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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About the Author

 

Norman J.
Ornstein
  • Norman Ornstein is a long-time observer of Congress and politics. He is a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal and The Atlantic and is an election eve analyst for BBC News. He served as codirector of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project and participates in AEI's Election Watch series. He also served as a senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission. Mr. Ornstein led a working group of scholars and practitioners that helped shape the law, known as McCain-Feingold, that reformed the campaign financing system. He was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. His many books include The Permanent Campaign and Its Future (AEI Press, 2000); The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, with Thomas E. Mann (Oxford University Press, 2006, named by the Washington Post one of the best books of 2006 and called by The Economist "a classic"); and, most recently, the New York Times bestseller, It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, also with Tom Mann, published in May 2012 by Basic Books. It was named as one of 2012's best books on pollitics by The New Yorker and one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post.
  • Phone: 202-862-5893
    Email: nornstein@aei.org
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    Name: Jennifer Marsico
    Phone: 202-862-5899
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