After the president addresses a joint session of Congress, most Americans have had about enough of speechifying by politicians and tune out the opposition’s response. That’s usually the right call. Most rebuttal speeches are little more than warmed-over talking points that you can hear on any Sunday news show.
But Senator Tim Scott’s response to Biden’s nationally televised speech was a little different. It was far more personal than most rebuttal speeches and offered a sobering counterpoint to the president’s feel-good rhetoric.
“President Biden promised you a specific kind of leadership,” Scott said in his remarks. “He promised to unite a nation, to lower the temperature, to govern for all Americans no matter how we voted. This was the pitch. You just heard it again.”
“But our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes. We need policies and progress that bring us closer together. But three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart.”
Scott waded into an array of hot-button policy debates and issues, including infrastructure, voting rights, policing reform and racism and discrimination, saying at one point that “America is not a racist country.”
“I’m an African American who has voted in the South my entire life. I take voting rights personally,” he said, offering a defense of Republicans who pushed through changes to Georgia’s election laws that impose significant new obstacles to voting and gives the Republican-controlled state government new power to assert control over the conduct of elections.
“Republicans support making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Scott said.
Scott continued making very personal references throughout the speech.
“I have experienced the pain of discrimination,” though he cited his experience as a critique of left-leaning politics.
“I get called ‘Uncle Tom’ and the N-word — by progressives, by liberals,” he said, “Believe me, I know firsthand our healing is not finished.”
And he criticized big business and higher education for “doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal” and profiting off of racial politics.”
“You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country,” he added.
Pretty powerful stuff coming from a black man.
Scott credited the Trump administration with the development of effective vaccines to address Covid-19 and cited school closures during the pandemic as a key issue.
“The coronavirus is on the run. Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccines. Thanks to our bipartisan work last year, job openings are rebounding,” he said. “So why do we feel so divided and anxious?”
He criticized school closures, a hot-button issue amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Locking vulnerable kids out of the classroom is locking adults out of their future,” he said. “Our public schools should have reopened months ago. Other countries did. Private and religious schools did. Science has shown for months that schools are safe.”
Scott is one of the key players — and a voice of reason — in the negotiations over a police reform bill that has been under discussion for months. It’s been given impetus by recent high-profile police shootings. But progress has been slow as Democrats continue to want to use the issue as a partisan bludgeon rather than get anything useful done.
“In 2015, after the shooting of Walter Scott, I wrote a bill to fund body cameras. Last year, after the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I built an even bigger police reform proposal. But my Democratic colleagues blocked it.”
“I extended an olive branch. I offered amendments. But Democrats used the filibuster to block the debate from even happening. My friends across the aisle seemed to want the issue more than they wanted a solution,” he lamented.
“But I’m still working. I’m hopeful that this will be different,” he said.
All in all, a very good speech delivered with very little bombast and very few partisan bricks thrown at Biden. In a way, the speech was more of a lament over Biden’s failed unity promise and his capture by the far left.
Scott isn’t mentioned prominently as a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate. But after that speech, maybe he should be.