Many of the proposals in Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan had been previewed before he stepped in front of a joint session of Congress around 7 pm eastern time. But his aggressive tone was something new — and unexpected.
“I am sending Congress a plan that you should pass right away,” Obama urged at the start of the address. It was a sign of things to come as he time and again called on Congress to “pass this bill...right away.”
At the speech’s conclusion, Obama issued a clear warning to those who would stand in the way of the bill; “You should pass it,” he said. “And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country.”
At times, the aggressiveness of Obama’s tone seemed to be a mismatch for the actual meat and potatoes of the speech, which was larded with proposals aimed at the ideological middle.
But, the tone of the speech will be the story — and will almost certainly define how both parties react to it.
For Democrats, the speech was a revelation — a glimpse of “Obama as fighter” that many within his own party have felt had been lacking since he took office in 2009.
For Republicans, the speech will be viewed through the lens of the 2012 campaign, an attempt by the President to reset the political calculus on the economy and put the ball firmly in their court.
For independents, the speech won’t likely leave that much of a mark. With the economy still stumbling, those not closely affiliated with either party are likely to wait and see whether things get better, worse or stay the same over the next few months. No single speech — no matter how good or bad — will change that reality.
To the extent that the speech has a lasting impact then, it will be to harden — or at least more clearly delineate — the lines of disagreement between Democrats and Republicans on the economy.
The takeaway? Obama was anything but the compromiser-in-chief tonight. He was an aggressive advocate for action and someone who might not pick a fight but certainly wouldn’t back away from one.
Republicans will, almost certainly, respond in kind. One example: In the middle of Obama’s speech, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney debuted a new website called www.obamaisntworking.com.
What that means is an uncertain legislative future for Obama’s jobs package and an even more high stakes fight heading into 2012 about who owns the economy — and why.
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