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EDITORIAL: Unpopular president tells Americans that all is well — but it doesn’t feel that way to the people

President Joe Biden, his approval ratings underwater for most of the past two years, made his case for a second term on Tuesday. It’s doubtful he changed many minds.

The 80-year-old Democrat droned on for 73 minutes during his State of the Union address, urging voters to let him “finish the job.” He insisted that all is well, that his economic policies have put the nation on a prosperous path.

“Two years ago our economy was reeling,” Mr. Biden said. “As I stand here tonight, we have created a record 12 million new jobs — more jobs created in two years than any president has ever created in four years. … My economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten.”

Yet the reality on the ground is a bit less rosy, which helps explain why an aggregate examination of polling numbers by FiveThirtyEight shows that a majority of Americans disapprove of the president’s job performance. Meanwhile, a recent Associated Press survey finds that only 37 percent of Democrats want Mr. Biden to seek a second term.

The president’s speech offered little in terms of new legislative proposals, perhaps because the GOP House will be unlikely to rubber stamp them. Instead, Mr. Biden repeated a handful of talking points intended to deflect attention from rampant inflation, soaring deficits and mortgage rates that have tripled under his watch.

For instance, the president blamed Russia and the pandemic for the highest inflation in 40 years, again ignoring the role his trillion-dollar stimulus bills played in overheating the economy. He then took credit for a few months of receding inflation, though prices continue to rise well beyond the rate he inherited.

Mr. Biden also repeated his misleading claim that he is responsible for the “largest deficit reduction in American history.” That was too much for even The New York Times. While the deficit did drop by $1.7 trillion between the fiscal 2020 and 2022, this had little to do with his administration. “In fact,” the Times wrote, “much of that decline can be attributed to the expiration of pandemic-era spending, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.”

The president gave a nod to bipartisanship and unity, but who believes him? Mr. Biden rhetoric has been as incendiary as one would expect in these hyperpartisan times. He has done nothing but demonize his political opponents.

A handful of Republicans didn’t help matters by yelling insults during the president’s address. Such behavior — just like Nancy Pelosi’s juvenile antics — is counterproductive and undignified. The Biden administration’s misguided agenda — and the economic fallout it has triggered — presents plenty of opportunity for the GOP to exploit come 2024 without resorting to callow taunts.

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