Ahead of Biden’s State of the Union, Get the Backstory on 12 Major Issues

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 2, 2023, several days prior to the Feb. 7 State of the Union address. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 2, 2023, several days prior to the Feb. 7 State of the Union address. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

February 7, 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to take to the podium before a split Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 7, to deliver his 2023 State of the Union address.

From the shape of the American economy, to the debate over policing, to Russia’s war on Ukraine, get the backstory on 12 issues Biden may talk about through the FRONTLINE documentaries collected below.

The State of American Democracy

Lies, Politics and Democracy – From September 2022, this documentary investigated how American political leaders fed the public lies about the 2020 presidential election and embraced rhetoric that led to political violence — and how decisions made in the aftermath of the Capitol attack contributed to the threat to U.S. democracy.

The Economy

The Power of the Fed – In 2021, amid signs of inflation, this documentary examined how an experiment the Federal Reserve, the country’s central bank, began after the 2008 crash and deployed again when COVID struck had shaped the U.S. economy. (Age of Easy Money, premiering in March 2023, will continue the story.)

Policing in America

Police on Trial – In this 2022 documentary, FRONTLINE and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters from our local journalism partner Star Tribune examined the struggle for police accountability in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

Shots Fired – With another local journalism partner, The Salt Lake Tribune, this 2021 documentary examined police training, tactics and accountability in Utah, as well as racial disparities in the way police used force.

Policing the Police 2020 – In 2020, FRONTLINE returned to a police department with a troubled past in Newark, New Jersey, to examine how an effort at reform had played out and explore how police departments can be held accountable.

Russia’s War on Ukraine

Putin and the Presidents – From January 2023, an investigation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s clashes with multiple American presidents — including Biden — as he has tried to rebuild the Russian empire.

Putin’s Attack on Ukraine: Documenting War Crimes – With the Associated Press, this 2022 documentary investigated a pattern of atrocities by Russian troops in Ukraine and explored the challenges of trying to hold Putin and other Russian leaders to account. (FRONTLINE and AP have documented more than 600 incidents involving potential war crimes since the start of Russia’s 2022 invasion.)

Ukraine: Life Under Russia’s Attack – This dramatic and intimate look inside the Russian assault on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, aired in 2022. FRONTLINE followed displaced families trying to survive underground, civilians caught in the war and first responders risking their lives. An updated version premieres Feb. 14, 2023.

China’s Government

China’s COVID Secrets – This 2021 documentary probed the gulf between what Chinese officials and scientists knew at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and what they told the world.

China Undercover – In 2020, FRONTLINE investigated the Chinese government’s mass imprisonment of Muslims, and its use and testing of sophisticated surveillance technology against the Uyghur community.

Climate Change

The Power of Big Oil – This three-part docuseries from 2022 investigated the decades-long failure to confront the threat of climate change and the role the fossil fuel industry played.

Gun Violence

NRA Under Fire – Updated in 2022 after mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, this documentary from 2020 examined the state of America’s gun debate and the forces shaping it. (Plus, watch what Biden told FRONTLINE about school shootings in 2014, when he was vice president.)

The Supreme Court & Roe v. Wade

Supreme Revenge: Battle for the Court – Updated in 2020, this documentary examined how the conservative Supreme Court majority that would go on to overturn Roe v. Wade came to be.

The Abortion Divide – Drawing on a landmark FRONTLINE episode from the 1980s, this 2019 documentary went inside the fight over abortion, told through the stories of women with unplanned pregnancies.

Healthcare & COVID

The Healthcare Divide – This 2021 documentary with NPR investigated the growing inequities in American healthcare exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Taliban in Afghanistan

Afghanistan Undercover – This 2022 documentary investigated the Taliban’s crackdown on women and girls in Afghanistan, capturing firsthand accounts from women who said the regime jailed them for what it considered moral crimes.

Taliban Takeover – This documentary exposed stark realities on the ground in Afghanistan in 2021 in the wake of the Taliban’s return to power and the U.S.’s withdrawal after 20 years of war.


After Zero Tolerance – This short documentary from 2022 followed a Honduran family’s struggle to reunite after being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border three years earlier under the Trump administration’s immigration policies and explored the work of a Biden administration task force charged with rejoining separated families.

Hate & Extremism

American Insurrection – With ProPublica and Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program, this investigation, updated in 2022, examined how the threat of far-right extremist groups evolved from the deadly 2017 white supremacist Charlottesville rally, to the assault on the U.S. Capitol, to 2022. (Plus, listen to a recent conversation on The FRONTLINE Dispatch podcast about reporting on antisemitism and extremism.)


Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Senior Digital Writer, FRONTLINE



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