And here we go…
(the live feed has been replaced with the video of the speech in its entirety)
My initial take as of 7:59: I’ll have a detailed look at tonight’s speech in the morning, but I wanted to offer a quick, spontaneous, before-I-analyze-it-to-death reaction.
This was an exceptional speech from President Obama. For all the talk about him being too professorial, or too cool, or too reluctant to show a willingness to fight, this was Obama circa 2008 — passion meets vision meets policy. This was, at its core, a address about a policy crisis, but Obama made an emotional appeal.
What’s more, the president’s vision, the “American Jobs Act,” happens to have some really good ideas that, as it turns out, would actually offer a significant boost to the economy.
Perhaps most importantly from a purely ideological perspective, Obama pushed back aggressively against the idea that government is and should be powerless when it comes to creating jobs and growing the economy. A significant chunk of the speech was a defense of the power of government itself to make a positive difference, and it was most welcome given the prevailing political winds.
I also like the fact that there’s going to be a bill that will be on the table. For a variety of reasons, some of them perfectly legitimate, this White House generally prefers to point to a North Star, only to tell Congress, “Go figure out a way to get there.” Not this time. Obama will present, in writing, a specific legislative proposal, which will reportedly total about $450 billion — bigger than rumors suggested, and much closer to what the economy needs.
To be sure, this White House has an enormous amount of work to do, but it sounded tonight like the president intends to do it.
This wasn’t a request of Congress; this wasn’t an appeal to Congress; this was a forceful challenge from an angry leader — Obama started a fight and demanded that Congress act, now.
Most (but not all) of the feedback I’ve seen from the left — including many liberal critics of this administration — has been positive, and I’m not surprised. This was, to my mind, the speech Obama’s supporters hoped he’d give, but were afraid he wouldn’t.
Yes, I realize Congress still exists. And yes, I know Republicans don’t want to improve the economy. But watching the speech, I got the sense this president intends to put the full weight of his office behind one idea: not giving Congress much of a choice.
For two weeks, I’ve been urging the president to swing for the fences. Tonight, it looks to me like the ball easily cleared the center-left bleachers.