Anyone who follows politics knows that “last week” referred to the
upset election of a Republican to the Massachusetts Senate seat of the
late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Voters there said they wanted to send a
“message” to Washington: We still want change.
In his speech
Wednesday, Obama sought to reseize the change mantle, and pushed back
on the notion that he was naïve to think he could change the way
“Now, I'm not naïve,” he said. “I never thought
that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony –
(laughter) – and some postpartisan era.”
Obama blamed both
parties for feeding divisions that are “deeply entrenched” and pointed
out that philosophical differences represent the essence of democracy.
what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is
Election Day,” he continued. “We can't wage a perpetual campaign where
the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines
about the other side – a belief that if you lose, I win.”
promised to renew his efforts to reach out to Republicans, noting that
this week he is addressing a meeting of the House Republicans. He
suggested monthly meetings with the Democratic and Republican
“I know you can’t wait,” he said to laughter as he glanced at the Republican side of the House chamber.
last week’s Massachusetts shocker, Obama’s first State of the Union was
to be a different affair. He expected to have finished comprehensive
healthcare reform – if not signed, at least passed in its final version
through both houses of Congress. Healthcare was to be the crowning
achievement of Obama’s first year in office, and in the State of the
Union address, he was going to start the selling process – explaining
to a skeptical public what it would do for them.
The loss of
the Massachusetts seat meant the loss of the Democrats’ 60-seat
supermajority in the Senate, the number of votes needed to halt a
So instead, a chastened Obama went before the joint
session of Congress and the American people, and accepted blame. He
acknowledged how the complexity of the reform had made Americans
“I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people,” Obama said.