After a summer of stalemate and partisan division, the president will ask Congress to move on and try to lift himself above the fray
In his Thursday night speech, President Obama seeks a reset, a fresh start after the sorry spectacle of the recent debate over raising the debt ceiling.
For him, his address to a joint session of Congress is about much more than the legislative initiatives he will champion. Most of those have already been outlined in previous speeches. Instead, the White House sees the speech as the best path to move the president, finally, out of the dark shadow cast over everyone in Washington by the messy debt debacle.
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The speech is in part a recognition of the damage done by the fight that ended Aug. 2, when the president signed legislation raising the ceiling. The 37 days between then and this address have included one economic body blow after another--a downgrading of the nation's credit rating, plunging consumer confidence, a dismal jobs report, a volatile stock market, and a renewed European crisis. And the voters at home have rendered a solid verdict of disgust with Democrats and Republicans, the White House and Congress.
Democrats familiar with the president's plans who spoke on condition of anonymity said Obama will call for Washington to move on, past what they call a tough summer, past the self-inflicted wounds of the debt debate and past political unforced errors. To do that, he hopes to separate himself from Congress--particularly from a Republican-controlled House that already has declared hostility to most of the initiatives in the Obama agenda. He wants to show that he learned a lesson from the debt debate, that he agrees with the public that Washington should focus more on the issues that matter to the country and stop the partisan theatrics.