‘Fire in the Belly’; CBS Revels in ‘Fiery’ Biden Coming ‘Out…Swinging’ at GOP in SOTU

News & Politics

Unfortunately, Friday’s CBS Mornings followed the lead of ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today in forgoing actual critiques of President Biden’s 2024 State of the Union address on Thursday. Instead, it heaped praise on the “fiery” and “fired up” Biden going “on the offensive” and proved he “has the energy, the fire in the belly to serve another four years”.

Co-host Tony Dokoupil opened the State of the Union coverage by stating Biden “appeared pretty fired up as went on the offensive on big issues like Roe v. Wade and the border and the economy” and, to his credit, noted the (pro-Hamas) “protesters” who blocked D.C. streets ahead of Biden’s speech to demand “a ceasefire in Gaza.”

Unfortunately, he was the only person on any of the “big three” networks during the lead morning shows to mention that factoid.

Tossing to chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes, Dokoupil added his guess that the White House has to be “feeling pretty good about this speech last night.”

Cordes promptly played the role of regime stenographer:

They certainly did a victory lap last night, Tony…You know, the speech was more combative than we had been led to expect here at the White House. He brought up his Republican opponent at least a dozen times in an address that was clearly designed to show that the President has the energy, the fire in the belly to serve another four years.

She kept laying it on thick: “With re-election on the line, an animated President Biden came out of the gate swinging…He talked about defending democracy and repeatedly went after former President Trump without naming him.”

On President Biden threatening Supreme Court justices, Cordes merely said he “spoke directly to the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade” about the consequences of their actions.

Following more stenography touting Biden’s focus on issues like “tax credits and lower health care costs” and “announc[ing] the U.S. military will build a temporary port” for Gazans, Cordes addressed what she said was the fact that “Biden wasn’t the only one who was animated last night”

Republicans in the chamber challenged him at a couple of points, and he appeared to relish the unscripted back and forth with them over taxes and immigration. But the scripted part, that was the template for his general election message, and he’s taking it on the road starting today[.]

Pivoting to the analysis, co-host and Democratic donor Gayle King brought in chief political analyst and smug lefty John Dickerson to tout the “fiery” Biden as having “met the moment” with an “energetic speech, leaning into basically theater” (click “expand”):

KING: [T]here was a lot of hand-wringing last night before the speech: “What’s he going to do, how’s he going to say it?” But today there’s words like fiery to describe it. So did he meet the moment? 

DICKERSON: Well, he met the moment in part because of that hand wringing, right?

KING: Yes.

DICKERSON: Expectations were in the sub-basement. But what’s interesting is that the White House were saying it’s going to be a fiery, energetic speech, leaning into basically theater review, right? Which is, it has nothing to do with policies or any of that stuff. But they bought into it. Got everybody to pay attention. And then — as Nancy said — he laid out the argument for the fall campaign. It has two components. One is his predecessor as a threat to democracy. The President started his speech by talking about America in 1941 with the threat of Nazism in World War II. You can’t set the stakes any higher. He then also got into a populist fight on economic policy with Donald Trump, essentially saying “we need to raise corporate taxes and tax the wealthy in order to pay for things to help people to have access to opportunity in America.” That’s his campaign. And laid it out pretty effectively, I think. But now many things will intervene between now and Election Day.

On the back and forth with Republicans, Dickerson admonished them for “acting out”, but admitted “Biden was baiting them” and “throwing chum into the, into the well” with his rhetoric.

Always one to lecture us about democracy, Dickerson lamented the “Capitol was ringed with fences because of the security concerns that come from people who act out and really act out, and that’s — that’s where this — all this acting out leads to, ultimately.”

Dickerson closed by praising the pro-Hamas crowd, congratulating them for behaving “the way democracy should work” by voting “uncommitted” in Democratic primaries instead of carrying out another January 6, which “was an attempt to use violence to send a political message.”

In the second hour, the hosts brought in chief campaign and election correspondent Robert Costa to react to Biden going back to the (tiresome) well of tying Trump and the GOP to being pro-Russia (click “expand”): 

Well, context is everything, and speaking to sources close to President Biden, they say that that quote about Ronald Reagan came at the top of the speech just days after Super Tuesday when former President Donald Trump became the likely Republican nominee, but President Biden was trying to do there, my sources say, is make an overture to former Ambassador Nikki Haley’s voters in the GOP and say there’s room in the Democratic coalition for them if they want to have a more traditional foreign policy. Biden said he’s moving more in that Reagan-like direction.

(….)

[I]nside the White House, there’s a belief today that this speech was effective, that Biden was able to reset his presidency — reset his presidency and move in a direction where he could be more assertive on his agenda and really start to take on Trump as this general election campaign kicks off.

To see the relevant CBS transcript from March 8, click here.

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