Obama's Appeal: A Test of National Character

Obama's health-care speech was effective. What comes of it will say more about us than about him

Charles Dharapak / AP

President Obama delivers a speech on health care to a joint session of Congress

"Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan," President Obama said at the beginning of his powerful health-care speech to Congress on Sept. 9. It was a sentence that many Americans had been waiting for — quite the opposite of much that has preceded it in this raucous debate — and he proceeded to lay out the elements of health-care reform that he considers essential. He did this clearly, concisely, using language that was mostly jargon-free — a triumph of speechwriting on this mind-numbing issue. It was also a fighting speech. Obama called the talk of...