Tough talk

Obama’s Tuesday night address was political hardball

Following Barack ObamaâÄôs Inauguration speech, many were left wanting something more. It came up short of expectations, in the sense that it failed to raise the assembled masses to a rapturous ecstasy. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama stood before the nation and showed a return to form, redemonstrating his capacity for skillful oratory. Although light on the rhetoric and billed as an address on the status of the American economy, the subtext of the speech was intensely political. While campaigning, Obama was fond of saying that he would bring a change to Washington, and this address on our financial âÄúday of reckoningâÄù seemed tailored to bring the message to conservative legislators in the chamber: change has arrived and IâÄôm the boss now. Obama stood before the congress and âÄúwithout exception or equivocationâÄù essentially declared an end to the Bush years. In the space of a few moments, he reiterated his distaste for the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and emphasized that because it has been closed, âÄúAmerica does not torture.âÄù He flatly declared his intention to put war spending on the budget, saying, âÄúFor seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.âÄù He even had the gall to declare his pride over passing âÄúa recovery plan free of earmarks,âÄù a claim that met with a round of boos and harrumphs from the Republican caucus. However, the most memorable line of the evening was ObamaâÄôs statement that âÄúnobody messes with JoeâÄù although he might as well have said, âÄúnobody messes with us.âÄù The address felt more like a victory speech after a complete economic recovery rather than one delivered at its beginning. In fairness, ObamaâÄôs oratorical swagger is not undeserved; the successful passage of the stimulus combined with his relatively high approval ratings have given him the leverage to flex his muscle and talk a tough game. But while he may have brought about a couple significant changes in policy thusfar, heâÄôs still got a long way to go before he can rest on his laurels and will need to scale back to his pledges of bipartisan action if he wants to keep moderate voters sympathetic to his administration. With his first federal budget looming, weâÄôll see just how untouchable Obama thinks he is.