There could hardly have been a more obvious contrast between Joe Biden’s April 28 address to a joint session of Congress and the Republican rebuttal, delivered by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), that followed it. The former was a predictable, uninspiring, and less-than-fluent performance delivered to an eerily deserted chamber. The latter, while obviously critical of Biden’s agenda, was more hopeful, more sincere, and more substantive.
Strictly speaking, Sen. Scott’s speech was not a rebuttal. It was, after all, delivered right after President Biden’s address and had been prepared in advance rather than being a direct response to any specific statements made in the earlier speech.
Education Is Magic
After briefly introducing himself to the American people, Scott turned to the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically, the continued closure of schools. The senator pointed out that science is on the side of those who have been pushing to get schools open – a push that Biden has largely ignored, despite the fact that health experts agree on the minimal threat of infection posed by getting children back into the classrooms. “Locking vulnerable kids out of the classroom is locking adults out of their future,” Scott said. “Our public schools should have reopened months ago,” he continued. “Other countries did.”
Beholden to the teachers’ unions as they are, Democrats have stubbornly resisted any expansion of school choice initiatives, but the refusal of those unions to unlock the school doors has backfired, making an even stronger case for school choice, as Scott pointed out, emphasizing the urgency with a powerful line: “Education is the closest thing to magic in America.”
The senator also took aim at Mr. Biden’s infrastructure proposal, assuring that Republicans were not opposed to the idea of it, but stating: “Less than 6% of the president’s plan goes to roads and bridges.” Scott went on to describe that plan as “a liberal wish-list of big government waste.”
Setting the Record Straight on Race
Being the GOP’s only currently serving black senator, Mr. Scott objected to the Democrats’ narrative on race relations, dwelling on the subject for the remainder of his address. He gave voice to something that conservatives have known for some time: The extreme left has its own problems with racism – or what the senator termed “intolerance.” Addressing his own experience, Scott said: “I get called Uncle Tom and the N-word by progressives – by liberals.” He also highlighted another thing conservatives know about the left’s determination to stoke the fires of racial division: “My friends across the aisle seem to want the issue more than they wanted a solution.”
Ending on a very religious, almost pastor-like note may not have been the best choice, in terms of a unifying message. While America remains a very religious nation, younger generations appear to be drifting away from Christianity and the left has, for some time, displayed open hostility toward the faith that dominates the western world.
One could say, though, that Scott chose conviction over the temptation to make his closing words more acceptable to a wider audience – and perhaps he should be commended for that; far too few politicians, regardless of where they stand on the ideological spectrum, are willing to do the same.
The two words the South Carolina lawmaker may have uttered more than any others during his relatively short but compelling address were “common ground.” Mr. Biden talks a big game when it comes to unity and healing wounds but has done nothing, in practice, to pull Americans together. That was the theme permeating Sen. Scott’s speech. If unity is really what the Democrats want, then they should wind down the highly partisan nature of how they are currently moving forward with their political and economic agendas.
Two significant speeches in one evening: One of them was not at all divisive or unnerving, even if one does not share Tim Scott’s worldview. The other, delivered by a man who is supposedly the new leader of the free world, left a feeling of foreboding. Substance and platitudes aside, in tone and delivery, it was offered by a man who continues to demonstrate that he just may not be up to the job.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.