Obama prepares for speech to Congress

February 24, 2009 10:01:41 AM PST
On Tuesday night, President Obama will address a joint session of Congress. President's Obama's got a tough job: He can't avoid addressing the truths about our hard times. But all sides agree he needs to send Americans to bed tomorrow night convinced they should have hope, not fear about the future.

There's no way the president can avoid noting a stock market in freefall, questions about a nationalized banking system, high unemployment, and the mortgage crisis. Not to mention concerns about how taxpayer dollars are being used to solve the crisis.

"He's got to remind all of us, both in the room and around the country, that these are extraordinarily difficult times. He's got to tell us about job losses in Cherry Hill or in Ocean City or anywhere in this country," Representative John Adler (D) of New Jersey said.

"They need to see government operate efficiently and put the money to good use and to avoid the special interests," Senator Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania said.

Still, lawmakers from our region say the nation wants the president to chart a path to better times.

"That has to be the message, more of a message of hope and uplifting and really appealing to our better angels," Senator Tom Carper (D) of Delaware said.

But even the president's supporters say he has to be careful. Pretty words are not enough.

"Cause hope is not a strategy. We need it, but every crew of every good ship wants to know the captain has a plan that can achieve that hope," Representative Joe Sestak (D) of Pennsylvania said.

Indeed, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say the most hope will be inspired by a leader who presents a vision and plan, and backs them both up with specifics.

"There are probably two, three, or four ways out of the mess we're in. You have to pick one and you've got to decide that's how you're going to proceed," Representative Chaka Fattah (D) of Pennsylvania said.

President Obama has reportedly been thinking a lot about FDR, who famously told a frightened nation, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." According to lawmakers we spoke to, another line from that same speech better describes the mark for Tuesday night: "This nation asks for action and asks for action now."

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