President Joe Biden’s speech on Sept. 28, 2023 in Tempe, Ariz., was of a caliber that would have been televised on national, prime-time TV 50 years ago and taught to high school civics classes in the years after.
It had everything: A testament to the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, a Republican, at a ceremony announcing the building of a library in McCain’s name at Arizona State University, a civil shutdown of a protester who tried to interrupt his speech, and a paean to democracy and the United States, but mostly a warning about a contemporary danger that lurks within our country -- the MAGA movement.
Because it wasn’t televised nationally, and it really ought to be seen or read by many more people, as we believe it is about a very serious threat, we’re sharing the main thrust of it here and linking to the rest.
An Excerpt from Remarks by President Biden Honoring the Legacy of Senator John McCain and the Work We Must Do Together to Strengthen Our Democracy
From the whitehouse.gov website
I have come to honor the McCain Institute and Library because they are a home of a proud Republican who put his country first. Our commitment should be no less because democracy should unite all Americans, regardless of political affiliation.
And there is something dangerous happening in America now. There is an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs in our democracy: the MAGA Movement.
Not every Republican, not even a majority of Republicans, adhere to the MAGA extremist ideology. I know because I’ve been able to work with Republicans my whole career. But there is no question that today’s Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA Republican extremists. Their extreme agenda, if carried out, would fundamentally alter the institutions of American democracy as we know it.
My friends, they’re not hiding their attacks. They’re openly promoting them — attacking the free press as the enemy of the people, attacking the rule of law as an impediment, fomenting voter suppression and election subversion.
Did you ever think we’d be having debates in the year — stage of your careers where banning books — banning books and burying history?
Extremists in Congress — more determined to shut down the government, to burn the place down than to let the people’s business be done.
Our U.S. military — and this in not hyperbole; I’ve said it for the last two years — is the strongest military in the history of the world. Not just the strongest in the world — in the history of the world. It’s the most diverse, the most powerful in the history of the world. And it’s being accused of being weak and “woke” by the opposition.
One guy in Alabama is holding up the promotion of every — hundreds of these officers.
Frankly, these extremists have no idea what the hell they’re talking about. (Laughter.) No, I’m serious.
They’re pushing a notion the defeated former President expressed when he was in office and believes applies only to him. And this is a dangerous notion: This president is above the law, with no limits on power.
Trump says the Constitution gave him, quote, “the right to do whatever he wants as President,” end of quote. I’ve never even heard a president say that in jest. Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans but by vengeance and vindictiveness.
We see the headlines. Quote, “sweeping expansion of presidential power.” Their goal to, quote, “alter the balance of power by increasing the President’s authority over every part of the federal government,” end of quote.
What do they intend to do once they erode the constitutional order of checks and balances and separation of powers? Limit the independence of federal agencies and put them under the thumb of a president? Give the President the power to refuse to spend money that Congress has appropriated if he doesn’t like what it’s being spent for? Not veto — he doesn’t like what it’s being spent for — it’s there. Get rid of longstanding protections for civil servants?
Remember what he did as he was leaving office: He imposed a new thing, the Civil Service — but then he imposed a new pro- — schedule. “Schedule F,” it was called. These civil servants had to pledge loyalty to the President, not the Constitution. It did not require that they had any protections, and the President would be able to wholesale fire them if he wanted, because they had no so- — no — no Civil Service protection. One of the first things I got rid of when I became President.
Just consider these as actual quotes from MAGA — the MAGA movement. Quote, “I am your retribution.” “Slitting throats” of civil servants, replacing them with extreme political cronies. MAGA extremists proclaim support for law enforcement only to say, “We…” — quote, “We must destroy the FBI.”
It’s not one person. It’s the controlling element of the House Republican Party.
Whitewash attacks of January 6th by calling the spearing and stomping of police a leg- — quote, a “legitimate political discourse.”
Did you ever think you’d hear leaders of political parties in the United States of America speak like that? Seizing power, concentrating power, attempting to abuse power, purging and packing key institutions, spewing conspiracy theories, spreading lies for profit and power to divide America in every way, inciting violence against those who risk their lives to keep America safe, weaponizing against the very soul of who we are as Americans.
This MAGA threat is the threat to the brick and mortar of our democratic institutions. But it’s also a threat to the character of our nation and gives our — that gives our Constitution life, that binds us together as Americans in common cause.
None of this is surprising, though. They’ve tried to govern that way before. And thank God, they failed.
But they haven’t given up. Just look at recent days: their accusations against — of treason — treason against the major new net- — news network because they don’t like its coverage. I don’t know what the hell I’d say about Fox if that becomes the rule. (Laughter.)
But think about it. I’m joking, but think about it.
Tomorrow, I have the honor of overseeing the change of responsibilities of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States military from one genuine hero and patriot, General Mark Milley, to another, General CQ Brown — both — both defining leaders of our time.
And yet, here is what you hear from MAGA extremists about the retiring patriot general honoring his oath to the Constitution: quote, he’s “a traitor,” end of quote. “In times gone by, the punishment…” — quote, “In times gone by, the punishment would’ve been death,” end of quote.
This is the United States of America. This is the United States of America.
And although I don’t believe even a majority of Republicans think that, the silence is deafening. The silence is deafening.
Hardly any Republican called out such heinous statements, just as they watch one MAGA senator outrageously — instead, blocking the promotions of hundreds of top military leaders and affecting not only those leaders but their families, their children.
MAGA extremists claim support of our troops, but they are harming military readiness, leadership, troop morale, freezing pay, freezing military families in limbo.
Just as they looked the other way when the defeated former President refused to pay respects at an American cemetery near Paris, referring to the American servicemen buried there — and I’ve been to this cemetery — as “suckers” and “losers,” quotes.
I’m not making this up. I know we all tried not to remember it, but that’s what he said. He called servicemen “suckers” and “losers.”
Was John a sucker? Was my son, Beau, who lived next to a burn pit for a year, came home, and died — was he a sucker for volunteering to serve his country?
The same guy who denigrates the heroism of John McCain. It’s not only wrong, it’s un-American. But it never changes.
The MAGA extremists across the country have made it clear where they stand. So, the challenge for the rest of America — for the majority of Americans is to make clear where we stand.
Do we still believe in the Constitution? Do we believe in the basic decency and respect? The whole country should honestly ask itself — and I mean this sincerely — what it wants and understand the threats to our democracy.
To read Biden's farewell tribute to Gen. Mark Milley as chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, see "How a real president behaves: Biden’s other excellent speech as Trump, Republicans unravel."
For more on the dangers of right-wing extremism, see "McCarthy