A Spirited SOTU For Biden | Crooked Media
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March 07, 2024
What A Day
A Spirited SOTU For Biden

In This Episode

  • President Biden delivered his State of the Union Thursday night. He traded verbal blows with his conservative opponents inside the room, and also offered a preview of his 2024 campaign message. Pod Save America’s Tommy Vietor assessed Biden’s speech on topics such as abortion access, Gaza, immigration at the southern border and more.
  • And in headlines: Sweden joins NATO, Trump can’t delay his payment to E. Jean Carroll, and House lawmakers advanced legislation that could ban TikTok.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, March 8th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi and this is What a Day, coming to you on International Women’s Day and hoping that by this time next year, each and every woman listening to this podcast has at least one more right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, just one little right. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I think if we vote for the right people, I’m optimistic. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, rights for everyone. Okay, how about that? [laughter] [music break] On today’s show, Hamas has left the deadlocked ceasefire talks in Cairo. Plus, the US House advanced a bill to ban TikTok unless it separates from it’s China based parent company. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, last night, President Biden delivered the state of the Union. He talked about a number of things, such as abortion rights. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] If you, the American people send me a Congress that supports the right to choose, I promise you I’ll restore Roe v Wade as the law of the land again. 


Priyanka Aribindi: He talked about climate change. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] My policies have attracted $650 billion in private sector investment. In clean energy, advanced manufacturing, creating tens of thousands of jobs here in America. 


Priyanka Aribindi: He even called out Republicans who played down the events of January 6th. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] You can’t love your country only when you win. 


Tre’vell Anderson: There is so much to go over, and we have with us one of the more savvy political presidential interpreters that we know, Tommy Vietor from Pod Save America and Pod Save the World. How are you doing, Tommy? 


Tommy Vietor: I’m great. Thank you. Thanks for having me. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Thanks for being here. Let’s jump right on into it. Going into this speech, what do you think Biden needed to do? And did he actually pull it off? 


Tommy Vietor: What I was expecting him to try to do was, do you know a heavy rundown of all the things he’s accomplished and then lay out a second term agenda? What he ended up doing was something I didn’t expect, which was go right at Republicans, right from the top. You know, he talked about Trump’s comments saying that Russia should invade NATO countries that don’t spend enough money on defense spending. He went after them on abortion rights. He went after them on January 6th. So I was surprised at how political and pugilistic and feisty he was. And I actually think that played well because he knew that these idiots, I mean you walk in you got Marjorie Taylor Greene in a red MAGA hat, like hanging out. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So bad. 


Tommy Vietor: [laugh] In the chambers. So he knew he was going to get some heckling and pick a fight. And I actually thought it worked out pretty well for him again. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. Throughout the night, he kept on comparing himself to Trump, but he never actually said his name like he’s Voldemort. Um. He just called him my predecessor. 


Tommy Vietor: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Take a listen to this. 


[montage of clips of President Joe Biden] Now my predecessor… My predecessor… In past administrations, including my predecessor… My predecessor…well my predecessor.. and if my predecessor’s watching. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But throughout the night, do you think that we basically just heard kind of a preview of the Biden 2024 campaign platform? 


Tommy Vietor: Yeah, I think you did. I think you heard the core contrasts on democracy, for example. And I think you saw that he’s going to go after Trump and take a lot of these fights head on. He’s going to take them head on over even issues where Democrats aren’t doing well, like immigration. So I do think it was a preview of the message going forward. I think one of Biden’s problems lately is that, you know, he’s lost some support from Democrats, and I think it will probably help him that those Democrats saw him fighting tonight. They want to see him look like a fighter. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. As we mentioned, Biden covered a lot of ground here, including drug costs, gun control, the power of labor, so much more. I want to know which areas stood out to you and what you thought he was strongest on? 


