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Obama Upbeat as He Seeks to Reset Presidency

He hit the reset button, but President Obama waited till the very end of his 70-minute State of the Union Address to do it - at least rhetorically.

"Let's seize this moment to start anew," he declared.

He conceded it's been "a difficult year" at the end of a "difficult decade," but he said "a new year has come (and) a new decade stretches before us."

"We don't quit," he said of America. "I don't quit," he asserted for himself.

As was his game plan, the president sounded decidedly upbeat and hopeful throughout his speech even as he spoke of the failures of his policies and leadership.

"I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people," Mr. Obama said of his unsuccessful efforts so far to overhaul health care coverage.

He acknowledged being unable to deliver in his first year on many of the other changes in policy on which he campaigned.

For many Americans, he said, "change has not come fast enough." He said he knows that "some are frustrated (and) some are angry."

He conceded that unemployment soared higher than he feared as have the budget deficits. But he said that a year after the near meltdown of the financial industry, "the worst of the storm has passed, but the devastation remains."

Above all else he wants to be seen to be aware of and responding to the frustration and anger he detects in America.

"Jobs must be our #1 focus in 2010," he declared, "and that is why I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight.

"People are out of work. They are hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay."

Mr. Obama urged Congress to enact investment and tax breaks for small businesses as a way of boosting the economy and providing an environment in the private sector for expanded hiring.

He also proposed that $30-billion of the funds paid back by bailed out banks be used to help community banks give small businesses "the credit they need to stay afloat."

He renewed his call for enactment of financial regulatory reforms, to keep the nation's banks from nearly plummeting into the abyss of economic collapse.

He said he knows the financial industry's lobbyists will try to block it, but he won't stand for it.

"We cannot let them win this fight," he said. But if they succeed in watering down the financial reform bill he wants, Mr. Obama assured members of Congress he'll veto it.

His push of the reset button does not mean he's abandoning other key items on his agenda. He renewed his commitment to climate change legislation and his education initiatives.

And on health care, he made it clear he's in no way giving up on his objective to overhaul the system of health insurance in America.

He said "the problem is not going away," and he almost begged Congress:

"Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people. Lets get it done. Lets get it done."

He challenged critics of his plan to come up with a better idea, if they had one. House Republican Leader John Boehner raised his hand.

Mr. Obama said he understands the dangers of the continuing rise in annual deficits and the National Debt. He announced his proposal for a 3-year freeze on about an eighth of the federal budget. But some in his audience laughed derisively, when he said that to soften the blow of the freeze, it wouldn't begin until next year.

He said he would try to deliver on one his long-time campaign promises to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. He said it "denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."

Some in the House Chamber applauded, but not the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

And though he accepted some of the blame for the feelings of frustration and anger in the nation, Mr. Obama felt there was blame to be delegated as well.

He denounced lobbyists for "gaming the system" and politicians who "tear each other down" in order get their way. And he also spoke of those whose job it is to assess his performance.

"The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates into silly arguments, and big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away," said the president.

"No wonder there's so much cynicism out there," he said. "No wonder there's so much disappointment."

At the same time he conceded that "democracy in a nation of 300-million people can be noisy and messy and complicated."

When you try when you try to do big things and make big changes, he said, "it stirs passions and controversy. That's just how it is."

And there's never been a reset button for that.

More Coverage:

Obama Vows to Fight for Jobs
Full Text of Obama's Speech
Bob McDonnell: The Government Is "Trying to Do Too Much"
Poll: 83% of Viewers Approve of Obama's Plans
Obama's Speech Leveraged His Strengths
Photos: The State of the Union
Full Video of Obama's State of the Union
Katie Couric's Webcast: Analysis and Interviews
Poll Questions: You Vote on Obama's Plans
Special Report: Obama's 2010 State of the Union

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here:
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