Former speechwriters and communications experts for top elected officials and cabinet secretaries weighed in on Biden’s first State of the Union address Tuesday evening, praising the president for his strong support of Ukraine amid Russia’s multi-front invasion, but criticizing it for being lackluster and uninspiring.
Biden’s speech marked the most consequential of his lifetime as U.S. inflation soars and Eastern Europe devolves into war between Russia and Ukraine. Many members of Congress attending the speech were wearing small lapel ribbons of blue and yellow to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
During his speech, Biden announced that his administration is banning Russian planes from American airspace in retaliation for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, in addition to economic sanctions and other measures he has taken in recent days.
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Aside from the international turmoil, Biden’s speech also focused on domestic issues as inflation reached a 40-year high and gasoline prices hit their highest level in eight years. In addition, a recent Fox News Poll put Biden’s approval rating at a dismal 43%, the lowest of this presidency, and only 37% approve of his handling of the economy.
Biden touted his American Rescue Plan and also committed to getting prices back down. “I get it. That’s why my top priority is getting prices under control,” Biden said.
However, according to expert analysis from several top communications officials, who have served both Democrats and Republicans, Biden’s speech largely failed short of addressing the concerns of the nation, and the world.
Here’s how they graded Biden:
David Wilezol: ‘Posture of weakness’
David Wilezol, president of ghostwriting firm Seventh Floor Strategies and former chief speechwriter at the State Department, gave Biden a “C,” saying the president’s remarks lacked references to China and failed to address other national security issues.
“The best thing President Biden said tonight was his call to fund the police — an act of leadership to help stop left-wing radicals in his own party from setting policing policies,” Wilezol told Fox News Digital. “And on the foreign policy front, President Biden sounded appropriately tough as the commander-in-chief and genuinely sympathetic to the plight of Ukrainians who are fighting for their lives. But that won’t make up for the Administration’s posture of weakness which helped provoke Vladimir Putin’s invasion.”
“And except for a couple passing references to China, which are not nearly enough, this speech was lacking in addressing other national security matters. That’s not surprising, given the disaster the Biden Administration created on our southern border and the rude awakening that awaits Americans if the Administration successfully re-enters the indefensible Iran nuclear deal.”
David Litt: ‘Who Joe Biden really is’
David Litt, a senior speechwriter for former President Barack Obama, gave Biden an “A” for the speech for talking about topics that strike common ground, touting the strongest year ever for job growth and making the case that America is stronger than a year ago.
“That was an A speech,” Litt told Fox News Digital. “He did exactly the things he needed to do. This is a moment when he is trying to remind a lot of Americans who voted for him and who approved of his job performance as recently as June or even September, why they supported him. And I think he did that really effectively.”
Litt said Biden’s speech focused on broader themes that are relatable to Americans, such as opening up schools, lowering prescription drugs and standing with Ukraine.
“He was using language that Americans use all the time. … So I think that was a reminder of who Joe Biden really is,” Litt said. “That he is fundamentally looking to be president for everybody. And I think that’s why people elected him in the first place.”
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Rob Noel: ‘Dry list of policy points’
Rob Noel, a speechwriter for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Undersecretary Keith Krach and Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue, rated Biden’s speech a “C-” due to both the content and flow of the address.
“The intro on Ukraine worked well enough, but boy did he move on quickly, and not to anything particularly compelling or new. As a technical matter, the speech felt strung together and disjointed, with cram-ins and jumpy transitions. The substance amounted to a dry list of policy points, like it was geared toward lawmakers in the room rather than people at home. He missed multiple chances to bring ideas to life with examples or audience shout-outs. The conclusion was too safe and forgettable for such a historic time. Politically speaking, while he may have avoided losing ground, he certainly didn’t gain any. And that makes it a miss,” Noel told Fox News Digital.
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Jonathan Bronitsky: ‘Tone deaf’
Dr. Jonathan Bronitsky, former chief speechwriter for Attorney General Bill Barr and co-founder of the D.C.-based public relations firm and literary agency ATHOS, gave Biden the lowest marks, by slapping a “D+” on the president’s first address.
Bronitsky called the speech “tone deaf,” and accused it of lacking logical progression and coherence, and notably underutilized the “incredible stories of everyday Americans.”
“The ‘buck stops with me’ president didn’t acknowledge responsibility for any of the problems he’s produced, ranging from unprecedented illegal immigration due to open borders to inflation and anemic job growth resulting from draconian COVID mandates. The policies that received the most applause were those that Biden has opposed all along, such as getting kids back into classrooms and supporting law enforcement. As such, the address was an insult to the intelligence of Americans. It was as if the Biden White House gambled that this would be the first time in a year the citizens of this country were tuning into the news.”
“Frighteningly, as the current White House resident isn’t getting any younger, this might stand as the most lucid State of the Union of his administration,” he concluded.
Rusty Hill: ‘Laundry list land’
Rusty Hills, a former speechwriter for Michigan Gov. John Engler, gave Biden’s speech a “C and that’s generous,” he said.
He agreed with other communications experts that Biden started strong on Ukraine and had “a united chamber, Republicans and Democrats.” However, when he launched into “laundry list land,” he lost the attention of Americans and said the delivery was “very, very rough.”
“I did not come away with a strong sense of any plan to deal with gas and grocery prices, which are top of mind for almost every voter and citizen. I did not come away with any sense that here is a well-crafted plan of attack to deal with inflation. The problem of higher prices is here, now. President Biden’s proposed solution — not here, and not now.
“I got the sense that the speech underwent so many changes, so late in the process, that the President was still getting used to it as he delivered it,” Hills explained, saying also that Biden saved his best line for last, that the State of the Union is “strong.”