A joint session of Congress might not have been the perfect setting for Barack Obama's health care reform speech last night, writes Washington Post critic Tom Shales. All that "pomp, circumstance, and folderol," including 16 minutes just to get to the lectern, may have led voters to change the channel. Yet for those who watched, Obama came across as a "bright, ambitious young president up against the stodgy old defenders of a corrupt status quo"—a Jimmy Stewart figure in the halls of power.
Halfway through his address, Obama deftly slapped down misconceptions—"lies," he said—about his reform plans, including the notorious Sarah Palin "death panel" hallucination, Shales points out. But it was at the speech's closing, when he quoted the late Ted Kennedy, that his address "achieved a certain greatness, or at least an admirable eloquence and fervor," writes Shales. Yet the president's biggest win last night, after weeks of bad press, Shales notes, was just to come across as fresh-faced and inspiring: Mr. Obama Goes to Washington.