I wasn’t particularly impressed with President Obama’s speech last night. I thought it was lacking in big ideas and failed to push hard for Congress (and the Senate in particular) to get things done. It was an opportunity for Obama to really chastise Democratic leaders for failing to get legislation done and highlight the role Nelson, Lieberman, Lincoln and Landrieu have played in slowing reform. Not like that was very likely.
My guess is his speech will give him a solid bump. He retreated to a lot of familiar turns of phrase that served him well in the campaign and I’m sure the public will reward him for that in increasingly his already high approval numbers. But I highly doubt Obama’s speech will move the needle up one inch for Democrats in Congress who are up for re-election this year. His speech did nothing to help Democrats maintain their majorities the House and Senate. And I think he and his advisors will live to regret that in hindsight.
Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times, an entertainment reporter with a horrible history of covering political events, has a passable story today that includes a very apt line:
The adage says that in a democracy, people get the government they deserve. Mr. Obama used his time before Congress to posit that, actually, the American people deserve a better legislative branch.
This is undeniably true. While Obama has not displayed the leadership I had hoped he would on key issues like health care reform and labor reform, the fecklessness of Democrats in the Senate (and to a lesser extent, leaders in the House) has been a massive shortcoming during the first year of this administration. I believe President Obama could have done a great deal to change the outcomes in Congress, but at the end of the day, Congress has to do the work too…and they haven’t.