Live Blogging the President’s Speech

We are watching on NBC’s local affiliate.  As always, feel free to join in.

Interesting backdrop to the speech – apparently there is a “national security threat” that has attracted the president’s attention.  Cynics, of course, will find this more than coincidental, but given the proximity to 9-11 this can’t be a surprise and I think shouldn’t be underestimated. When one is in the election season, everything is viewed through a political lens.

7:07  The president enters, looking like he has aged 10 years during the last two years.   It’s hard to see how the speech can fulfill the hype surrounding it.  Chuck Todd has already stated that it is a make or break moment for the president.  It isn’t, of course, but why let the truth intrude?

The key point, for me, is whether Obama views this speech as an opportunity to present something Republicans can accept in terms of jobs-related policy proposals, or will instead serve as the opening salvo in the election season in which he tries to laid down a marker designed to portray Republicans as obstructionist.

7:10.  And he’s off.  And he begins with the obligatory effort to portray this speech as being above politics.  In truth,  of course, it is all about politics – but that’s how it’s supposed to be.

He looks particularly animated in this speech.  He knows what it is a stake.  And here’s the effort to portray his jobs bill as nonpartisan and deficit neutral.

Boehner doesn’t seem pleased with the payroll tax reduction.

Second times Obama has said Congress “should pass” this bill “right away”.   “Pass this jobs bill”.  And yet again….he’s got the rhythm of a preacher going here.

A, the China card.  But it’s not really rousing the troops yet, much as some Democrats in the audience are trying to jump to the cause.

So, part 1 is a payroll tax cut.  Part 2 is infrastructure spending on roads and schools.  Boehner still seems less than enthused. But he is tanned.

Again, the refrain.   Boehner is amused.  Obama is passionate.  This is much drama-Obama.   Reid politely applauds.

There’s an interesting tone to this speech – his enthusiasm almost seems out of place in a speech about the economy.  It’s almost over the top – or is this just me?

Quick quiz: Paul Ryan is a) looking at his blackberry b) doodling  c) doing a cross word puzzle.

Well, give the President credit: he’s going all out here.  This is fire and brimstone.

Here’s how he will pay for it.  Ah, Congress will devise a way!  What are the chances? So far he’s big on the big picture – fair share, fix entitlements, etc., but of course the devil is in the details.  If it was that easy we would have done it  long ago.   But I do think there’ s room for tax reform based on closing loopholes and lowering the corporate tax rate.  This is a plan that can get bipartisan support,  and which the supercommittee likely will pursue.

There’s is an element of class warfare in this speech that he will deny is classwarfare – oops, he just did!

This is a speech big on symbols, and on broad themes, but it is mostly exhorting everyone to pull together for the common good.  Noble sentiments, but how practical?

Ah, here’s the “cut the red tape” angle.   A perennial, if misguided favorite.

Mortgage help gets Democratic support.

patent reform – stop the presses!

Good lord – did you see Hillary’s expression?  Do you think she was telling herself, “I should be up there”?

He’s threatening to lose his audience by going to deep into the policy weeds here.  I know his intent, but FDR is the model here: less is more.

I see a Truman moment coming here where he lays down the gauntlet.

Has there been a president in the last century who didn’t promise to eliminate rules and regulations.

OK, this is red meat for the partisans.  This is the election portion of the speech.  In true Obama fashion, he’s tried to give a speech that is both nonpartisan policy proposals and partisan preaching.

It might be me, but he seems over the top here.  These exhortations are simply falling flat in the audience.  This is an odd speech in many respects.  I’m not quite sure what he’s trying to do here – he’s gone far beyond a jobs speech.  My fear is the public is tuning in to see how they are going to get jobs, and instead they are getting an earful about American exceptionalism.

I hate to say it, but the speech that comes to mind is Carter’s “malaise” speech, where he turned a jobs speech into a screed about American values.

Joe is up, John, alas, is still sitting.

Ah, here’s the Trumanesque threat – again, red meat for the partisans.  Write your Congressman!

Big crescendo!

