Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler Jr. believes that President Joe Biden is "playing with political fire" by directing especially harsh rhetoric at former President Donald Trump and Republicans in recent speeches.
The president used his primetime address to denounce a group he called "MAGA Republicans," arguing that they and Trump are a danger to "the very foundations of our republic." "MAGA" is an acronym for Trump's 2016 campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."
Biden clarified this week that he thinks that "not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans" and that "not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology."
"I know because I've been able to work with these mainstream Republicans," Biden continued. "But there's no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country."
"MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. 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."
Mohler contends that while some of Biden's concerns were genuine, the president used his platform to give "a highly partisan speech that went far beyond threats to democracy that he claimed were inflicted by others."
Mohler also brought up a speech that Biden delivered in Rockville, Maryland, last month in which he claimed that the Republican Party was polluted with "semi-fascism."
"Now, that's just playing with political fire," said Mohler. "You're using the fascism word, and you're applying it to fellow Americans."
"He's speaking here with profound disrespect toward tens of millions of Americans who voted not for him, but for someone else, and in particular for former President Donald Trump."
Mohler expressed concern with how Biden claimed that "MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards — backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love."
"He went far beyond any reference to insurrectionists. He went far beyond any reference to those he would call election deniers. He goes right at pro-life Americans and Americans who actually know what marriage is. This was a blatantly political speech," Mohler responded.
"It was mischaracterized by the White House, and it was fundamentally wrong to use the presidency in this way and to have Marines, United States Marines in uniform as a part of the decoration," he added.
Mohler considered the speech hypocritical, given reports showing that the Democratic Party has been providing extensive funding for pro-Trump candidates in Republican primaries with the hope that they would lose to Democratic candidates in the general election.
"There isn't much moral credibility in yelling fire when you're caught pouring fuel on that fire," concluded Mohler.
Many media figures on both sides of the political aisle criticized Biden's remarks as divisive and having failed to properly differentiate between genuine threats to democracy and those the president politically disagrees with.
"If the president actually wanted to unite, he wouldn't have attacked Americans who believe abortion is the civil-rights issue of our lives," wrote National Review Institute Senior Fellow Kathryn Jean Lopez.
"I could have agreed with much that he said — about the election results, about division and anger and violence — if he hadn't made sure to make Planned Parenthood happy during the speech. They are purveyors of violence and ought to be renamed UnParenthood."
The editorial board of The Washington Post believes that Biden "fell short" in his effort to elicit "patriotism rather than partisanship."
"You don't persuade people by scolding or demeaning them, but that's how the president's speech landed for many conservatives of goodwill," they wrote.
"Mr. Biden was wrong to conflate upholding the rule of law with his own partisan agenda, which he called 'the work of democracy.' You can be for democracy but against the president's policy proposals to use government to lower prescription-drug prices and combat climate change."
Biden's speech came slightly more than two months before the midterm elections that will determine control of the U.S. Congress over the next two years. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Ethics and Public Policy Center Senior Fellow Henry Olsen characterized the address as "designed to protect Democrats, not democracy."
Considering President Joe Biden's approval rating of 42.2% as of Wednesday morning in the RealClearPolitics average of polls and his corresponding disapproval rating of 54.8%, history suggests that Republicans are poised to do very well in the midterms, which often serve as a referendum on the president.
The generic ballot, which asks voters whether they would rather see Republicans or Democrats control Congress following the midterms, has shown Republicans consistently maintaining a narrow lead for the better part of the last year. The polls have tightened in recent weeks, and the RealClearPolitics average of the generic ballot shows a tie as of Wednesday afternoon.
Democrats currently have a narrow majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate has 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote in favor of Democrats.
The FiveThirtyEight Deluxe Model, which forecasts the outcome of elections based on "polls, fundraising, past voting patterns" and experts' political analysis gives Republicans a 74% chance of taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives while giving Democrats a 70% chance of keeping control of the U.S. Senate as of Wednesday afternoon.