WASHINGTON — President Obama said Wednesday night that leaders in Washington face a “deficit of trust,” as he used his first State of the Union address to try to restore public confidence in his administration and to convince the American people that he is intensely focused on the issues that concern them most: jobs and the economy.
In a nationally televised speech before a joint session of Congress, Mr. Obama appealed for an end to the “tired old battles” that have divided the country and stalled his legislative agenda. With his top priority, a health care overhaul, on hold in the wake of the recent Republican Senate victory in Massachusetts, he had a pointed warning for both Democrats and Republicans.
“To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills,” Mr. Obama said. “And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well.”
His tone was colloquial, even relaxed; at one point he joked that the bank bailout was “about as popular as root canal.” But at the same time Mr. Obama struck a defensive note, reminding the nation yet again that he inherited a mountain of problems and insisting that, one year after he took office, “the worst of the storm has passed.”