The substance of President Obama’s State of the Union address seemed to work quite well. Obama has taken the liberal advice to hold firm on financial reform. He insisted that large banks pay back their bailout and, unbelievably, Re-publicans sat on their hands.
Obama effectively projected his personality, often to the detriment of the opposition. He gently laughed at the GOP’s refusal to applaud his tax cuts.
Obama’s closing flourish served a double purpose. Pu-tatively, he was urging Amer-ica to remember its greatness and press on in the face of ad-versity. The message seemed also to be aimed at his fellow Democrats, who have suc-cumbed to utter panic.
For most of the last year, liberals have been berating the administration for things that weren’t its fault. Rhetoric and “leadership” can go only so far in the face of structural realities — Obama can’t turn Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., into a liberal. But we’ve finally reached a moment where these intangible qualities do matter. Stemming the Demo-cratic panic was the primary task of this speech, and I bet it succeeded
— Jonathan Chait, The New Republic
So much for all of that Washington talk about a mid-course change of political di-rection. If President Obama took any lesson from his party’s recent drubbing in Massachusetts, and its decline in the polls, it seems to be that he should keep doing what he’s been doing, only with a little more humility, and a touch more bipartisanship.
That’s our reading of his lengthy State of the Union ad-dress, which mostly repack-aged the president’s first-year agenda in more modest politi-cal wrapping. “Our admini-stration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved,” he said, in his most notable grace note.
He also showed more will-ingness to engage with Re-publicans than he or his party have shown during the last year of bending to the left on Capitol Hill. But whether this outreach is anything more than rhetoric will depend on a change of policy. And on that score, we heard mostly what Democrats used to say about George W. Bush and Iraq: Stay the course.
—Wall Street Journal editorial