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Washington Post's Tom Shales: Obama 'Snatched Humility from the Jaws of Hubris'

Washington Post TV writer Tom Shales was glowing for Obama at the keyboard again in his State of the Union review on Thursday. Obama had the ability to "snatch humility from the jaws of hubris." He was as honest and direct as "the guy next door." He was so enthralling, "they could have had a live shot of purple people-eaters watching from Mars and not upstaged Obama."

Here was the first bloom of flowery praise:

Obama does have the ability to snatch humility from the jaws of hubris. While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pontificated about how honored and thrilled she was to be able to introduce the great and wonderful man, the expression on Obama's face, even the cock of his head, suggested he was basking and glowing in the praise.

But later on, in the speech itself, he showed himself to be capable of healthful self-mockery.

After announcing his intention to hold regular weekly meetings with Republican and Democratic leadership, Obama said with a softly sarcastic smile, "I know you can't wait." Earlier he used the same understated tone when he told the crowd: "By now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics."

Obama was so wonderful, thought Shales, that his targets were "pouting" when he attacked:


He attacked the Supreme Court for a recent pro-business decision while the justices sat there, pouting before him. He struck a no-nonsense tone with such declarations as, "I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay." And if lobbyists overly influence the bill, Obama threatened, "I will send it back until we get it right."

There was humility but no remorse in Obama's words or the way in which he delivered them. He hailed and commended American values and seemed also to personify some of them - directness, candor, neighborliness. At moments he was less the man in the White House than the guy next door.

Once or twice during the speech, the pool director cut to a visually thrilling overhead shot of the entire chamber - but the shot wasn't on the screen for very long. Maybe it was thought that the stunning visual threatened to distract the audience from the speech and the man giving it - but really, they could have had a live shot of purple people-eaters watching from Mars and not upstaged Obama.

As a persuasive political speaker, he's got no serious competition.

- Tim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center.