“Going after Trump, who remains deeply unpopular outside his base, could be smart politics, especially if it draws him back into the fray,” Mr. Axelrod said, adding that there was a need to confront the ideology that fueled the attack on the Capitol. “Hard to take that on without confronting the author and chief purveyor of the lie.”
Even as Mr. Biden confronted Mr. Trump, there is little sign the address will change the behavior of Republicans beholden to the former president and reluctant to cooperate with Mr. Biden.
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican leader, said in the days after the riot that Mr. Trump “bears responsibility” for the violence, only to later travel to Mar-a-Lago to preserve his relationship with the former president. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, has been more forceful in his condemnations of the former president, but some longtime conservatives are showing increasing anxiety over Mr. Trump’s continued grip on the party.
Karl Rove, a former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, criticized “Republicans who for a year have excused the actions of the rioters who stormed the Capitol” in an opinion piece this week in The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Biden, with a slim majority in Congress, is struggling to unite his party behind his priorities: advancing a climate and social-spending package bill, as well as federal voting rights legislation. The president’s approval ratings have been low, in part because of rising inflation and the pandemic, making the passage of his agenda even more crucial ahead of the midterm elections.
Pressed by reporters after his address over whether his remarks would only deepen divisions in America, Mr. Biden said he did not intend to create “a contemporary political battle” with Mr. Trump.
But he said candor was vital to moving forward.
“The way you have to heal, you have to recognize the extent of the wound,” Mr. Biden said. “You can’t pretend. This is serious stuff.”
Peter Baker contributed reporting.