Tommy Vietor: I thought where he was strongest was at the top. They kind of knew which issues were the most contentious and the areas where they really wanted to pick a fight. So he’s picking a fight with Congress over passing more funding for Ukraine. He’s picking a fight with Congress over abortion rights. He was picking a fight with Congress over trying to ban IVF, for the Republican Party more broadly. And I thought like those were areas that are popular with the American people. It’s where he has an enemy that he can call out for standing in the way of needed progress. So I thought those were important. And then later in the speech, he ticked through some of the core, like domestic agenda items you always hear in these speeches. Protecting Social Security, making health care more affordable, getting health care for more people, reducing the cost of housing. So people, I think, kind of tune out in the middle. So it’s good to pick the fights at the top. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right? I mean, big moment for [?], started out with Ukraine. Was that something you were expecting? What did you make of that? 


Tommy Vietor: No, not at all. I mean, for him to quote Donald Trump at the very top of the speech, uh and you’re right, he didn’t say Donald Trump’s name, but to say my predecessor was surprising to me because Joe Biden, you know, he’s an institutionalist. He’s someone who’s been in the Senate for most of his adult life. He respects sort of norms and customs and decorum, and for him to call Trump out like that was surprising to me. For him to criticize the Supreme Court directly was surprising to me. I can’t wait to read all the takes in the Washington Post with the pearl clutching civility police coming after him, so I liked it. I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, let’s turn to the Middle East. Biden talked about his plan to build a pier in Gaza to deliver aid. We’re going to get more details about that in our headlines. But he also said this. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] To the leadership of to Israel I say this, humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip. Protecting and saving innocent lives has to be priority. As we look to the future the only real solution to the situation is a two state solution over time. [applause]


Tre’vell Anderson: So we know that all eyes are on the president on this particular topic. Protesters calling for a permanent cease fire even blocked his motorcade as it headed to the Capitol last night. 


Tommy Vietor: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: What’s your assessment of how Biden seemed on this issue? 


Tommy Vietor: There certainly wasn’t a large, you know, major course correction on Gaza policy that I think a lot of progressives would like to see. I know the Biden administration behind the scenes has been pushing very hard for a six week ceasefire and the release of certain hostages. Those talks seem to be falling apart. I think there’s a lot of people that would like to see him pushing the Israelis harder, calling for a longer ceasefire, putting conditions on any uh weapons shipments in the future, demanding that more aid get let into Gaza. So I’m in a different place than President Biden on this policy. I would like to see us a lot more forcefully calling out the Netanyahu government, demanding they get more aid in, publicly threatening costs if that doesn’t happen. Pushing for a longer term, if not a permanent cease fire. So, you know, I wasn’t happy on the policy. And, you know, I bet a lot of progressives won’t be there either. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. Another issue that President Biden addressed was immigration and the border. But when he brought up the bipartisan border bill, where Republicans got several concessions and then blocked, Republicans booed. We have a clip. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] [crowd booing] Oh, you don’t think so? [booing and heckling] Oh, you don’t like that bill huh? That conservatives got together and said was a good bill? I’ll be darned. That’s amazing. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. That kind of heckling went out throughout the speech. Some of his responses were hits like that. Some of them were misses. How well do you think that Biden responded to criticism in real time? 


Tommy Vietor: Listeners should know, you know, Biden’s approval on immigration is like rock bottom. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tommy Vietor: And so I do think for him it’s a win to make more people aware of this bipartisan immigration bill that was negotiated, that was drafted by a number of Republicans that had support by all sorts of conservatives and then was killed by Donald Trump. I do think that’s a positive for him. And I do think giving these back and forths helps. I don’t know, make the whole speech seem more feisty. Like– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tommy Vietor: If you’re watching a normal state of the Union, you’re probably not texting your friends saying, you should turn this on. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Tommy Vietor: But if you see like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Biden coming to verbal blows. You might say, hey, this is interesting. Maybe you should check this out, like get some more folks to pay attention. So I think in that sense, mixing it up a bit, seeming feisty, making it seem interesting is positive. Though there were some weird moments. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tommy Vietor: In the immigration back and forth where he’s like holding up a pen and used the word illegals. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Tommy Vietor: I think that was kind of an ad lib that didn’t work well and was not what he would have wanted to have said. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Going to be hearing about it, I’m sure. 


