I don't know how many people stayed tuned in to watch the whole hour-plus of this speech, counting intro and so on. But, once again among his major addresses, it will bear long-term study for its range, tone, and clarity:
- Conciliatory: You Republicans want to talk about tort reform? Let's hear your ideas.
- Tough: When you tell lies, we will call you out.
- Clarifying: For the first time ever, I felt as if I glimpsed a "larger idea" behind the Obama plan.
- Big picture: The role-of-government soliloquy at the end, including the connection to the moral and social-contract histories of Social Security and Medicare.
- Emotional, sans schmaltz: As he got ready for the end, I feared that he would tell the story of all the Lenny Skutnik figures in the First Lady's box. Instead, he told Ted Kennedy's story, with allusions only to Kennedy's Republican friends.
- Simple performance dynamics: Well delivered, including at crucial points talking over the applause to keep the rhythm going.
- Manners: Will it pay off for the Republicans to have booed him and, in the case of Rep. "Gentleman Joe" Wilson of South Carolina, to have yelled "you lie!" at the President? We'll see. Update: An ActBlue site supporting an opponent to Wilson raised more than $25,000 within three hours of his outburst. Via Simon Owens.
There will come a time when Barack Obama cannot pull himself out of pinch with a big speech. And obviously we don't know how this debate will turn out yet. But he hasn't fallen short on the big-speech front yet. More tomorrow.