Response to President Obama's Speech

This was anything but a typical speech by a president before a joint session of Congress. There was an effortless eloquence that was a sharp contrast with former president George W. Bush's oratory. The optimistic beginning, the almost stern middle and the uplifting end made for a tight coherence that differed from former president Bill Clinton's hour-plus litanies of programs big and small. The calls for bipartisanship were underscored by a remarkable moment right after the speech: As President Obama made his way off the dais, he stopped to hug Tom Coburn, a senator from Oklahoma and his friend. The same Tom Coburn who is as conservative as any member of Congress.

But for all that, I could not stop thinking about the substantive challenges ahead. We currently have neither the answers nor the money to solve all the immediate and long-term problems pending. We have a president with the ambition and talent to take them on. Can he find the answers, reconcile massive spending today with the need for fiscal discipline tomorrow and somehow conquer the dysfunction that still permeates the political system?

Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at AEI.

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