Israel, Laken Riley feature in Biden's speech

March 8, 2024 4:18 pm

[Source: Reuters]

President Joe Biden attacked former President Donald Trump’s vision for America.

Criticized Israel and was challenged on immigration in his last State of the Union address before the two men face off in the November U.S. election.

Here are some takeaways from the State of the Union address on Thursday.

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Biden issued a sharp directive to Israel’s leaders, telling them not to hold up humanitarian aid to Palestinians for political purposes.

“To the leadership of Israel I say this: Humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip,” Biden said. “Protecting and saving innocent lives has to be a priority. As we look to the future, the only real solution to this situation is a two-state solution.”

Biden has faced increasing pressure from fellow Democrats over his support for Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

“I’ve been working non-stop to establish an immediate ceasefire that would last for six weeks,” he said, reiterating U.S. policy but using the word “ceasefire” that his administration once shied away from.


Goaded by Trump-allied Republican U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Biden went off script to address the case of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student from Georgia, who was allegedly murdered last month by an undocumented immigrant who had been released on parole.

Republicans, who blame Biden and his administration’s border policies for the deaths of Americans killed by illegal migrants, have seized on Riley’s death as a symbol of Democrats’ failure.

“It’s about Laken Riley,” shouted Greene during the speech, interrupting Biden as he talked about the border. “Say her name!”

Biden repeated her name, saying she was an innocent woman killed by “an illegal.” But he said thousands are killed by “legal” U.S. residents before sending his thoughts to Riley’s family.


One word missing from the speech was “Bidenomics,” the White House’s previous slogan for his economic agenda that was the centerpiece of a cross-country tour last year.

Democrats running for office in congressional races have avoided the phrase and senior Democrats have been encouraging the White House to ditch the catch-all slogan and focus instead on specific details, like price caps on prescription drugs, data on job growth and unemployment figures.

It looked like Biden was taking their advice.


Biden used levity to jab at his Republican opponents.

Appearing to go off script, the president ribbed Republicans for enjoying and taking credit for Biden-backed federal investments that they voted against. “If any of you don’t want that money in your districts, just let me know,” he said to laughs from Democrats.

He also cracked about how expensive prescription drugs are in America compared to other countries, a promotion for his plan to let the government negotiate drug prices.

“Any of you want to get in Air Force One with me and fly to Toronto, Berlin, Moscow? I mean, excuse me – and, well, even Moscow, probably.” He said drugs there would be far cheaper than in the United States.

And he hinted at a profane comment he once made on a hot mic about the 2010 healthcare reform law passed when he was vice president. “The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, is still a very big deal,” Biden said, omitting the original expletive.