Good morning, it’s Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Joseph R. Biden delivers his first State of the Union address tonight, although in a president’s first year in office these speeches are officially known as addresses to a joint session of Congress. But presidential scholars view them as the new chief executive’s State of the Union speech, and most journalists do as well. Whatever they are called, Joe Biden has attended dozens of them: He served six terms in the Senate and was vice president for eight years as well. And now, at age 78, he will enter that storied chamber as the commander-in-chief and ascend to the podium as the 46th president of the United States.
During his 36 years on Capitol Hill, Biden was considered verbose even by U.S. senator standards, which is saying something. Tonight, though, the microphone is all his.
I’m obliged to mention that South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott is delivering the Republican rebuttal. This is an odd custom, albeit not a new one: Dating to 1966, it is billed as the opposition party’s “response” to the State of the Union speech. The obvious problem is that it has to be written before the president speaks, so it’s not much of a response, although it did help produce a quirky addition to American English — the word “prebuttal.” I covered them for years and can remember little other than Marco Rubio gulping from a water bottle and Bobby Jindal getting panned (though I can’t recall anything specific Jindal did wrong). It’s the format that often sinks them.
Another bit of SOTU trivia: Three politicians have delivered both the State of the Union and, in a previous job, their party’s response. They are Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush. Tonight, Joe Biden will become the fourth.
With that, I’d point you to RCP’s front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. Today’s include Alana Abramson and Brian Bennett previewing the big speech (Time); a Q&A with James Carville on “wokeness” (Vox); Jordan Davidson on wearing masks outdoors (The Federalist); and Tom Friedman on U.S.-China tensions (New York Times). We also offer original material from our own reporters, columnists, and contributors:
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San Francisco’s Dubious Cure for Intractable Homelessness. The city has applied ineffective remedies to a “perilous trifecta” of people at once homeless, psychotic, and addicted, Christopher F. Rufo reports for RealClearInvestigations.
A Fiduciary’s Duty Is to Retirees Alone. Patrick Pizzella assails the undoing of a Labor Department rule that made it more difficult for retirement plans to direct investments into socially conscious funds.
Prioritize the Western Hemisphere in Vaccine Aid. At RealClearWorld, M.F. Bozmoski and Wazim Mowla urge the Biden administration to boost vaccination efforts in Central America and the Caribbean ahead of hurricane season, which is sure to slow inoculation progress.
“Smiling While He Steamrolls.” Brian Burch writes that Joe Biden’s first 100 days have brought “a partisan wrecking ball to the priorities of religious voters.”
UPenn COVID Policy Underpinned by Junk Science. At RealClearPolicy, Frederick M. Hess and Hayley Sanon spotlight flimsy research cited by the school in adjusting standards for female and minority faculty members impacted by the pandemic.
We Must Strengthen Our Laboratory System. At RealClearHealth, Scott J. Becker and Julie Khani highlight the need to bolster a research system that has proved life-saving during the pandemic.
Why Simply Returning to the JCPOA Would Be a Mistake. At RealClearDefense, Yossi Kuperwasser writes that flaws in the original Iran nuclear deal have become more apparent in the years since it was signed.
China’s Attempt to Dominate Low-Earth Orbit. At RealClearScience, Brandon Weichert warns that the Xi regime will place military and geopolitical goals ahead of peaceful ones once it assembles a new space station.
Climate Change and Social Control. At RealClearEnergy, Rupert Darwall considers the overarching impact of decarbonization efforts.
A Roadmap for Improving American Civic Education. At RealClearWire, Mike Sabo explores the new framework aimed at inculcating the principles of citizenship among K-12 students.
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Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics