Paul Greenberg

If you could somehow blur this president's words, smooth them to an even glossier finish, they wouldn't get in the way of his beautiful delivery, the soft jazz of his cadences, the muted rhythms of his performance. All quite lovely, even restful, assuring, soothing. There were no jarring discords in this score, no irksome details about just how his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, was working out, or just how effective all those stimulus packages had been. Those got only a lick and lots and lots of promises.

It was only when you forced yourself to pay attention to the words, the words, the words, and asked what they meant, if anything, that hope faded and change became a thing of the past, forever postponed. As best I could make out the president's meaning through the verbal haze that covered any sharp edges, he was going to do all the things in his next four years in the White House that he had promised to do during the first. Just give him another term -- and be patient.

There was no hint here of what Martin Luther King Jr. used to call the fierce urgency of Now, which would only have interrupted the smooth flow of his rhetoric, and spoil what restaurant critics insist on referring to as the ambience. No meat and potatoes here, only dainty, tasty viands served with his usual assurance. Never fear, the real food, the actual sustenance, the payoff, will come later. Sometime. Someday. Bye and bye, there'll be pie in the sky. Just bear with him.

But just us as justice delayed is justice denied, promises postponed become promises broken. No one, at least no one in authority, dared ask: "Where are the jobs?" The latest unemployment report would arrive next day, like the morning after the night before. But till then, the speaker's voice lulled. And a nice voice it is, like a siren's call.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.