Mar 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden's new targets

Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

President Biden set his sights at the State of the Union on Russian oligarchs, COVID fraudsters, social media platforms and even defund-the-police efforts — populist targets in a broader speech about national and global unity.

Why it matters: Biden's anti-Russia, pro-Ukraine passages inspired the only real partisan unity in the chamber.

  • "The U.S. Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs. We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains."

On Vladimir Putin, Biden ad-libbed: "He has no idea what’s coming."

🐦 Twitter erupted when Biden accidentally said Putin would never gain the hearts and souls of the "Iranian" people, instead of Ukrainian.

Biden's other targets:

  • He announced that the Justice Department will appoint a chief prosecutor to go after pandemic fraud.
  • He bluntly distanced himself from the divisive defund-the-police movement: "We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities."

With Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen in the audience, Biden framed social media as part of a larger mental health crisis, and urged Congress to "strengthen privacy protections" and ban targeted advertising to children.

  • Reality check: Privacy legislation has been stalled for years, notes Axios managing editor Scott Rosenberg.

What we were watching, from Axios' Sophia Cai, in the House chamber:

  • Fellow Supreme Court justices standing to applaud retiring Stephen Breyer — but careful to avoid politics by sitting when Biden mentioned his nominee to replace Breyer, Ketanji Brown Jackson.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) sitting with Republicans — but rising for most of the Democrats' applause lines.
  • Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) shouting “13 of them!" as Biden spoke, referring to Americans killed at Kabul airport during the frantic evacuation from Afghanistan. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) shouted: "Stay out of women’s sports!"
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