Tommy Vietor: Yeah, he’ll be hearing a little more about that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. On that speech, though, this was an opportunity for Biden to confront one of his big electoral vulnerabilities, right? Questions about his age. Now, I have to say, I do feel like he was pretty quick with it, you know, in terms of his responses, dealing with the heckling, how do you think he did in terms of grasping that opportunity to address his age and what people have been saying about him? 


Tommy Vietor: The approach that he took is the right one. He made a joke about it that was pretty funny. He took it head on. He’d framed his age in the form of it giving him wisdom and perspective, and having been around the block and knowing how things work, I think that’s kind of the best you can do, right? I mean, I think people will look at you. They will determine with their own eyes whether they think you look old or not too old to do the job. The Republicans attack Biden in this way, where it suggests that he’s like drooling vegetable in bed all day. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Tommy Vietor: And Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are really running the government. But I think when people watch the back and forth that you were just talking about, where he’s sort of mixing it up and fighting, you know, that sort of undercuts that argument. So they set very low expectations for him that he was able to step away over tonight. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Republicans selected Katie Britt, a freshman senator from Alabama who supports IVF, to deliver their rebuttal. Alabama’s state Supreme Court effectively outlawed IVF by declaring that frozen embryos have the same legal rights as children before their legislatures scrambled to undo the damage of that decision. Do you think the decision to pick Britt to deliver this address was a sign of insecurity among congressional Republicans on reproductive rights? 


Tommy Vietor: I suspect they chose Katie Britt because she is seen as this exciting young rising star in the party. She’s like in her 40’s. She’s a young mother. I think her husband played football at the University of Alabama. They got this kind of like high school movie love story thing going on. And absolutely, I do think like the Republican Party is trying to win back women who are turned off by their backwards views on abortion rights. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So our last question for you, last night Biden had a lot of audiences. He had obviously his base, but he’s got the Never Trumpers that he’s probably trying to recruit here. He’s got the Republicans obviously doing what they’re doing. Do you think Biden fundamentally moved the needle specifically with progressive Democrats and this outsized group of undecided voters that we’ve been hearing a lot more from recently? 


Tommy Vietor: I think there were Democrats who watched tonight who had concerns about his age, who had concerns about the polls, who are just generally super anxious about Donald Trump being the nominee, that were happy with what they saw and that he either won them back or he got them to be more enthusiastic and earned their support, you know, in in a greater way. I don’t think that if your core issue is concern about Garza, you probably weren’t happy with what you saw tonight. If you’re a person under 40, you probably didn’t watch the speech. You’re just going to see clips on TikTok, you know? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tommy Vietor: And so that’s that’s where like the battle begins, is figuring out how to make sure that the right parts of the speech are amplified to the right people. And so it really turns into a multi-day process. But look, on balance, Biden had a good night, in my opinion, and I say that as someone who strongly, strongly disagrees with the administration’s Gaza policy and really want them to course correct there, but I think on balance, he did what he needed to do. He seemed feisty. He picked the right fights, and he showed voters that he can stand up there for 70 minutes and go back and forth with these guys and run the country. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That was Tommy Vietor of Pod Save America and Pod Save the World. Tommy, thank you so much for coming on WAD. 


Tommy Vietor: Thank you. It’s my favorite place to be on SOTU night. [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: That is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]




Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: As we mentioned earlier, President Biden announced at the state of the Union last night that the US military will build a temporary port on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast to help deliver more humanitarian aid. Earlier this week, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory said that in Gaza, quote, “hunger has reached catastrophic levels.” Biden’s proposal would act as a kind of floating pier to add another path for aid to get to the people who need it. But it’s still unclear if Israel has given permission for this to be built, according to the New York Times. And on the cease fire front, things are still stalled. Negotiators representing Hamas left Egypt on Thursday without a breakthrough in talks. Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been trying to mediate a ceasefire deal before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins the evening of March 10th. That is a time where they fear that violence may escalate even further. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Sweden became the newest member of NATO on Thursday. It’s a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who sees the group as a threat and has tried to stop its expansion. It marks a big change for Sweden, which has historically tried to stay neutral and avoid joining military alliances. NATO is a legacy of the Cold War and has been gradually expanding for years, including eastwards after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early ’90s. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 provided the incentive for Sweden to finally sign on. One of the key benefits of being in NATO is that member countries agree that an attack against one is to be considered an attack against all. 


