President Biden painted an optimistic picture of America Tuesday night that was starkly at odds with the nation's dejected mood. A poll on the eve of Biden's State of the Union speech found that just 39 percent of Americans believe the country is strong.
The Monmouth University poll found a remarkable sixteen-point drop in confidence since 2018, when President Trump was in office.
The most pronounced shift was among independents. In 2018, 52 percent of independents said they had confidence in the union, but just 33 percent say the same now.
Overall, 58 percent said the state of the union is weak. The findings are an indictment of Biden, who came into the presidency vowing to "unite" and "heal" the country.
Many would say Biden has gone out of his way to do the opposite. He bookended his State of the Union speech with references to January 6th, which he likened to the Civil War. Biden has frequently used such extreme rhetoric to characterize Republicans as enemies of the country.
Returning to his familiar themes of civility and "democracy," Biden referenced the attack on Paul Pelosi -- who was an invited guest Tuesday night -- but ignored left-wing political violence, like the attempt to assassinate Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh that Biden arguably helped incite last summer.
"We must see each other not as enemies, but as fellow Americans," Biden said.
While sounding a general note of compromise, Biden also took sharp jabs at Republican lawmakers. He provoked heckles of protest when he accused the GOP of wanting to gut Social Security and Medicare.
The hostile reviews continued after Biden's speech, with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) calling Biden's rant "one of the most partisan" State of the Union addresses he had ever heard.
Indeed, the picture Biden painted Tuesday evening was self-congratulatory to the extreme, and probably difficult to recognize for millions of Americans who say the country is going through rough times.
With inflation and borrowing costs running high and a potential recession in the offing, Biden stuck to well-worn, misleading boasts about job creation and the federal deficit that have frequently been disputed even by Biden-friendly media.
He claimed his administration is revitalizing America's de-industrialized heartland, touting his legislative showpieces, like the infrastructure bill, as investments in an economy "where no one is left behind."
"Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back, because of the choices we made in the last two years," he said.
And while Biden paid lip service to "sovereignty" in Ukraine, he made no mention of his abdication of America's own borders, which has driven illegal immigration to record highs.