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Salud: Biden's Fiery State of the Union Provided Crucial Contrast with Trump, Took on Age and Fitness Concerns

President Joe Biden's State of the Union address on Thursday night at times resembled a campaign or convention speech, but Rep. Salud Carbajal asserted that it effectively set forth key differences with Donald Trump, while demonstrating that the incumbent remains up to the job.

"I think people wanted to see him be very present, very able, very strong, and he did that," Santa Barbara's Democratic congressman told Newsmakers, moments after the speech ended.

"He was strong, he was bold, he was clear, and he set forward a course reminding the American people of the contrast between taking our country forward and being inclusive, or resorting to the alternative which is chaos, belittling people, chaos, at best," Carbajal said in a remote interview from Capitol Hill.

In a week when former president Trump clinched the Republican nomination, and new polling showed Biden trailing him nationally and in key battleground states, the president's annual address to Congress represented the unofficial tipoff of the general election campaign.

Biden himself clearly believed that to be true, as he criticized Trump via the phrase "my predecessor" at least a dozen times, without once mentioning him by name, on the economy, foreign policy and national security. If not unprecedented, it was a highly unusual device for a State of the Union, a ceremonial event more commonly used to deliver a message of unity.

However, a large majority of Americans now express concerns that the 81-year old Biden is too old, too frail or too mentally diminished for the presidency, and Carbajal portrayed last night's speech as solid push back on that view. Biden spoke -- often loudly -- for over an hour, mixing in ad libs and verbal sparring with several GOP congress members who heckled him from the floor.

"He showed us that experience matters," Salud told us. "He said there’s another guy his age that’s also running that continues to espouse messages that show that he wants to take us back as a country to darker days, instead of moving us forward. I thought he did an extraordinary job."

In addition to giving Biden what is all but certain to be the largest television and online audience he will have before Election Day, the State of the Union also is an important social event on the congressional calendar for Senators and House members, many of whom who invite honored or politically beneficial guests; position themselves to greet the President (or taunt him, in the case of a few rudeniks from the opposition party) as he walks up the aisle to the dais, and compete for aisle seats, the better to be seen by voters back home.

Now in his fourth term, Carbajal scored a trifecta on those political challenges last night.

At 4 p.m., he set down a folder with his name on it on an aisle seat, in a bid to reserve the premium spot. Somewhat to his surprise, it was still there when he came back a few hours later, having survived sweeps both from the Secret Service and janitorial staff.

Thus, he managed to score some serious face time on national broadcasts when Biden stopped briefly to shake hands and exchange a few words with him: "He was being heckled by some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, and I just told him, 'keep your head up,' looking forward to hearing your speech,'" Salud told us.

As far as honored guests, Carbajal earned massive domestic props by escorting his wife, Gina, who had never before attended a State of the Union, to the event.

"I can never deny my number one constituent," he said.


Check out our post-State of the Union conversation with Rep. Salud Carbajal via YouTube below, or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here. TVSB, Channel 17, broadcasts the show every weeknight at 8 p.m. and at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. KCSB, 91.9 FM, airs the program at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.


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