Biden redrafts State of the Union speech as “a rally against autocrats worldwide”

Biden redrafts State of the Union speech as “a rally against autocrats worldwide”
Biden was planning to focus on his domestic agenda but instead chose to highlight the situation in Ukraine

US president Joe Biden has rewritten the State of the Union address he is scheduled to deliver on Tuesday in response to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine last week.

Mr Biden was reportedly planning to refocus on his domestic agenda, after senator Joe Manchin effectively killed his signature Build Back Better legislation. White House chief of staff Ron Klain is said to have told Democrats that the president would focus on inflation, which is at a 40-year high after two years of the pandemic.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has scrambled these plans. While Ukraine has yet to fall to Russia, it has taken heavy bombing, while the international community has coalesced to make Mr Putin a pariah.

“The magnitude of the visceral reaction to what’s going on there is so significant that it’s just hard for me to imagine him just relegating it to point No 5,” former Clinton administration speechwriter Michael Waldman told The Washington Post. “Biden needs to rally the democrats – with a small ‘d’ – against the autocrats worldwide, and he cares a lot about that.”

Similarly, Mr Biden is not expected to focus heavily on his nomination of judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Mr Biden is reported to have been working on the speech for some months, as deputy chief of staff Bruce Reed coordinated the policy outlines while aide Mike Donilon and chief speechwriter Vinay Reddy took the lead on writing and framing the speech.

“He can speak with great confidence about his ambition to, once again, bring back the alliances that are critically important,” former senator Chris Dodd, a close friend of Mr Biden, told the Post. “And frankly, this event by Putin has probably done more in the last four days to reignite those alliances than any speech that could be given by any president.”