Just listen to these two clips back to back; the first is the ending section of Obama's speech last night, and the second is Rachel Maddow interviewing Barney Frank about the speech and events surrounding it.
How long has it been in this country since we were able to have a president make a major speech with actual historical themes in it, analyzing today's issues in the light of long-running discussions in the American political and intellectual tradition? And then have a major talk-show anchor and an elected representative be able to not only pick out the major themes of the speech ("only timidity passes for wisdom"), but discuss them and elaborate on them as well?
I've been called partisan, and indeed I'm a strong supporter of the Democratic party and what it's doing now (with the exception of bank non-regulation). But for me the worst part of the last eight years wasn't just the terrible policy decisions, but the fact that we couldn't seem to have an adult conversation about policy in any form. If you cared about rational discussion of important issues, and you thought that the way we talk about politics matters, you would perforce have to be a Democrat.
So while I hope, and expect, the president's speech to be effective politically, the terms that he lends to the debate, and the elevation of the discussion above what we've gotten so used to hearing, are, for me, equally important; true manna from heaven.