But politics is about more than good vibes. So under this theory, the speech succeeded because all those good feelings will translate into political capital—the president will get his way in Congress, while cutting out the public as the middleman. Isn’t that right, Rep. Rangel?

Or maybe not. From the Times:

“I don’t think he solved a thing in terms of votes,” Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York, said of Mr. Obama’s speech. “I think he did a lot in changing the atmosphere.”

Hmm. Sometimes, it seems, success is a funny thing.

Greg Marx is a CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.