President Joe Biden’s speech Thursday night in which he characterized MAGA Republicans as a dark threat to American democracy has not exactly generated a positive response, with even some of former President Donald Trump’s harshest critics admitting he made a mistake.
Throughout the address, Biden routinely portrayed MAGA Republicans as violent right-wingers who disrespect the constitution and seek to strip Americans of their most basic rights.
“MAGA Republicans do not respect the constitution,” he said. “They do not believe in the rule of law, they do not believe in the rule of law, they do not recognize the will of the people.”
“MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards,” he added. “Backwards to an America where there is no right to choose. No right to privacy. No right to contraception. No right to marry who you love. They promote authoritarian leaders and they fan the flames of political violence.”
As the speech concluded, images of the president standing before a red and black backdrop with military soldiers flanking his sides poured out all over social media, evoking comparisons with the Third Reich, the USSR, and even the gates of hell.
Even prominent Never Trumper Jonah Goldberg admitted the speech was a “terrible mistake.”
“I think Trump and Trumpism are cancers on the body politic. I also think this speech is a terrible mistake,” tweeted Goldberg.
I think Trump and Trumpism are cancers on the body politic. I also think this speech is a terrible mistake.
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahDispatch) September 2, 2022
Members of the corporate media, from CNN to CBS and the Washington Post, also expressed reservations about the president’s decision to have soldiers behind him during a nakedly partisan speech.
“Whatever you think of this speech the military is supposed to be apolitical. Positioning Marines in uniform behind President Biden for a political speech flies in the face of that. It’s wrong when Democrats do it. It’s wrong when Republicans do it,” tweeted CNN’s Brianna Keilar.
Whatever you think of this speech the military is supposed to be apolitical. Positioning Marines in uniform behind President Biden for a political speech flies in the face of that. It’s wrong when Democrats do it. It’s wrong when Republicans do it.
— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) September 2, 2022
CBS News Senior White House & Political Correspondent Ed O’Keefe agreed the president’s use of the military was a bridge too far in a political speech.
“Like or loathe what he said tonight, it should be noted: The president spoke tonight on the grounds of a national park, flanked by US Marines, and took direct, specific aim at his predecessor and members of the Republican Party. Another thing we don’t see everyday,” tweeted O’Keefe.
Like or loathe what he said tonight, it should be noted: The president spoke tonight on the grounds of a national park, flanked by US Marines, and took direct, specific aim at his predecessor and members of the Republican Party.
Another thing we don’t see everyday.
— Ed O'Keefe (@edokeefe) September 2, 2022
The optics apparently became so unbearable that CNN even resorted to adjusting the contrast during its live broadcast to lighten the red lights behind the president.
Watch the moment CNN slowly adjusts the camera settings when the blood-red lighting behind Dark Brandon is looking a little too authoritarian.
— Mia Cathell (@MiaCathell) September 2, 2022
Sensing a serious backlash, the White House immediately jumped into full damage control mode and denounced critics who dismissed the speech as political.
“Democracy is not a partisan or political issue,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Chris Meagher wrote in response to Brianna Keilar.
Democracy is not a partisan or political issue. https://t.co/EgBfFoVl2s
— Chris Meagher (@chrismeagher46) September 2, 2022
“Except it’s not political,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates also said.
Except it's not political. In the same way CNN isn't political but has made the same warnings.
"Jake Tapper breaks down GOP threats to democracy" https://t.co/2EEGwR173D
— Andrew Bates (@AndrewJBates46) September 2, 2022
No matter the spin or rhetorical framing, the damage had been done and the verdict was sealed as the “photo from hell” spread across the social media sphere.
The fact that this isn’t photoshopped is surreal. pic.twitter.com/ltTJKVqsPN
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) September 2, 2022
Everytime I think Biden and crew can’t be dumber they outdo themselves. Seriously who gives a speech warning people about how dangerous Republicans are to Democracy while having a background that looks like the Soviet Union and Hitler had a baby? pic.twitter.com/sukqTswI3C
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) September 2, 2022
Welcome to hell. Enjoy the ride. pic.twitter.com/NTW3MZtbmm
— Sara Gonzales (@SaraGonzalesTX) September 2, 2022
So apparently this isn’t a doctored photo, but how the White House intended Biden to look (and from what I read it was the opposite of the national-unity speech we were promised). What the hell are they thinking? This is like Leni Riefenstahl working for Brezhnev. Unbelievable. pic.twitter.com/OsLKc4Z0qN
— Ilya Shapiro (@ishapiro) September 2, 2022
— Allie Beth Stuckey (@conservmillen) September 2, 2022
The pits of hell must have inspired this backdrop. pic.twitter.com/U4xcI0kdvh
— Kambree (@KamVTV) September 2, 2022
Nothing says peace and unity like having the backdrop of your divisive speech look like you're entering the gates of hell. pic.twitter.com/zOgrHw1yFM
— Meghan Maureen (@Keggs719) September 2, 2022
Since this is a free country, when the President says he’s giving a prime time speech, I just ignore him because why in the world would I voluntarily listen to a politician—but what the hell did I just miss here? pic.twitter.com/B413gexfAz
— Frank J. Fleming (@IMAO_) September 2, 2022