A few years ago, during the 2004 campaign, Josh Marshall defined what he called the "bitch slap theory" of American electoral politics:
One way -- perhaps the best way -- to demonstrate someone's lack of toughness or strength is to attack them and show they are either unwilling or unable to defend themselves -- thus the rough slang I used above. And that I think is a big part of what is happening here. Someone who can't or won't defend themselves certainly isn't someone you can depend upon to defend you.
This has traditionally been a way for Republicans to attack Democrats, but while it remains to be seen how the string plays out, its also a good way to look at how President Obama is trying to set up the GOP via his speech last night.
Republicans have an inane ability to create noise over made up things, ie. "lipstick on a pig" or "death panels". But in combat versus the President they seem to do pretty poorly when pressed into combat in the reality based community.
Last night the President said directly to the Republicans that he's willing to work with them on these issues as long as they check the crazy at the door and come at the issues realistically. As we've seen for the last, oh, 40 years the GOP is tragically incapable of doing so. In fact, their base - unlike the liberal base - rewards them in proportion to how stupid they are. The Republicans still don't see how acting the fool doesn't work with the rest of normal America (they don't laugh people like Sarah Palin out of the room, they think she's a legit contender for not for assistant dog catcher but for the presidency).
That gives the President room to tell America "sensible solutions to grand national problems sold here". And right about now America is well aware that we have some big national problems that need fixing.