — and I will use every tool at our disposal to protect American businesses and consumers,” Biden said as he announced the planned release of another 30 million barrels of oil from the U.S. petroleum reserve. Gasoline prices are averaging $3.61 a gallon, according to AAA. But most of that increase occurred over the past year, rather than the machinations of Russia.

It’s a sign that Biden sees his own political fortunes resting on family budgets and reducing inflation, perhaps even more than a land war in Europe.


Biden almost said it — the motto that disappeared with his political agenda: “Build Back Better.” Or, BBB. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, the decisive Democratic vote in the evenly split Senate, has pronounced BBB dead with nary a eulogy.

Biden in outlining his agenda said instead, “I call it building a better America.” So, what does that look like? It looks a lot like his prior agenda, except it’s been slimmed down.

Capping prescription drug prices stays in the mix. So do anti-climate change policies — which are now being portrayed as ways to lower energy costs for families. Financial support to limit child care costs is still in, though the expanded child tax credit from the coronavirus relief package is out. Universal pre-kindergarten remains a priority, but the primary goal of all of these policies is no longer to win the future as Biden once claimed. It’s all about reducing inflation, the problem dogging Biden’s popularity in the here and now.


Biden said the country has moved beyond the pandemic, even if it still needs to stay vigilant against mutations. His big argument is that the country can’t change its past divides, though it must address the pandemic with a united front.

He noted that most of the country can now be mask-free. Most Americans are vaccinated and more vaccines are available if needed. Schools are open and workers can return to offices. “COVID-19 need no longer control our lives,” said Biden, echoing statements he made last July 4 when the disease similarly appeared to be in the rear view mirror.

The difference this time compared to the summer of 2020 is not only the increase in vaccinations but the lessons from the omicron and delta waves that caused infections and deaths to accelerate.


The word count says a lot about where Biden’s frame of mind is right now.

His remarks include variations on the word “job” more than a dozen times as it applied to people working. Inflation netted half a dozen mentions and forms of the word “price” in terms of costs charged were mentioned 10 times. “Pandemic” was mentioned eight times and COVID-19 appeared a dozen times.

He tried to highlight partisan unity by deploying the phrase “Democrats and Republicans” three times. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (20 mentions) supplanted China as a geopolitical rival, as China got just two mentions. And there was a clear villain: Putin was named 12 times.


Blue and yellow is the new black.

As Russian invasion of Ukraine grinds on, lawmakers showed their support for Ukrainians with their sartorial choices.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wore a blue suit adorned with a lapel pin of Ukraine and U.S. flags. Rep. Eric Swalwell made do with a blue scarf.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who appeared to have a large paper Ukraine flag pinned to his suit, had a bit of wardrobe malfunction. (His Ukraine flag fell off as he waded through the packed aisle to make his way to his seat.)

Many lawmakers — and guests — also had small Ukrainian flags. In a sign of support for the Ukrainian people, the First Lady Jill Biden has an embroidered appliqué of a sunflower, the national flower of Ukraine, sewn to the sleeve of her dress near her wrist.

Today’s Top Stories


DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: A giant flag of IR Iran on the pitch prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2...

US-Iran match reflects a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

The U.S. team’s must-win World Cup match against Iran will be closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
2 days ago
Irene Cara in 'Fame' (Photo courtesy of Mgm/Kobal, Shutterstock)...
MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer

‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ singer-actor Irene Cara dies at 63

singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance ... What a Feeling” from 1983's “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.
4 days ago
The U.S. Coast Guard ship Bernard C. Webber, leaves the coast guard base, Monday, July 19, 2021, in...
Associated Press

‘Miracle’: Missing cruise ship passenger found OK in water

The U.S. Coast Guard says a passenger who went overboard from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico was rescued on Thanksgiving after likely being in the water for hours.
5 days ago
FILE - A Montana man was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Capitol riot. (AP P...
The Associated Press

Montana man gets 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

A Montana man will spend three years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S Capitol.
6 days ago
Debbie, left, and Chet Barnett place flowers at a memorial outside of the Chesapeake, Va., Walmart ...
The Associated Press

Walmart shooter left ‘death note,’ bought gun day of killing

According to authorities in Virginia, the Walmart shooter bought his gun just hours prior to killing six employees.
6 days ago
Dry lakebed...
Kira Hoffelmeyer

Lawsuit looms over tiny fish in drought-stricken West

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials that they will sue over delayed decisions related to protections for two rare fish species that are threatened by groundwater pumping in the drought-stricken West. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service last week […]
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Biden speech takeaways: War in Ukraine transforms focus