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Biden’s ‘unusual’ decision to lead SOTU with Ukraine

President Joe Biden kicked off his election-year State of the Union address with an appeal for Ukraine aid and a nod to history — eschewing the domestic issues that usually dominate these speeches at the outset.

“My purpose tonight is to both wake up this Congress, and alert the American people that this is no ordinary moment either,” Biden declared.

It was “a bit unusual,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) acknowledged after Biden’s speech. But it was deliberate. Lawmakers haven’t passed new Ukraine assistance since the last Congress, more than 14 months ago. And Ukraine’s military is suffering battlefield setbacks as Washington debates the issue.

Biden’s oft-stated promise that the United States won’t abandon Ukraine is in serious jeopardy — and largely outside his control.

“Here we are in an election year where America is not at war, and yet he started with an international crisis that we have in Ukraine — elevating it,” Cardin said. “He wants Americans to know that our leadership globally, particularly what’s happening in Ukraine today, is very much similar to the challenges we had during World War II.”

Biden’s appeal came in the form of several repetitions of the phrase, “History is watching” — a clear message to Speaker Mike Johnson, who’s under pressure to act urgently on Ukraine aid.

Dems’ Gaza strife: Biden came into this year’s address with progressives reminding him everywhere he goes of their discontent with his handling of Israel’s war in Gaza.

The president delivered a slightly harsher assessment of Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza, even as he emphasized that Hamas started the war and hides behind civilian infrastructure, complicating Israeli efforts to destroy the terrorist organization.

His announcement that the United States would construct a temporary port off the coast of Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid was seen as a direct criticism of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Biden administration has said Netanyahu isn’t doing enough to allow the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

Biden’s progressive critics welcomed these moves, but it’s too early to say whether it will dampen the steady uproar from the left.

— Andrew Desiderio

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