President Obama tonight seemed simultaneously angry and nervous as he rushed through a speech that was transparently not worthy of a joint session of Congress. His great idea: Cobble together a mish-mash of old ideas (infrastructure spending, a payroll tax cut) and pay for it later, by asking the debt commission to come up with additional deficit reductions later, preferably by hiking taxes on the rich. The second half of the speech was a heated campaign rally aimed at a cartoon version of his future opponent.

The meat of his speech went like this:

I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It’s called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans – including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything.

The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for the long-term unemployed. It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away.

Everyone here knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin. And you know that while corporate profits have come roaring back, smaller companies haven’t. So for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for “job creators,” this plan is for you.

Pass this jobs bill, and starting tomorrow, small businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or raise workers’ wages. Pass this jobs bill, and all small business owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year. If you have 50 employees making an average salary, that’s an $80,000 tax cut. And all businesses will be able to continue writing off the investments they make in 2012.

It’s not just Democrats who have supported this kind of proposal. Fifty House Republicans have proposed the same payroll tax cut that’s in this plan. You should pass it right away.

Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America. Everyone here knows that we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over this country. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world.

In other words, pass it because I need it, I want it and I will go around the country campaigning against you if you don’t. (“And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country.”)

It’s all paid for, you see: “The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next ten years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I’m asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act. And a week from Monday, I’ll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan – a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run.” Umm. I guess it’s not paid for now, but if in the future we cut spending or raise taxes it will be paid for.

Well, this got applause from the Republicans:“Now, I realize that some of you have a different theory on how to grow the economy. Some of you sincerely believe that the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations.” But that was the set up for the parade of straw men:

. I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe that’s a race we can win.

In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone’s money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own – that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America.

You get the idea. He’d have a point if the Republicans were going to nominate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.).

What was remarkable was the whiff of desperation conveyed by Obama, and the utter lack of interest by the Republicans. The speaker of the House looked bored. The Republicans neither booed nor applauded. No one thinks this grab bag, a mini son of the Stimulus Plan, is going to work. But Republicans must be relieved: Obama said nothing that would either win over independents or exert any pressure on them to pass it.

The speaker of the House released what has to be the shortest statement ever after a joint session: “American families and small businesses are hurting, and they are looking for the White House and Congress to seek common ground and work together to help get our economy back on track. Republicans have laid out a blueprint for economic growth and job creation – our Plan for America’s Job Creators – that focuses on one thing: removing government barriers to private-sector job growth. The proposals the President outlined tonight merit consideration. We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well. It’s my hope that we can work together to end the uncertainty facing families and small businesses, and create a better environment for long-term economic growth and private-sector job creation.”

In other words, you wasted our time for this?

More on Obama’s jobs speech from PostOpinions

Milbank: President Irrelevant

Meyerson: Good plan, good vision, good politics

Robinson: Obama stands up to the GOP

Dionne: The president goes big

Stromberg: Obama poised to slam GOP