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What to watch as Biden addresses the nation?


WASHINGTON — The State of the Union address is one of the great acts of political theater every year. This is based on a simple requirement in the U.S. Constitution, which instructs the president to “inform the Congress of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such Measures as he shall judge to be necessary and proper.” But in modern times this is a televised extravaganza, with every detail scrutinized.

Here’s how to watch and what to look for during President Joe Biden’s speech on Thursday.

You can find it on all major networks that will carry the State of the Union live. It will also be published online by the White House and the Associated Press. The talk will begin at 9pm ET.

When Biden begins his speech, you may notice a new face behind him. Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson became House speaker in October after unhappy Republicans ousted California Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Rep. Nancy Pelosi held the post before McCarthy, but lost it when Democrats failed to maintain their majority in the 2022 midterm elections.

This makes Johnson the third House speaker to sit behind Biden during the State of the Union, reflecting political instability in Washington and a difficult shift for Biden. The House leadership has come under the influence of the chamber’s right wing, making it difficult for the president to make deals with the opposing party.

No president gets a free pass on the world’s biggest stage, but Biden will be watched more carefully than most because of his age. At 81, he is the oldest commander in chief in history and will be 86 at the end of his potential second term.

Biden’s Republican predecessor and likely rival in this year’s elections, Donald Trump, is 77 years old. A majority of U.S. adults doubt that either has the mental ability to serve as president, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs. Research.

The State of the Union is a chance for Biden to dispel doubts about his readiness for the job at an age when most Americans are retired. Any verbal slips or apparent confusion will provide fodder for their opponents.

Keep your ears open for new policy proposals. The State of the Union is a chance for presidents to lay out their goals and mobilize Americans to support their plans. Biden, for example, used a previous speech to discuss his “unity agenda,” which includes expanded health benefits for veterans.

The White House has not announced specific proposals that will be included in this year’s speech. But he may cite unfinished business from his first term and will likely press Ukraine for military aid to strengthen America’s leadership abroad.

There are more than just MPs and senior officials in parliament for the speech. Politicians bring guests into the gallery to put face to the issue they want to highlight.

Top guests are invited by the White House and are often recognized during the president’s speech. The White House has disclosed only one person so far: Kate Cox, a Texas woman who was unable to get an abortion in her state even though her health was at risk and her fetus had a fatal condition. Democrats argue that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade is eager to show how overturning his case limits reproductive rights.

Members of parliament will also have their own guests. Johnson and two New York representatives are bringing in police officers who fought with immigrants in Times Square, causing political turmoil among Republicans who blame Biden for lax border security. Rep. Elise Stefanik, another New York Republican, invited a Border Patrol officer who also serves as a union official.

During the State of the Union, television cameras will pan throughout the auditorium, so you’ll have a clear view of everyone in the audience. This is a chance for MPs and guests to send a message of their own through their attire.

Democratic women wore white, the color of the women’s suffrage movement, during Trump’s 2019 State of the Union. In 2022, some MPs wore blue and yellow ribbons to show their support for Ukraine. (The country’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, was also a guest.)

You might think that everything about the State of the Union is scripted, but that’s not the case. Even in a tightly controlled environment, it is still possible for someone to intervene. Biden has been overshadowed by nationwide protests over his support for Israel’s war in Gaza. Activists also planned a demonstration in Lafayette Square near the White House before the speech.

Republicans also gained a reputation for cuts. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado heckled Biden during the 2022 State of the Union. Then in 2023, some Republicans yelled at Biden when he accused them of trying to cut Social Security and Medicare. “I enjoy the conversation,” Biden said as he called on Congress to unite behind protecting safety net programs.

Johnson is trying to quell outbursts at the party meeting. He encouraged House Republicans to behave with “decency” during the speech, according to a person familiar with his remarks during a private meeting on Wednesday.

Protests can also take other forms. Pelosi theatrically ripped up a copy of Trump’s speech following the 2020 State of the Union.

If you don’t get tired of politics once the State of the Union is over, stay tuned for more. The other party traditionally provides their own response to the conversation. This year, Republicans chose Alabama Senator Katie Britt. At 41, she is the youngest female senator and some party leaders hope she will become a rising star.

But no matter what he says, many will be waiting to see Trump’s own reaction. In his post on his Truth Social account, Trump promised to make a “LIVE, Play by Play” comment on Biden’s speech. As Trump moves toward the Republican presidential nomination, his words will help frame the course of the election.

Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro contributed.


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