Wednesday, February 08, 2023


Last night, President Biden wasn't quite at the level of Ariel Elias, the stand-up comic who drank a beer thrown at her by a heckler...

But Biden pushed back. Unlike previous Democratic presidents in this era of GOP demonization, he didn't try to remain high-minded and above the fray. He's the first Democrat in the office who seems to know he's in an alley fight, and who's done something other retreat in response to this kind of attack.

Back in the 1980s, I did stand-up for a while. I was terrible, but I learned to respect the craft. You want to tell great jokes, but hecklers make it impossible for you to do the work you're trying to do -- until you learn how to handle them. You can't expect the heckling to stop on its own -- the fever won't break. You will be heckled. You need to be ready.

Biden took on the bullies. That's good. In the manistream media, I'm sure there'll be a great deal of sighing about lost dignity. But it needed to be done.


Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered the Republican rebuttal to Biden's speech. One passage in particular puzzled some viewers:

She said:
A trip I will never forget was on December 25, 2018. My husband Bryan and I had just cleaned up wrapping paper that had been shoved into every corner of our house thanks to our three kids, when I had to walk out on my own family’s Christmas, unable to tell them where I was going, because the place I’d be traveling to was so dangerous they didn’t want anybody to know that the President was going to be on the ground for even a few hours.

We boarded Air Force One in total darkness—there were no lights on the plane, no lights on the runway, our phones and computers shut down and turned in. We were going completely off the grid. Nearly twelve hours later in the pitch-black of the night, we landed in the war-torn part of western Iraq. It was again a similar scene—no lights on the plane, no lights on the runway. The only light you could see was coming from about a mile away in a dining hall where hundreds of troops—who were in the fight against ISIS— had gathered, expecting to celebrate Christmas with senior military leadership from around the region.

They had absolutely no idea that the President and First Lady were about to walk into that room. And when they did—it was a sight, and a scene, and a sound I hope I never forget. The room erupted. Men and women from every race, religion, and region, every political party, every demographic you can imagine started chanting in perfect unison over and over and over again, ‘USA, USA, USA.’ It was a perfect picture of what makes our country great.

One of the young soldiers yelled from the back, ‘Mr. President, I reenlisted in the military because of you.’ The President said, ‘and son, I am here because of you.’ Shortly after, that young soldier came up to me and said, ‘Sarah, you have a tough job.’ I told him ‘What I do is nothing. You take bombs and bullets. That’s a tough job.’ And in a moment that I know I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, that soldier reached up, and pulled the Brave Rifles Patch he wore on his shoulder and placed it into my hand, a sign of ultimate respect, and said, ‘Sarah, we are in this together.’ Overwhelmed with emotion and speechless, I just hugged him, with tears in my eyes and a grateful heart for our heroes who keep us free.
This is recycled material. It's a slightly rewritten version of the first minute of Sanders's campaign announcement video:

It's chilling now to see the date on that video -- January 25, 2021. Less than three weeks after the Trumpist insurrection at the Capitol, Sanders, in her first campaign video, chose to praise Donald Trump before she talked about herself. But politically it was the right decision: her red state loved Trump, and it was smart politics to say, in effect, I touched the hem of his garment -- vote for me. (Sanders got 83% of the vote in the gubernatorial primary and 63% of the vote in the general election.)

But repeating this now is ... weird. Sanders was supposed to be rebutting the State of the Union address, but here she was buttering up Trump in the hope that he'll pick her as his vice president. Clearly she didn't have the courage to drop the Trump part and go straight to the bit about the soldier, because that would be reported as a Trump snub.

I guess it never occurred to her to skip the anecdote altogether, since it had no relevance whatsoever to Biden or the State of the Union address. But she's only 40 years old. She has a career to build. That's what mattered to her. Alas for her, she probably would have done better for herself if she'd flattered Ron DeSantis.

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