Priyanka Aribindi: There is another report on the police response to the 2022 Robb Elementary School shooting. This one was commissioned by Uvalde city officials, and it largely defended the actions of law enforcement that day. Investigator Jesse Prado conducted the report, and during his presentation, he acknowledged the failures of local and state police, who waited more than an hour to confront the shooter who killed 19 students and two teachers. But Prado went on to defend the actions of law enforcement officials, saying that they showed, quote, “immeasurable strength” and “level headed thinking.” This prompted families of the victims in the audience to erupt in anger once Prado finished his presentation. Ruben Zamorra, a local resident who lost his daughter in the shooting, said to the Associated Press, quote, “My daughter was left for dead. These police officers signed up to do a job. They didn’t do it.” Meanwhile, the office of Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell is conducting a criminal investigation into the shooting. Also, there was a 600 page report that the Justice Department released in January that detailed the repeated failures of local and state police at every single level, every single stage. So I’m not really sure how uh Investigator Prado came to this conclusion, but I don’t think it’s right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, it’s not making sense. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Trump’s accountant’s job will not be getting any easier, because a New York judge refused Trump’s request to delay the over $83 million payment the former president owes to writer E. Jean Carroll. The decision came down yesterday. Trump now has two days to pay Carroll or post bond pending an appeal. A civil jury awarded Carroll the large penalty in January after they determined that Trump defamed her when he denied her claim that he sexually assaulted her in the ’90s. This is far from the only penalty Trump currently faces though. The various legal judgments against him add up to roughly half a billion dollars. And also yesterday, a British judge added a meager $382,000 debt to that pile in ruling that Trump must pay the legal fees of the company he sued over the notorious Steele Dossier, of alleged pee tape fame. Trump sued Orbis Business Intelligence, who Democrats hired to dig up opposition research on him in the run up to the 2016 election. But his claims were tossed out last month. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The man keeps getting slapped with fine after fine, loss after loss. I just hope the losses keep coming, keep it coming in November, please. Please. House lawmakers on Thursday advanced legislation that could ban TikTok in the United States if the app doesn’t cut ties with its parent company. On Thursday, the Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved a bill that requires ByteDance, which is the Chinese tech company that owns TikTok, to divest from the app within six months. If ByteDance fails to comply, TikTok will be banned from app stores nationwide. Massive catastrophe for uh me and um everyone else you know who is addicted to that app. This comes after multiple states banned TikTok on government devices in recent months, citing concerns about data privacy and national security. TikTok users in the U.S. received an alert when they opened the app on Thursday, which characterized the bill as a quote unquote, “TikTok shutdown” rather than an ultimatum. The notice also urged users to call their representatives to tell them to oppose the bill. And according to The Washington Post, House lawmaker’s phones were ringing all day yesterday. In TikTok terms, it sounds like it was a case of POV, you are a congressional staffer seeing just how deeply your country is addicted to content. [laughter] House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said on Twitter that lawmakers will put the bill up for a floor vote next week. I don’t know, I’m waiting here with bated breath. What’s going to happen to my sole source of entertainment? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Is this the way to get people activated in the political process? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Threaten them with TikTok no longer existing. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Those push alerts on TikTok. Campaigns, do something with this, please. [laughter] And those are the headlines. 




Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, remind your representative you love TikTok and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you are into reading and not just the Steele Dossier after all these years like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And Happy International Women’s Day. 


Priyanka Aribindi: You know one year this day will actually feel happy. And I am holding out hope that that year is soon. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] Soon come, soon come okay? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf, with production help today from Jon Millstein, Greg Walters and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Leo Duran and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.