by Todd Beeton, Tue Feb 24, 2009 at 02:57:28 PM EST
President Obama seems to have been struggling with how to strike the right balance between "things will get worse before they get better" realism and "we can overcome any obstacle" optimism. Certainly no one can accuse Obama of having been light on "hope" over the last two years but of late, in the interest of managing expectations for the stimulus package, Obama has at times crossed over from the realm of hope into the land of fear (and received a scolding from Bill Clinton in the process.)
So, tonight, in his first official national address as President (9pm EST), Obama looks poised to strike a far more hopeful note.
But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.
The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.
As you can see, President Obama is using the speech as a virtual love letter to America, which is smart because Gov. Bobby Jindal, in the Republican response to Obama's speech, will accuse the President of what Ben Smith charitably calls "pessimism":
A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said `we may not be able to reverse.' Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover - or that America's best days are behind her.
More accurately, I think it's pretty clear that the Republicans with this speech are cynically going back to the "Obama is not patriotic" well. Hell, the name of Jindal's response is "Americans Can Do Anything." Considering the subtext of the speech, the title might as well be preceded by "Why doesn't Obama believe that..." in parentheses.
The reality is that on substance, Jindal's response will end up expressing what has now become a rather standard Republican position: the expectation (dare I sway hope?) that the stimulus will fail.
"Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It's irresponsible. And it's no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children.
Doesn't get much more pessimistic than that.
Update [2009-2-24 20:7:11 by Todd Beeton]:More excerpts from the President's speech can be found HERE. Here's a graf where Obama pre-empts the coming Republican line of attack by essentially equating hoping Obama's agenda is successful with loving America:
I know that we haven't agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.
Who loves America more now, Jindal!?