Wednesday, February 25, 2009

He is the President We Have Been Waiting For

A few scattered thoughts on Obama's speech. At first for me it was another in the special moments, the firsts--the first time the Sergeant at Arms of the House announces, "Madame Speaker, the President of the United States"--and I don't have to cringe, I can feel the thrill: it's a President I like, it's my President. And it's not even Martin Sheen. It's the real one.

After the speech, the feeling that is also becoming familiar, that I am luckier than I thought I'd be to live to see this. I never felt quite this way with Carter or Clinton. Not since JFK have I felt so strongly that this is my President. I'd follow this guy anywhere.

So I could go through the speech--if I wasn't too tired--and point out places where the words are perfect. Repositioning the financial recovery plans was brilliant--talking sternly about Wall Street and bank mistakes and abuses, but saying we can't govern from anger, and then repositioning "bailout" money as only to start banks lending. This was pure FDR, as several commentators noted.

Obama has several times made the case that future-oriented reinvestment pays off twice--in short-term stimulus, and in long-range economic growth--and a third time in helping to at least try to save the planet. In this speech he also tied it to bringing down the deficit--because that requires a strong economy, bringing tax dollars in--and to America returning to economic leadership.

He made the same case for health care and education. He tied it all to Americans rallying in a time of need, and America getting back on the right track and becoming a leader again. Even the way he talked about the auto industry as an American invention played into that theme. In other words, he tied it all to America, and in retrospect you can see how he always does this, but never as effectively as this.

He's done this before, though not quite as well as Tuesday night: he spoke to the people and for the people. As a speech, it was his finest since the campaign. It was better than his Inaugural speech. It will resonate for a long time, and I'm fervently grateful we've got a leader when we need one.

As for individual elements, I was suprised but pleased to hear carbon caps proposed, and I was especially pleased to hear his support for national service--the part of his campaign that hadn't gotten on stage yet. Plus a nice mention--I guess we call it a shout-out now--to Teddy Kennedy.

I heard one of the pundits say to expect a lot of ribbon cutting in the near future, as the recovery projects get started. I hope so. Americans have to see tangible results, and then maybe some confidence starts to return. Polls before the speech showed that Americans still believe in Obama, and that means some optimism, a little less fear, and more patience. That's only going to increase because of this speech.

As for the Bobby Jindal response, I happened to be watching MSNBC at that moment, and as I watched him walk out, I heard the words "Oh my God," and it took a moment for me to realize that I didn't speak them, they came from the TV. I'm sure it was Keith's voice. It is further demonstration of how low the GOPers have fallen. Joe Klein's analysis before the speech suggests the wounds they continue to inflict on themselves, and as good as Obama's speech was, Jindal's was bad. Or worse.

Update: Can you name that tune in two words? Apparently I couldn't. Chris Matthews has taken responsibility for the "Oh God" comment. Is my voice recognition failing? Which is so good on identifying obscure voiceovers? I'll just put this one down to overconfidence.

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