Thursday, January 28, 2010

I’m for change, he was telling the assembled members of Congress. What about you?

I've had my disagreements with Eugene in the past (getting rid of the D.C. Gun ban, are you kidding me??) but he nailed this one:

The conventional wisdom was wrong, as usual. Some in the punditocracy expected President Obama to tack toward the center, others expected him to run to the bosom of the Democratic Party’s liberal base. He did neither. By the end of his State of the Union address, when he summed up the whole speech in three words -- “I don’t quit” -- you had to take him at his word.

The president’s message was simple: He’s not going to zig or zag to boost his poll numbers. He knows the financial bailout was unpopular, but it was necessary. He knows many people didn’t like the stimulus bill, but it was necessary. He knows his own party won’t cheer a three-year spending freeze, but he sees it as the right thing to do. He knows health-care reform ran into a political “buzzsaw,” but he demands that Congress push ahead.

There were no fall-off-your-chair surprises in Obama’s speech, but many people might have been surprised by the style in which he delivered it. Obama didn’t sound like a president buffeted and beleaguered by the political fates. He sounded determined, patient, forceful, good-humored, at times even mischievous. He looked relaxed and in control. For the first few minutes, the applause was strictly partisan -- Democrats rising to clap, Republicans sitting on their hands. Toward the end, Republicans were often springing to their feet, too. Maybe they lost themselves in the moment.

Or maybe the Republicans -- and the Democrats, too -- realized that Obama was speaking over their heads to a nation that is fed up with “Washington” and “government” and “partisanship.” For the first time in months, it seemed to me, Obama reconnected with the language and themes that got him elected.

I’m for change, he was telling the assembled members of Congress. What about you?