He never mentioned Trump by name, but it could not have been more clear whom Biden was talking about — or what he was saying. His rhetoric was heated, fiery even. Trump and his supporters put “a dagger at the throat of American democracy.”
Along with descriptions like, “Wow,” some might add, “Finally.”
Kaitlan Collins said on CNN, “I do think this is a speech he could have given a year ago" when Biden was inaugurated. Instead he chose to focus then on healing and hope.
Indeed, this was a speech unlike any Biden has given, and it seemed to mark a change in his approach to Trump and his continuing lies.
“He shifted the terrain,” Eddie Glaude said on MSNBC. “He’s no longer on his heels. He took the fight to those who are threatening democracy.”
That he did, in no uncertain terms.
“His bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution," Biden said, speaking in Statuary Hall outside the House chamber. "He can't accept he lost.”
And in what would doubtless infuriate Trump more than anything else, Biden said, “He’s not just the former president. He’s the defeated former president.” (In fact, Trump released a statement blasting Biden not long after Biden was done.)
It was something — stunning television, unexpected, almost breathtaking at times, so intense and angry did Biden seem. We have seen Biden fired up before, but we haven’t seen him like this. We’ve rarely seen any president like this, certainly not in a nationally televised address.
“I’ve never heard an American president actually accuse a former president of being a liar along these lines, and a threat to American democracy,” Wolf Blitzer said on CNN. Earlier Blitzer called it “an extremely powerful, very, very significant speech — arguably the most important words that he has uttered as the president of the United States.”
Also: “A former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He's done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country's interest and America's interest.”
And: “The former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections. It's wrong. It's undemocratic. And frankly it's un-American.”
How Fox News covered the 'pointed' speech
Not all the reactions were positive, of course. In addition to Trump’s typically hyperbolic response, Dana Perino said on Fox News that Biden’s remarks “were more pointed, and quite political, I would say. Divisive in many ways.”
(As an aside, Fox News is really going to miss Chris Wallace at times like this.)
Bret Baier, also on Fox News, called it “as forceful, aggressive, pointed specifically at the former president, as we’ve seen in a speech from President Biden since taking office.”
It also fit the moment. We should be as angry as Biden. We should call out lies as lies. We should be concerned about the continuing threat to democracy.
Biden’s rhetorical skills aren’t memorable. This speech will be.