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Comic:

Claytoonz: Ya Ukrainets'

President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union speech last night, and he delivered. Last night, we saw leadership from an American president. It was refreshing.

President Biden came out strong in his first SOTU address, standing with Ukraine and condemning Vladimir Putin’s tyranny. A heartwarming moment was when he pointed out one of his special guests, the Ukraine ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, who appeared moved by the sustained applause. Markarova even got a hug from First Lady Jill Biden.

President Biden stated, “In the battle between democracy and autocracies, democracies are rising to the moment and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security.”

President Biden pledged to stand with Ukraine and pointed out other nations doing the same. He said, “Members of the European Union, including France, Germany, Italy, as well as countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and many others — even Switzerland — are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. Putin is now isolated from the world more than he has ever been.”

He pointed out the Justice Department and our allies’ efforts to seize and freeze assets of Russian oligarchs. He said, “Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and the corrupt leaders who bilk billions of dollars off this violent regime: No more. I mean it. We’re coming for you.” Russian oligarchs unable to access their fortunes or even sail on their superyachts will put pressure on Putin.

President Biden also announced a new ban on Russian aircraft from flying in the United States.

President Biden’s leadership is a welcome change from the former guy, who withheld American military support from Ukraine in an extortion attempt to receive a political favor. The irony here is, the former guy withheld the aid to hurt the current guy. Today, the current guy is delivering more military aid without demanding a quid-pro-quo.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said yesterday, “Biden is one of the leaders of the world and it is very important that the people of the United States understand despite the fact that the war is in Ukraine…it is a war for the values of democracy, freedom.”
President Biden made clear last night he fully understands that. Meanwhile, and despite rousing support from Republicans last night, the former guy doesn’t understand that and has yet to issue any criticism of Putin or Russia for their invasion of a sovereign nation. Trump has given blame to President Biden for the war rather than placing it where it belongs, on Vladimir Putin, who he called a “genius.”

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Republicans were still nitpicking about our response to Russia’s invasion. In the GOP rebuttal, Iowa governor Kim Reynolds claimed the war only happened because of Biden’s “weak” leadership. But here’s a question for the goons: What should Biden be doing differently? Oh yeah, stop Russian gas imports into the United States. That’s fair criticism, but Reynolds also criticized high gas prices in her rebuttal.
You can criticize the administration for our nation still importing Russian fuel. You can criticize the administration for high gas prices. But, you can’t criticize it for both. Pick one. Republicans don’t have solutions. They only have dog whistles and methods to create new problems for Democrats to solve. Kim Reynolds opposed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan but took credit for that plan providing over $210 million in federal funding for rural broadband projects in Iowa.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy called out Soviet tyranny in his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.

Standing in West Berlin, Kennedy said, “Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum (I am Roman). Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is Ich bin ein Berliner!”… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!'”

Kennedy was championing democracy over Soviet fascism. Last night, President Biden did the same, except now it’s just Russian fascism.

Presidents usually say the line “the state of our union is strong” at the beginning of their SOTU speeches, but last night, Biden saved it for the end. I liked it.

President Biden said of Putin, “He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead, he met a wall of strength he never imagined. He met the Ukrainian people.”

With President Biden’s leadership, rallying the world to place sanctions on Russia, Putin, and the oligarchs in ways the Russian dictator never imagined, he met Joe Biden.

Creative Note: I sent this cartoon to my proofers, Laura and Hilary after I had finished the drawing but before the shading and coloring. Always looking out for me, Laura asked where I got the translation. I got it from Google Translate, which is a really useful feature for a cartoonist like myself. The note I included with the cartoon said I had no idea why there’s an apostrophe after “Ukrayinets” and told my proofers to check behind me if they wanted to. Laura wanted to. And wouldn’t you know it? Laura has a friend from Ukraine she took a language class with…a friend who could also be a proofreader in English. A smart friend. So Laura asked her if I was correct.

Her friend, Marijka, replied: “The Ukrainian language has a soft sign/letter. The apostrophe is used to denote this. And the soft sign appears at the end of the word in this phrase.”

I got it correct. Thank you, Laura and Marijka. And thank you Google Translate. As I said, it’s a very useful feature. I’ve used it multiple times in the past as I like inserting languages other than English into my cartoons occasionally. What I do is type the phrase in English into Translate. Then, I take the translation and do a Google search of that to see where it comes up, just to double-check.

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And since this cartoon didn’t take long to color and I was talking to Laura throughout that process, I didn’t have time to listen to any music.

Clay Jones is the 2022 recipient of the RFK Human Rights Journalism Award in Editorial Cartooning, and won a 2021 Sigma Delta Chi Award for Excellence in Journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists. He was a finalist for the Herblock Prize in 2019 and a finalist for the National Headliner Award in 2020. See more award-winning editorial cartoons from him at Claytoonz.com.

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