George Stephanopoulos, ABC News
I...think this might have been the most emotional speech I've ever seen President Obama give. He was right on the edge of anger, it seemed, at times, especially when he was rebutting some of the charges made about his plan. And I don't think I've ever seen him get caught up emotionally in the way he did in those final couple of paragraphs, where there was even a catch in his voice -- not even in his inaugural address in January. This is very close to President Obama's heart. (ABC TV)
E.J. Dionne, Washington Post
But for all of the details, the most striking aspect of the address may have been its call to battle: The days of taking incoming fire without any return volleys are over. [...]
It seemed as if a politician who had been channeling the detached and cerebral Adlai Stevenson had discovered a new role model in the fighting Harry Truman. For the cause of health-care reform, it was about time.
Ed Kilgore, The New Republic
Many observers will focus on the style rather than the substance of the speech: the president was obviously passionate as well as wonky, and very emotional in his wind-up tribute to the late Senator Kennedy. Even though I didn't think coming in that he had to move public opinion, he may have actually done that. But if nothing else, he's set the stage for positive action in Congress, laid down the markers he needed to lay down, and in general, regained some serious momentum for health care reform.
Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic
A masterful speech, somehow a blend of governance and also campaigning. He has Clinton's mastery of policy detail with Bush's under-rated ability to give a great speech. But above all, it is a reprise of the core reason for his candidacy and presidency: to get past the abstractions of ideology and the easy scorn of the cable circus and the cynicism that has thereby infected this country's ability to tackle pressing problems. This was why he was elected, and we should not be swayed by the old Washington and the old ideologies and the old politics. He stands at the center urging a small shift to more government because the times demand it.
Ezra Klein, Washington Post
Thought this was Obama's most effective policy speech by far. This is not a format he's done very well at in the past.
Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo
Taken together I thought President Obama did a solid job laying out the essential elements of his reform, rebuking the liars and laying out some beginnings of an elevating vision of just what this whole effort is about.
Just what the effect will be, I find it difficult to predict. In part that is because so much of the pushback over August (not withstanding reasonable policy disagreements with the broad outlines we know of Obama's reform) has been a hash of paranoia, organized lying and militant frivolity that I'm not sure it's an easy thing to judge the direction of this in anything approaching rational terms.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
I've been here for a decade and a half, it's the best speech I've ever heard to a Joint Session. It had a sense of history but a focus about moving forward. It was as specific as it needed to be.
Rachel Maddow, MSNBC
The president gave what I think is the only full, basically formal, at length defense of liberalism and defense of the idea of government for the people's good, in ideological terms. It's the most ideological I've ever heard him be and I think liberals will be happy.
Karen Tumulty, Time
The White House promised more detail tonight, and in that sense. the speech delivered--if only to make more explicit many of the things that Obama has only tacitly dealt with before. But it was a move that was badly needed at this moment. Within the House Chamber, he has provided the guidance that lawmakers have been begging for. But the real question is this: Has Obama provided the reassurance it will take to bring back the rest of the country?
John Nichols, The Nation
What Americans who have waited "nearly a century" for reform were left with was the prospect that the "great unfinished business of our society" -- as the late Edward Kennedy described the pursuit of universal health care in a last letter to Obama -- might remain unfinished under a president who means well but does not necessarily fight well.
David Corn, Mother Jones
The speech did put Obama center-stage in the health care show. But the words will dissipate quickly. Politicians and pundits will not be quoting them next week. What matters now is how the president and his aides handle the ongoing deal-making. Obama has demonstrated he can make swell use of the bully pulpit--even if this exhibition came perhaps late. But with this speech, he probably set up the final stretch as best he could. Now Obama has to wrestle with the politicians of Capitol Hill and make good on all those powerful sentiments--to define the character of the country and the character of his presidency.
Paul Begala, CNN
The harder work will come not under the kleig lights, but behind the scenes. Pres. Obama will need to twist lots of congressional arms to pass his plan. But tonight he fired a shot across the bow of some of the self-professed fiscal conservatives. He decried how the Bush tax cuts, the Bush war in Iraq and the Bush prescription drug plan helped explode the deficit, squandering the Clinton surplus and plunging us deep in debt. No one who voted for that unholy trinity -- and a whole lot of Blue Dogs did -- can credibly oppose Obama's health reforms on fiscal grounds. Let's hope he drives that point home even more powerfully when he meets with moderate Democrats in private.
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