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Times Approves of Obama's 'Punchy Tone' and 'Politically Moderate Proposals'

Mark Landler likes what he heard, even though the markets didn't: "Mixing politically moderate proposals with a punchy tone, President Obama challenged lawmakers on Thursday to 'pass this jobs bill'...To keep the proposals from adding to the swelling federal deficit, Mr. Obama also said he would encourage a more ambitious target for long-term reduction of the deficit....he eschewed his trademark soaring oratory in favor of a plainspoken appeal for action, stiffened by a few sarcastic political jabs."

President Obama's jobs speech led Friday's New York Times, the paper portraying his $447 billion melange of payroll tax cuts and infrastructure spending portrayed as 'Seeking a Tax Cut and Spending as Stimulus.'

Reporter Mark Landler had previously commiserated with President Obama over 'frustrating,' 'unreasonable' Republican 'intransigence' in a Times podcast in July, and on Friday offered support for Obama's latest 'moderate' big-spending dreams (accompanied by typically vague ideas of actually paying for it all).

Mixing politically moderate proposals with a punchy tone, President Obama challenged lawmakers on Thursday to 'pass this jobs bill' - a blunt call on Congress to enact his $447 billion package of tax cuts and new government spending, designed to revive a stalling economy and his own political standing.

Speaking to a joint session of Congress, Mr. Obama ticked off a list of measures that he emphasized had been supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the past. To keep the proposals from adding to the swelling federal deficit, Mr. Obama also said he would encourage a more ambitious target for long-term reduction of the deficit.

'You should pass this jobs plan right away,' the president declared over and over in his 32-minute speech, in which he eschewed his trademark soaring oratory in favor of a plainspoken appeal for action, stiffened by a few sarcastic political jabs.

Landler eventually dabbled with political reality, though still portrayed the president as dusting himself off and getting back in the game.

For Mr. Obama, burdened by the lowest approval ratings of his presidency, the address crystallized the multiple challenges he faces, among them reviving a torpid economy with a Republican House that, however receptive some of its leaders appeared Thursday, has staked out a relentlessly confrontational course with the White House. The president must also shake off a perception, after so many speeches on the economy, that he has not delivered on the promise of his oratory.

After weeks on the defensive, however, Mr. Obama seemed to get off his back foot. He framed the debate over the economy as a tug-of-war between mainstream American values and a radical, antigovernment orthodoxy that holds that 'the only thing we can do restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone's money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they're on their own.'

Landler treated Obama's vagueness on how to pay for his spending as a middling detail.

The president insisted that everything in the package would be paid for by raising the target for long-term spending cuts to be negotiated by a special Congressional committee. He did not go through the arithmetic, but said he would send a detailed proposal to Congress in a week. Senior White House officials said the amount of increased spending cuts would hinge on how much of the plan gets through Congress.

Landler followed up, reporting on Obama's speech in Richmond, Va., Friday morning on the Times' website:

On Friday, the White House was basking in positive reviews of Mr. Obama's spirited performance on Capitol Hill, in which he presented a plan that was more robust than had been generally expected, as well as forecasts from economists that his mix of tax cuts and new spending would spur growth and appreciably reduce the jobless rate.

Actually, the markets don't seem to be as positive about the speech; as the Times reported Friday morning, stocks are down sharply as of noon.

The Times didn't fact-check Obama's speech the way it did the G.O.P. debate, but the Associated Press did: 'President Barack Obama's promise Thursday that everything in his jobs plan will be paid for rests on highly iffy propositions. It will only be paid for if a committee he can't control does his bidding, if Congress puts that into law and if leaders in the future - the ones who will feel the fiscal pinch of his proposals - don't roll it back.'