Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tonight, it matters

He has given, by the count I arrived at based on information posted on the White House Web site, 450 speeches since taking the oath of office. This does not include statements, press conferences, interviews or toasts.

My guess is, his remarks at the annual Easter egg roll probably weren’t extensive, considering the attention span of the intended audience. But many of those speeches were in depth policy talks.

It is said by any number of observers that President Obama’s first instinct when confronted by a problem is to give a speech. This is not intended as a compliment by said observers. This night however, before an audience crammed into the chamber of the House of Representatives, is different.

Tonight is President Obama’s first State of the Union speech, an occasion called for in Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution: “He shall, from time to time, give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;”

This speech is seen by many as a moment in which the President will attempt to turn around the slide in political fortunes of his party, his policy agenda in Congress, and ultimately his administration. Some are even starting to talk about President Obama as a one-term President. These people, of course, know nothing about politics. Three years is about a dozen lifetimes away in politics. There will be many successes to buoy the President between now and the next Presidential election, and many failures to deflate his administration. Of more immediate concern are the Congressional elections which are now just over nine months away, and which may prove a disaster for his party unless there is some significant change in public perception. This speech will try to change that perception.

Political reporter Chris Cillizza of The Fix offers a handy “State of the union viewer’s guide.

Along the same lines the Capitol newspaper The Hill gives this preview of the speech: “Obama changes message to revive agenda, help Dems in 2010 races.

We of course, will be watching tonight from the vantage point of -

The Bully Pulpit - Tom


  1. I thought it was an amazing speech. One of the best State of the Union speeches ever, between the oratory and Obama's direction of urging on America.

  2. I am going to be a little less effusive here. The president is a good speaker. That, is his strong point. It is rapidly becoming apparent it is also his weak point. He also made some mistakes, one of which was length.

    A good speech, yes. A great speech, no. More on that later.

  3. I think it was a terrible speech, small and petty. Instead of laying out my points I will (in the interests of time - mine not yours) direct you to Peter Wehner's analysis. I agree with him 100%.

    Before that, allow me to add one thing. This President would be well advised to shut up and lay low for a while. He is over exposed to the point of becoming grating. Recall that when HRClinton became Senator she steadily saw her stock rise. Why? She simply made herself scarce, and only emerged on simple, clear, issues. Absence really can make the heart grow fonder.

  4. Jason - it wasn't small in terms of length, at 7,237 words and an hour and ten minutes total time! It was, in fact too long. The audience had obviously grown tired in the last ten minutes or so.