Three Challenges for President Obama Tonight

By Theresa Cook

Feb 24, 2009 7:46am

Three tasks President needs to accomplish tonight in his address to a joint session of Congress:

1) Explain where we are

This is a tough rhetorical challenge for the president because he needs to explain the gravity of the situation we’re in yet not convey pessimism and that our best days are behind us.

Administration sources say the President will express confidence that the nation can work through this mess, but also that he knows it’s not going to happen without some tough decisions.

2) Explain short term solutions

Administration sources say the president will take this opportunity to talk in much more global way about the economy; that the stimulus is just one piece of the puzzle. He’ll need to explain the housing bill, opening up credit markets, stabilizing the financial system, and regulatory reform.

This will need to include his explanations as to why the government is obtaining shares of banks like Citigroup and Bank of America even as his administration says the nationalization of the banks is not its goal.

There is a lot of uncertainty — especially on Wall Street — about of the administration’s ultimate goals on some of these issues and he will need to offer clarity.

Administration sources say he will convey why we have to do what we have to do and how we have to do it together.

3) Explain the road ahead

Here the president will need to not only talk about long term goals like education, health care, energy, but also some of the tougher choices ahead in terms of reducing the deficit, Social Security reform, and getting control over the budget process — matters that require discipline and difficult decisions.

He will also need to explain why his short term prescription — tax cuts and spending increases — are the exact opposite f his long term proposals: tax increases and spending cuts.

It’s all a tall order

What do you want to hear from the president tonight?

- jpt

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