State of the Union: Freedom and democracy ‘under attack at home and overseas’, Joe Biden warns | US News


Joe Biden has said freedom and democracy are “under attack” – both in the US and abroad – as he gave one of the most important speeches of his presidency.

In his State of the Union address, the US president appealed to Congress to continue supporting Ukraine in its war effort against Russia, saying “history is watching”.

He warned of the potency of Russian President Vladimir Putin and “assured” his audience the Kremlin would not stop at just attacking Ukraine.

Speaking in the House chamber, Mr Biden said: “If the United States walks away now, it will put Ukraine at risk. Europe at risk. The free world at risk, emboldening others who wish to do us harm.

“My message to President Putin is simple. We will not walk away. We will not bow down. I will not bow down.”

Mr Biden quickly turned his attention to Republican opponent and predecessor Donald Trump, condemning his recent comments on Russia, in which he said he would invite Moscow to attack NATO members who did not increase defence spending.

US President Joe Biden delivers his third State of the Union address in the House Chamber of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, USA, 07 March 2024. SHAWN THEW/Pool via REUTERS
Pic: Reuters

The 81-year-old then turned to the 6 January, 2021 attack on the Capitol Building by Trump supporters – and accused them of not being “patriots”.

He called for the threat to democracy to be countered and said Mr Trump, 77, and some members present in the chamber sought to “bury the truth” – something he said he would not do.

In what was seen as a reference to his rival, he said: “Some other people my age see a different story: an American story of resentment, revenge, and retribution. That’s not me.”

Analysis: Biden avoids fluffing his lines but fails to heal America’s rifts

President Joe Biden holds up a Laken Riley Botton as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Thursday March 7, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Biden holds up a Laken Riley badge as he delivers his State of the Union address. Pic: AP

Referring to the Israel-Hamas conflict, the president confirmed the US would establish a temporary port on the Gaza coast to increase the flow of humanitarian aid to the region, describing the consequences of the war as “heartbreaking”.

As the US election approaches in November, Mr Biden spoke about a number of issues facing America and addressed a selection of invited guests to illustrate his key points.

Highlighting Latorya Beasley, a social worker from Alabama, Mr Biden said she and her husband welcomed a baby 14 months ago “thanks to the miracle of IVF”.

But her “dream” of having a second child had been put on hold after the Alabama Supreme Court shut down IVF treatments across the state, the president said.

It followed the Supreme Court’s 2022 overturning of the landmark Roe v Wade ruling – which legalised abortion nationwide – and led to many state abortion bans.

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Should he be re-elected, Mr Biden said he would restore Roe v Wade as he called on Kate Cox to rise from the stands.

Ms Cox was pregnant with a foetus diagnosed with a serious genetic anomaly, but had to leave the Republican-controlled state of Texas where abortion was illegal in order to terminate the pregnancy.

Mr Biden said: “What her family has gone through should never have happened as well.

“There are state laws banning the right to choose, criminalising doctors, and forcing survivors of rape and incest to leave their states as well to get the care they need.”

He again denounced Mr Trump, referring to him only as his “predecessor” – 13 times in all – instead of by his name, and others in the chamber seeking to pass a national ban on reproductive choice adding: “My God, what freedoms will you take away next?”

FILE PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump reacts on stage during a campaign rally in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Jay Paul/File Photo
Donald Trump. File pic: Reuters

The speech was an opportunity for the president to reiterate the economic progress during his time in office, including 15 million new jobs, the growth of small businesses and a drop in inflation since he was sworn in three years ago.

In one moment, hardline Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene interrupted Mr Biden as he covered the tense topic of southern border security.

The Georgia congresswoman was wearing a pro-Trump “Make America Great Again” hat and a T-shirt with the message “say her name”, in reference to Laken Riley, a nursing student from the state, who was brutally killed on campus last month.

A Venezuelan immigrant who entered the country illegally has been charged with her murder.

Ms Greene called on the president to “say her name” and, in response, he did, while holding up a “Laken Riley” badge.

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