Tough summer for the president. A myriad of factors have his approval rating now well below 50 percent. The primary cause is his damn-the-torpedoes, full-steam-ahead attitude on three major initiatives. Critics and supporters alike note that health care reform, cap-and-trade and the stimulus bill are each enough in their own right to occupy a good portion of any president’s first term. Try all three together and … well, you get what we have now. He needs a win — desperately. Which is the reason for his just-announced televised speech to Congress, an effort to wrest the debate back in his favor. But what it is, really, is simply another test, or higher hurdle, of his admittedly superior communication skills. Reagan had it, as did Obama during his campaign. But in his tenure thus far, he has yet to translate this talent into meaningful political action beyond global good will. We know (for the most part) what’s in the plan. So it’s not as if he’ll be using the speech to announce some grand new design. So if that’s the case, he’ll be selling what’s already out there; already known. Which is why it will be about pure showmanship, and whether or not his charisma can carry the day. If he pulls it off, and somehow escapes what could easily be his administration’s Waterloo, it will be something at which to marvel, no matter which side of the debate you back. Either way, I’ll be watching.
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