David Axelrod, one of Barack Obama’s key advisors on his 2008 campaign trail and confidante during his presidency, has some advice for President Joe Biden: Be humble during your upcoming State of the Union address.
In an opinion column for The New York Times, Axelrod pleaded with Biden to tone down his rhetoric during the speech by painting things as they really are in America while acknowledging the pains and anxieties caused by inflation, COVID-19 restrictions, and violent crime — amongst other woes.
“The speech will command the largest television audience the president is likely to enjoy this year, and the temptation will be, as it always is, to herald his achievements and declare that we have navigated the storm,” Axelrod noted.
“But, Mr. President, proceed with caution.” he warned.
“Talk about the things you and Congress have done to help meet the challenges Americans are facing, for sure. Lay out your goals for the future, absolutely. Offer realistic hope for better days ahead,” he added.
Axelrod then noted — without directly saying it — that Americans think Biden’s presidency is a disaster.
“Unsurprisingly, incidents of suicide, drug overdose deaths and violence in our homes and on the streets have grown dramatically. Frustrations with masks, mandates and shifting rules have deepened our political divides. Jobs have come roaring back, raising wages,” Axelrod claimed of the current situation. “But those wage increases have been eaten up by inflation, the likes of which we have not seen in four decades. And all the while, the rich have gotten richer.”
“The state of the union is stressed. To claim otherwise — to highlight the progress we have made, without fully acknowledging the hard road we have traveled and the distance we need to go — would seem off-key and out of touch,” Axelrod added. “You simply cannot jawbone Americans into believing that things are better than they feel.”
It is unclear if the advice will fall on deaf ears. For example, just last week, Biden admonished NBC’s Lester Holt for being a “wise guy” for asking about inflation, which polls have indicated is a top concern for most American voters. The U.S. government announced inflation rose 7.5% year-over-year, but Biden maintained he was not responsible for it and it was caused by a “lack of computer chips,” as reported by The Daily Wire:
“I think it was back in July, you said inflation was going to be temporary,” Holt said. “I think a lot of Americans are wondering what your definition of temporary is.
“Well, you’re being a wise guy with me a little bit, and I understand that’s your job,” Biden responded. “But look, at the time, what happened was the, uh, let’s look at the reasons for the inflation. And the reason for the inflation is the supply chains were cut off, meaning that the products, for example, automobiles, the lack of computer chips to be able to build those automobiles so they could function, they need those computer chips, they were not available.”
As for not making lofty promises, as Axelrod also warned against, readers should keep in mind the Biden administration has recently promised to cure cancer and bring automobile accidents to zero. To avoid comments like that in the State of the Union, Axelrod told the president, “Lay out your goals for the future, absolutely. Offer realistic hope for better days ahead. We desperately need it. But recognize that we are still in the grips of a national trauma. Polls show that the vast majority of Americans believe we are on the wrong track, and people will have little patience for lavish claims of progress that defy their lived experiences.”
The entire op-ed can be read here. The State of the Union will air on March 1, 2022, from the nation’s Capitol Building.
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