Live-Blogging The President's Address


9.22 pm. That was some welcome mat. I don't recall a more impassioned welcome - at least since Bush's September 2001 address. You sense even Washington understands the gravity of the moment and want this man to succeed.

9.28 pm. A useful insistence that the foreclosure plan will not help those who bought homes they could never afford. And a nice insistence that the banks won't be bailed out without strings attached and bankers "won't disappear on a private jet". He plays a sober populist - not an easy feat.

9.34 pm. "It's not about helping banks; it's about helping people." No sudden moves; "slowly but surely": very Obama.

9.35 pm. After a slightly rocky start, the man has hit his stride. There's a formality and forcefulness to this address, and a constant nod to bipartisanship and sacrifice:

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession. Given these realities, everyone in this chamber –- Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars.  And that includes me.

9.37 pm. I like the historical references to using crises to make long-term investments: the ability to do two things at once:

In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age.  In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history.

This is lethal politics and strikes me as very much attuned to the mood of the public. And how great it is to have a president refer to American history with intelligence and acuity.

9.46 pm. This president has now pledged to cut the deficit in half by 2012 and to enact healthcare reform in the next year. This is an ambitious man. But again: the way he makes the case is instructive:

I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough.

"Weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation." Elegant and fresh, Favreau.

9.50 pm. The best line so far from the first black president:

Dropping out of high school is no longer an option.  It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.

And it's followed by a proud and passionate defense of family life and parental responsibility:

There is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father.

9.55 pm. Chill, Nancy.

9.57 pm. "For seven years, we have been a nation at war.  No longer will we hide its price." Including the returning coffins?

10.01 pm. And for me, the core reason I supported this man in the end:

Living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger.  And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture.

10.09 pm. As he gathered momentum, the emotional impact increased. The bottom line: "We are not quitters." It was perfectly pitched: a form a liberal patriotism that eschews the kind of politics the American people are sick of. A tour de force.

But look: the politics and rhetoric are superb, but all that matters is whether he can pull this off. The results are all that matter now. He has this moment; it could make him and the rest of us. It could destroy him or us. It's our job in this crisis to support him and to criticize him constructively. We need to rise to the occasion he is rising to. And maybe most of us will.