Sooner or later, the day will arrive when I'm not momentarily taken aback when I see Barack Obama and not George Bush in the spotlight, and so it was last night as he delivered his maiden speech to a joint session of Congress.
Considering that Obama needed to be frank about the perilous state of the economy yet try to remain upbeat, he gave a great speech, and it again was so refreshing to be spoken to as adults and not children who must obey their omnipotent leader. But don't tell that to the self-righteous Republicans sitting in the well before him or the class warfare-waging Rick Santellis and other pundits who are slicing and dicing his every word from the weightlessness of their parallel universe.
Obama rammed through massive economic stimulus and bank bailout plans in his first month in office and continues to get high marks from most voters despite his repeated admonitions that there are no quick fixes for a very sick economy. This is because they understand that Bush bequeathed he and them an enormous mess and it's going to take time to get out from under it.
In fact, what the president proposed in what technically was not a State of the Union address with his now familiar professorial, policy-heavy explication will be an undertaking on a scale not seen since FDR's first term in the depths of the Great Depression. Some stuff will simply have to fall by the wayside. There is too much. Just not health-care reform. Please.
Meanwhile, Bobby Jindal's Republican response to the speech was the same tired "government is the problem" crap and ample proof that the Louisiana governor isn't ready for prime time -- let alone the presidency.
While Obama talked at us, Jindal talked down to us. In all, akin to a doctor sending a very sick patient home without treatment but with instructions to call him in 2012.
Where Obama hit the right note was in not simply blaming the mess on the usual suspects, but rather a host of maladies -- chiefly a health-care system on its knees, lousy education system and dependence on oil -- that will have to be fixed if the economy is to be reinvigorated. Oh, and then there are terminally ill banks, a housing market that still hasn't bottomed out, a domestic auto industry possibly in its last throes, and a couple of messy wars.
In short, Obama is proposing contra Jindal that the bleeding be stopped by the government spending its way back to prosperity. Doing that while cutting the federal budget deficit in half, as he promised to do, is very difficult to imagine, but at the same time far harder to imagine the people who got America into this mess having a clue about how to get out of it.
And so while I have great concern about whether the president -- and Congress and the federal government -- are up to the task, and all of the talk about having the audacity to hope again was a little discordant to my ears, the relief I felt that it was Barack Obama and not George Bush speaking on this "day of reckoning" was enormous.