Keep in mind that it’s late afternoon on the West Coast and in the Rocky Mountains – how many are watching this?

I thought this audience reaction within the chamber was relatively muted, given the emotion Obama was putting into this.

Pundits, of course, tend to overstate the impact of these types of speeches.  My guess is the longterm impact of this will depend on what comes out of it, in terms of legislation. But absent some type of legislative action, I can’t see this doing much to change the fundamental dynamics governing Washington politics today, but this is not necessarily a criticism of the speech so much as recognition of the limited power of these speeches more generally.  I think it will be more effective if it is understood to be the opening salvo in the President’s reelection campaign.  He now has a program he can tout on the campaign stump – even if most of it never makes it into law.  And that may be, in the end, the most significant part of the speech.

To summarize, the president’s plan has at least four parts: extension of a payroll tax cut, spending on infrastructure, extension of unemployment insurance, and a tax cut to small businesses that hire employees.  The cost?  A reported $447 billion. Note that most of the cost comes through a variety of tax reductions, rather than new spending.  Left unsaid is how to pay for this, given the promise that it won’t add to the deficit.  He has promised to unveil the revenue side of his plan later.  Also conspicuous in its absence was any mention of how many jobs this plan, if implemented, will create.  Evidently the Obama administration has learned their lesson regarding projecting job creation or unemployment levels.








  1. I hope there is something really big here, but I doubt it. How about $1 trillion distributed to the states on an population basis? How about a making the Interstate Highway a toll road and using the proceeds to repair federal roads and bridges, especially Route 125?

    I doubt this will be a “Give ’em hell Barack” speech.

  2. Yep, there was some HST. But I dont think he put enough pressure on the Republicans. They needed to be put more on the defensive. But as good a speech as he is given in a long time. He has the high ground. Can he hold it?

  3. I, too, thought he was over-reaching with the energy and the emotion.

    One of the friends I watched it with said Obama was trying to show the American People just how fired up he was about creating jobs by being, well, fired up. Still stinging from the belief he’s doing nothing, he was attempting to show how engaged and involved he is by being energetic. We all agreed it was too much and oddly at ends with the importance of the occasion.

    Another friend of mine wondered aloud how much sugar he had had beforehand. “Just let him run around the Chamber for a minute or two. He’ll settle down and be much more Presidential afterward.”

    We also felt like we’ve heard this speech before. Maybe even a few times. Had it been shorter and offered more than platitudes or alluded to more info coming (I guess more details will come on the 19th) and taken out a few of those Pass This Bill Nows — I thought it came dangerously close to pleading and/or begging –, it could have been more effective. I just think he overshot the I’m Going to Fight for You angle and talked way, way too much.

    And for a man who’s dangerously close to being considered all talk and no action, it may not have been a helpful speech in the end.

    As for Hillary, she was probably thinking ‘Dude, chill out … and what in the hell are you suggesting? THAT’S not how to fix the economy! Sheesh!’

  4. Hi there

    I haven´t listened to pundits, read the papers…I came straight here. I have been so disappointed in Obama for so long…want Hillary, even liked Huntsman….but last night I liked Obama. I don´t get all the comments about a suger rush…I think the American people who watched it need to hear WE MUST PASS THIS BILL NOW…whether for political gain but hopefully for the economy. He had some good lines…especially the elections are 14 months away but the people who put us here don´t have 14 months! Part President, part candidate…I know he did better than I expected.

    Also, my poor Hillary looked TERRIBLE. I am afraid she doesn´t have the energy to challenge him!

    I also thought there was plenty of enthusiasm in the room…..Of course the Republicans weren´t going to be stomping and cheering. Boehner looked like he was sucking on a lemon.

    I don´t think he was over the top Matt and you know I have not been a fan of his for quite some time. Let´s see what happens next week.


  5. Sally,

    As I noted in today’s blog posting, I think some of my aversion to his tone was because it evoked not so fond memories of a famous Carter speech. But as I acknowledged, this is mostly a style issue, and there’s no accounting for taste, is there? I suspect quite a few people shared your view that the tone was quite appropriate.

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