Do you recall?

Students of ancient history may recall that President Biden declared that Donald Trump and “MAGA Republicans” — you know who you are — “represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.” Biden extended the terms of his condemnation. “MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution,” he said. “They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people. They refuse to accept the results of a free election.”

And that’s not all. He continued: “And they’re working right now, as I speak, in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself….They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country.”

Following the speech Thursday night, Biden exited the Leni Riefenstahl-style set at Independence and returned to the White House before departing for another weekend break. Back at the White House Biden read the script rolling through his teleprompter at an event promoting so-called American Rescue Plan “investments.” The White House has posted the transcript here.

At the conclusion of the event Biden was asked by FOX News’s Peter Doocy whether he considered all Trump supporters a threat to the country. Biden responded: “You keep trying to make that case. I don’t consider any Trump supporters a threat to the country.”

Now that is bizarre. What are we to make of it? Byron York states that Biden was “tr[ying] to walk back some of the rhetoric he used the night before.” Really? Byron himself judges Biden’s denial of the import of his remarks “simply impossible to believe. How could he mean what he said at Independence Hall and not consider any Trump supporters a threat to the country? Not possible.” He concludes:

Huh? Biden’s remarks at the White House cast a cloud of confusion over what he said the night before. Did he mean it? Did he fully understand the kind of accusations he was making in Philadelphia? Was he confused? The president’s rhetoric was terribly serious and terribly divisive. It was hard to understand why he even gave the speech. Now, it is not clear whether he understands it, either.

I’ve been saying right along that he’s got half a mind to be president. Byron raises the question in his own discreet manner.

At the Spectator Roger Kimball winds up his observations on the speech with the thought it “will soon be forgotten.” He may be right, but I part company with Roger only on that point. I think the substance of the speech along with the production made it unforgettable. It was a spectacular failure on a level beyond Jimmy Carter’s “malaise speech.”

Respect for the law has of course been a central theme of “MAGA Republicans” and their indictment of the Biden administration. Indeed, it is a theme that goes back to Lincoln’s great Lyceum Address. Biden’s lack of respect for the enforcement of our own borders is galling. His trillion-dollar student loan giveaway is patently lawless. The Democrats’ support for the riots of 2020 and prosecutors who refuse to enforce the law also comes immediately to mind.

Biden’s Triumph of the Shill speech is itself illustrative of his attitude. As a matter of law, the Marines standing behind Biden and flanking him on either side should not have been used as props for the speech. Professor Jonathan Turley explains why in a New York Post column this morning. Supporting the propriety of the Marines, the White House actually asserts that it was “not a political speech.” Now that is almost funny.

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