Obama, meanwhile, just smiles his enigmatic smile, a sphinx in the desert of his own concealed purposes — at least for a little while longer. If there is steel beneath that prenaturally calm face, he showed only the barest hint of it at the podium today. Appropriately so, given the occasion and the venue, but this is an arena and a culture that requires much blunter gestures (usually profane ones) to really get a message across.

Delivering that message (and the profanity that goes with it) directly to its intended targets would normally be the White House Chief of Staff’s job. There don’t seem to be many doubts about Rahm Emanuel’s communication skills on that score, even with half a middle finger missing. (If anyone holds the promise of reviving the tough guy liberal mystique, it’s Emanuel, which is why I appreciate the guy — his corporate centrism notwithstanding. If he’s a flawed vessel, so is his boss and his entire party, at least from my political perspective.)

New essay by Billmon, a veteran journalist who ran the late, lamented blog Whiskey Bar, which is always a call for celebration. Via Ben, who writes: “Among many other things, the speech served notice that anyone who thought that Obama’s ‘post-partisan’ tone signaled a tolerance for the legislative monkey-wrenching which is the only thing the GOP seems capable of right now was badly, badly mistaken.”