Wednesday was a big day. New iPods. Beatles Rock Band. Derek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig’s 72-year old record for most hits by a Yankee.
And then, after months of trying to let Congress do what it is supposed to do (pass laws), President Obama came off the bench like a sixth man who is better than the entire starting five and infused the conversation with the proper touch of urgency, decency, and possibility.
In the coming days we will see if Obama can follow up this special joint session address, an uncommonly early second one of his tenure, with a convincing road show but much more importantly some legislative prowess and tenacity. As he said, “I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it.” If he is as capable as we are led to believe, then, as Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter and Salon’s Joan Walsh pointed out on The Ed Show post-speech, he should be able to persuade reticent Blue Dogs to go along with him. After all, they voted for the Bush tax cuts, which were more expensive.
Mark Halperin is weighing the landscape in the wake of the speech as well, categorizing the successes, (“Stiffened the spine of Democrats in Congress”), the risks (most poignant that he has “Fired his best shot, leaving him no obvious option for another galvanizing jump start”), and unanswered items (“How he can inflict political pain on those who try to block him”) for us all to consider.
Alessandra Stanley made an apt comparison about the President’s remarks: “In short, the president tried to do for his health care plan what he did for his candidacy when the issue of race, and the words of his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., threatened to derail his presidential bid last year.”
In addition, The New York Times has already released an editorial for tomorrow’s edition opining that:
“Reeling from the angry if ill-informed outbursts at town hall meetings and concerned about his slipping poll numbers, the president finally found his voice. His speech to a joint session of Congress was rhetorically powerful in its insistence that reform must finally happen — for the sake of Americans’ health and the economic health of the country. We hope it was only the start of a sustained campaign to get this essential legislation passed.
“We believe that Mr. Obama has been far too passive — for the sake of an unrequited bipartisanship — as his opponents have twisted and distorted the health care debate. It was encouraging to hear him reject those distortions.
“Having let his opponents frame the debate for far too long, Mr. Obama will need to do more than orate. He needs to twist arms among timid Democrats in Congress to get a strong bill passed, most likely with little support from Republicans.”
Indeed, the speech was forceful and inspired, delivered with clarity and conviction. We’ll see shortly what Congress thinks and what polls say we do.
In the meantime, some closing speech night potpourri:
- John Boehner is still unnaturally tan.
- Harry Reid is still unnaturally boring.
- At one point Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) looked at the GOP colleague next to him as if to say, “Darn, that was a good point he just made. It’ll be funny when we just ignore it and just go on, you know, living our lives,” a la Russell Brand’s character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
- (Republican Response man) Rep. Charles Boustany’s (R-LA) shirt collar was so ‘70s long I almost mistook him for Dirk Diggler.
- What is there to say about Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)? After calling the President a liar in front of the whole world, does he even need to raise reelection money? In his district, this must make him a shoo-in.
- Joe Biden can smile with the best of ‘em. It’s like he took off a Crest Whitestrip just before he came out onto the Chamber floor.