By MAREN WRIGHT
WASHINGTON (Feb. 24, 2009)—President Obama presented a picture of financial penance and sacrifice in his address to Congress Tuesday night, but at least one Maryland congressman heard the hope in the message for fixing the future.
Obama said the economic crisis gripping the nation is its "day of reckoning" for living in the prodigal moment—prizing quick cash and easy credit—while procrastinating on the difficult decisions the future requires. Now those decisions must be made, he said.
"I know that we haven't agreed on every issue thus far," Obama said. "But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months...That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground."
The budget he will submit next week to Congress is a "blueprint for our future" that calls for sacrifices of "worthy priorities for which there are no dollars" and slashing failed programs, from farm subsidies to no-bid defense contracts to Medicare abuses, Obama said.
"We have been uplifted tonight," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, who arguably was the president's earliest, highest profile and most ardent supporter in the state. "I think he has lifted the country and if we work together we can get through this."
Obama didn't "sugar-coat" the problems and said the president's accomplishments thus far have been "simply miraculous."
Obama has "a gift," Cummings said. The president will combine the "very significant trust" he's built up with the American people with his ability to inspire in order to solve the nation's dilemmas.
Capital News Service reporters Megan Miller, Leonard Sparks and Lauren C. Williams contributed to this report.