Nicely Done, Mr. President

Well, there’s a reason he’s president and not Hillary Clinton or John McCain.

Barack Obama handled himself with great aplomb, using his opening statement to lay out the problem and what his answers are. And with each question–and none of the questions were total boners, so score one for the press–the president managed to show a command of the issues and an analytic mind. Wisely, he kept coming back to the point that doing nothing is not really an answer and that tax cuts alone are not enough.

Of course, the contrast with George W. Bush couldn’t have been more striking. Obama was comfortable with the long answer and the long question. There was no bristling over the Biden question but a good-natured response that seemed at once to put his Number Two to stop mouthing off so much but also an explanation of how they’re trying to get it right.

I thought the tone towards Republicans was probably just right. Some on the left will probably wish he was a little more Republican bashing but that’s not his style and he got his jabs in without becoming overly partisan.

For liberals who thought Obama had lost his way, that he’d conceded too much in the name of bipartisanship, that he’d been outflanked by Mitch McConnell, that he’d lost all the momentum, tonight should have been reassuring, a reminder of the power of the presidency to reset the debate and also to the enduring skills of Barack Obama.

Now comes more road show–Peoria, Florida. Those events won’t command the audience that tonight’s press conference did. But each visit outside of Washington illustrating the plight of the economy and going over the heads of the press and politicians should help Obama guide the debate in this final week.

Beyond that, a week from today, we’re likely to be on the verge of passed stimulus package and then we’ll be into health care and budget season and, of course, trying to see if any of this is working. Tonight, Obama was able to mention at a couple of junctures that he inherited this mess. True enough. But he’ll need to start showing results. Hopefully tomorrow’s Treasury program announcement will be soothing to the roiled markets. We’ll see.

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