In his jobs speech tonight, President Obama will urge Congress to act by conceeding that though Washington can't do that much to turn the economy around, "We can make a difference." He'll call on Congress to pass his "American Jobs Act" because there's "nothing controversial about" the stuff inside it. "Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans -- including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything," the president will insist. Then, he'll click play on his boombox and blast the Capitol with The Smiths' "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want," and softly sing along, mostly to himself, "Lord knows, it would be the first time." While that last sentence is not true in fact, it's pretty true in spirit. For the record.
We'll be liveblogging the president's speech, and what everyone has to say about it.
9:15p.m.: The general concensus of the night: Obama sounded like an aggressive fighter for liberal ideals of government intervention in the economy, even as he offered moderate proposals like a tax cut on small businesses and incentives to hire veterans. (His most bipartisan gesture was his purplish tie.) He urged Congress to "pass this bill" or "pass it right away" a whole bunch of times, sounding as repetitive as an infomercial for one of those mini-roasters -- "set it... and forget it!"
Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann truly is back to being an amusing afterthought: no one really covered her response to Obama's speech. It seems like just a couple weeks ago, cable news would have jumped at any chance to cover her giving a live speech like this. As cable news giveth, cable news taketh away.
(Photo of Bachmann giving her response via Associated Press.)
9:01p.m.: A surprise guest tonight: David Wu, who resigned from his congressional seat after a string of strange behavior ending in an alleged sexual encounter with a young woman who was a donor's daughter. Wu stayed away from Democratic lawmakers, The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports. But he looked excited to be there.
8:56p.m.: At the National Review, Douglas Holtz-Eakin writes that the speech was "fundamentally mediocre" because Obama's proposals were "warmed-over retreads from previous 'jobs' speeches." Obama offered a plan that Republicans will mostly reject, allowing him to paint them as recalcitrant, Holtz-Eakin writes. But those political tactics "do not do anything to counter the emerging narrative: President Obama is unready to lead."
8:52p.m.: The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza observes that Obama's tone -- aggressive -- didn't really match the content of his speech, which was more centrist. "But, the tone of the speech will be the story -- and will almost certainly define how both parties react to it," he writes. "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."
8:38p.m.: What people really care about: Football-related tweets are now overwhelming speech-related tweets.
8:37p.m.: David Frum picks out an interesting detail from Obama's speech: "A cunning political move in prez speech - expedite payments to federal contractors. A lot of small biz ears pricked up at that."
8:35p.m.: More reactions are coming in. Politico's Ben Smith observes that "after a summer of deficit obsession, it seems worth noting that the speech moved -- cautiously, and to a degree on GOP turf -- back toward the notion that the state of the economy demands large-scale government action." Smith says that though the size is on the level of the 2009 stimulus --$447 billion -- the form -- "tax cuts and deliberately centrist programs -- still represents a kind of middle ground." Right now, what's good for the economy is good for Obama, Smith notes.
8:28p.m.: Michele Bachmann is delivering her response to Obama's speech, but no one is covering it live -- not MSNBC, not Fox News, not CNN. (It's not live on her website, either.) She's fallen so far since August 13, the day she won the Ames, Iowa, straw poll.
8:23p.m.: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says the White House made "zero" changes to Obama's speech after watching the Republican debate Wednesday night.
8:21p.m.: Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann will give her response to Obama's speech. "Even if the president's plan passes, we already know it will fail," she plans to say.
8:12p.m.: House Speaker John Boehner says Obama's proposals "merit consideration," but he has to check out Republican ideas too.
7:57p.m.: The Washington Post's Felicia Somnez tweets this photo of the spot where Michele Bachmann will deliver her response to Obama:
Looks like anticipation is not so high.
7:51p.m.: First reactions: The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza says it was a "VERY aggressive/forceful speech that felt at (many) times like the 2012 campaign has begun in earnest." Political Wire's Teagan Goddard agrees, saying it will "fire up his supporters and draw lines of contrast with Republicans" but do "nothing to end gridlock." And the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein says the address "seems delivered for the progressive blogosphere."
7:43p.m.: Obama promises to campaign for his jobs plan. "You should pass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country."
7:39p.m.: Obama: "I know there's been a lot of skepticism about whether the politics of the moment will allow us to pass this jobs plan -- or any jobs plan." (Guilty!) "Already, we're seeing the same old press releases and tweets flying back and forth. Already, the media has proclaimed that it's impossible to bridge our differences." (Again!) But, Obama says, the election is 14 months away, and the American economy can't wait that long for all the tweeting to cool off before Washington does something to fix it.
7:37p.m.: National Journal's Marc Ambinder suspects that Obama is going on and on -- instead of stopping after describing his plan -- so voters will associate his jobs plan with optimism. Sample eagle-soaring fireworks-exploding line:
"Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and envy of the world. But there has always been another thread running throughout our history -- a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation."
7:32p.m.: Talking Points Memo's Benjy Sarlin catches a Biden first pump.
7:26p.m.: Obama has said "pass this jobs bill" eight times.
7:20p.m.: The president calls for money to fix up 35,000 public schools. To make sure the money is spent well, "we’ll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria: how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it would do for the economy. This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat."
7:17p.m.: Obama: "for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for 'job creators,' this plan is for you." The camera pans to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, looking grim but moisturized. Obama promises that his jobs bill will give a small business with 50 employees an $80,000 tax cut.
7:09p.m.: Obama: Regular people don't care about politics -- unlike reporters, who keep asking what this speech will mean for me. Interesting opener.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza says Obama is going meta. Is he the first president to go meta before a joint session of Congress? An appeal to the youth vote, perhaps.
7:05p.m.: Michelle Obama is wearing a fuchsia silky sleeveless dress tonight Though the First Lady has become a fashion icon for some, Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld is unimpressed. "I love Madame Obama, but not in terms of clothes. I like her face, the cleverness of her face. Her face is stronger than the clothes."
6:58p.m.: Ric Andersen tweets that this will be the first event like this since the House page program was killed. Will cameras pan over empty seats once filled by kids?
6:55p.m.: National Journal's Marc Ambinder: "At 7:00 pm I will Tweet about two things NOT in the speech tonight that might surprise some folks." Tease!
6:52p.m.: Obama will explain that "Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers." And The Wall Street Journal's Danny Yadron says Obama's effort to woo business leaders is clear from the list of people who'll be sitting with Michelle Obama during the speech. Among the guests will be GE head Jeffrey Immelt, AOL cofounder Steve Case, and American Express chair Kenneth Chenault.
6:40p.m.: This speech has build a narrative, The New Yorker's John Cassidy writes. "Confronted with the deepest economic slump since the nineteen-thirties, any President would have struggled. Still, to put it gently, Obama's public utterances haven't always helped him. One of the most disappointing aspects of his tenure has been the failure to present the measures he has taken, sometimes reluctantly, such as supporting his Republican predecessor's bank bailout, as part of a coherent narrative confronting the anti-government rhetoric of the Tea Party/G.O.P."