Peter Baker summarized my strongest impression, the most striking moment, from last night succinctly in his lede:
By now, President Obama can hardly be under any illusions about the depth of the partisan divide as he seeks to reboot his presidency. Yet he still seemed surprised on Wednesday night when he could not get Republicans to applaud tax cuts.
My impression was that Obama was bold, confident – even cocky. His tone was more conversational than usual – as he treated Congress more as a partner than an audience. Republicans meanwhile demonstrated that they were emboldened and felt vindicated in their obstinacy by last week’s result in Massachusetts. Extrapolating from last night, they seem content to continue to obstruct as much as they can and to take no responsibility for their actions as they try to pass off all the blame for governance onto Obama and the Democrats. They didn’t applaud when Obama talked about taxing the big banks to make up the difference in TARP. They didn’t applaud when Obama talked about fiscal responsibility. They didn’t applaud when he mentioned the tax cuts he had instituted for 95% of Americans (over their objections.) It still remains an open question though as to how much responsibility the public will place on Republicans for obstruction – and how much credit they will give Obama for “fighting the good fight” as well as reaching out to his opponents.
But last night seemed to strike exactly the right tone to me, and to inaugurate the more political season coming.
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