LIVEBLOGGING…. Well, we’re getting close to President Obama’s speech on health care reform to a joint session of Congress, so let’s fire up the ol’ Liveblogging Machine. This isn’t exactly my forte — watching, listening, typing, and thinking, at the same time, is never as easy as I’d like — but we’ll give it a shot anyway. Keep expectations low.

7:50: Senators are working their way into the chamber. Nice to see Franken.

7:59: Pelosi getting things started.

8:01: CNN says Obama is running a little late. Impeachment whispers begin on the Republican side of the aisle. (Kidding, kidding…)

8:09: Which cabinet secretary isn’t in the chamber tonight? Energy Sec. Steven Chu.

8:12: President arrives.

8:15: Thinking back to 16 years ago, I can’t help but hope someone doublechecked that teleprompter, making sure it’s the right speech. Just saying.

8:18: Obama reminds Congress he and the majority saved the economy from collapse. Republicans reluctantly clap.

8:19: “I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.” Nice one.

8:20: I hadn’t heard that John Dingell Sr. anecdote. Interesting. We have been waiting a long time.

8:21: Middle-class folks are uninsured. Someone tell the “welfare wedge” crowd.

8:22: Only advanced democracy on earth. We’re #1!

8:23: Hitting rescission hard. Good. It’s a national nightmare.

8:24: Insured pay a “hidden and growing tax.” Important point.

8:26: Single payer gets a little applause. A little.

8:27: Obama positioning his approach as the sensible, moderate path, rather than the “radical shifts” pushed by extremists.

8:29: “Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.”

8:30: Reform has three parts: “It will provide insurance to those who don’t. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.”

8:31: Consumer protections always generate big applause.

8:32: “In the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick.” Please keep saying that.

8:33: “It’s how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance. And it’s time to give every American the same opportunity that we’ve given ourselves.”

8:34: Obama endorses McCain idea on short-term low-cost coverage.

8:36: He’s explaining why an individual mandate is necessary. A lot of folks don’t get this, and he’s explaining it pretty well.

8:38: Wait, you mean “death panels” aren’t true? “Lie, plain and simple.” Republicans sit on their hands.

8:39: Someone shouted that it’s a “lie” that reform wouldn’t cover illegal immigrants. The shouter is lying.

8:42: Here’s comes the public option…

8:43: Private and public colleges compete. Good comparison.

8:46: Open to co-ops and triggers, but no backing down “on the basic principle that if Americans can’t find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice.”

8:46: No bureaucrats wil get “between you and the care that you need.”

8:47: Hey Republicans, you’re fiscally irresposible.

8:49: Medicare recipients, don’t worry. The only changes: less waste, fill the donut hole.

8:50: That GOP alternate budget from April is going to keep biting Republicans in the ass.

8:52: The mere mention of “medical malpractice reform” gets a GOP ovation.

8:54: $900 billion over ten years – “less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration.” Still sounds a little low, but it beats that $700 billion figure we’ve been hearing lately.

8:56: “If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out.” Something to look forward to.

8:57: Ted Kennedy and the “great unfinished business of our society.”

8:58: The “character of our country.” Something to ponder.

8:59: That’s a whole lot of references to Republican lawmakers, including the second McCain reference of the night.

9:00: Pro-government paragraph: “Our ability to stand in other people’s shoes. A recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand. A belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgement that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.”

9:01: Boy, conservative attacks sure have been wrong for a long time, haven’t they?

9:03: “We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it’s hard.”

9:04: “I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test. Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character.” I sure hope he’s right.

* * * * *

I’ll have plenty more to say in the morning, but my initial response to tonight’s address is extremely positive. It’s inherently difficult to discuss policy details without being dull, but tonight’s speech walked the line — a substantive call to action.

I feared, going into tonight, that the president might be more cautious and understated in his pitch. He wasn’t. Obama went big, sold the plan, and actually explained how this would work. It was as strong as I’ve seen him on health care — which means he came through with the right speech at the right time (Biggest Speech Of His Career, Part VII).

And if someone at the DNC and/or White House political operation can just take the last five minutes or so of that speech, and keep airing it in a constant loop, I’d appreciate it. Brilliant stuff.

I’m skeptical that one speech can significantly change a huge debate that’s been ongoing for months, but if the goal was to give reform a swift kick in the backside, the president’s address may very well give the effort some momentum going forward.

What’d you think?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.