It was a more forceful, determined and resolute President who appeared before a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, vowing to meet “obstruction with action”, issuing a challenge to the Republicans to risk being left behind unless they could agree on something and presenting a challenge to his supporters to believe in him once again. The only question: was it enough?
Maybe. The plans he announced mainly centered on finding way to help the middle class, renew American innovation and manufacturing and, perhaps, bridge some of the income gap between the very rich and ordinary citizens. Whether you believe any of it depends both on whether you want to and whether you have any degree of open mind at this point. A huge minority of Americans have written off this president and many of them did so before he ever came into office, so there is no hope that that group will give Obama credit for anything, at any time.
It is good that Obama recognizes, at last, some of the forces he is up against. Yet, he did not call down the partisanship in Congress in any forceful way, only enough to cause Minority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia to develop a deeper and deeper frown on his face as the speech went along.
Why not lay it out in stark terms? Why not say that the Republicans in the House appear to have dedicated themselves to destroying his presidency and risking the economic recovery in the name of winning the next election? Well, he couldn’t risk saying it quite that harshly, but he could have put more fire into his remarks. Obama is still, at this late hour, holding out some small hope that the Republicans will relent and agree on something. All I can say, I am glad it is Obama and not me waiting on them to soften up.
Obama called for the ridiculous filibuster rule in the Senate, whereby the minority can derail any legislation just by saying “filibuster”, to be changed immediately. He also called on the Senate to hold a vote, up or down, on any cabinet or other nominees within 90 days of submission by the president. As the saying goes, good luck with that. It was great, however, to hear any president issue a challenge on these issues, ones which are crippling the functioning of government in a way most voters are not aware of and generally don’t understand. Obama could have given more time and emphasis to these points, but he probably realizes there is no hope.
All of the Republicans on the floor of the House tended to look like grumps when the camera caught them for close-ups, especially Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader. McConnell is on the record as saying the prime goal of this Congress is to ensure that Obama is a one term president, wh
ich doesn’t leave much meeting space between the two men.
If Obama does not win reelection, this would have been his last State of the Union speech before Congress and the nation. I had the impression of a president who has, over the last three years, gradually awakened to the realities he faces and that he someone who is trying to push forward by moving around the Congress to take his own path, with or without legislative support. That realization has been a long time coming and that, along with the current disaster in the Republican primaries, represent Obama’s best hopes for a second term. Well, those factors plus barrels of campaign money.
Doug Terry, 1.25.12