There were times during last night's speech when reality seemed suspended: The President's evident sincerity and earnestness were undermined by the caustic laughter that occasionally greeted his comments. At other times, silence met his words. And, in media theory courses across the land, analyses will be done of the number of times he looked to the Republican side of the aisle - he seemed far more concerned with the GOP responses to his remarks than those of his own party. Maybe the spectre of another Joe Wilson moment ("You lie!") had him jumpy.

More seriously, I wonder if his desperation to be liked is compelling him to try to woo his skeptics. Of course, he won't succeed.

It is hard not to like President Obama, at least the persona he projects in such settings as the State of the Union Address. He seems so reasonable.

Yet his policies are those of a man of the Left. It is as though he believes empathy is a substitute for substantive compromise, or that by virtue of patiently listening he can lull his opponents into political somnolence.

The speech, like the Obama presidency, was interwoven with unintended ironies:

** Mr. Obama calls for unity and patriotic oneness but simultaneously calls for open homosexuality in the military in a time of war. He knows this will go nowhere, but throws the political bone to the homosexual lobby anyway. Why? Because he can say he tried (placating a key part of his base) while bearing no real consequence (the measure lifting the ban on gays in the military won't succeed and so, given the relative inattention of the American people to this issue in a time of economic

crisis, there will little political price to pay for Democrats in November).

** He insists on taxpayer-subsidized abortion, resists litigation limits against health care providers and persists on wanting to micro-manage Americans' medical care but urges Republicans to share with him their ideas about health reform - as though they have not already done so myriad times!

** He is all over the map on taxes, calls for yet another commission on entitlement reform (as if the several essential steps were not obvious, especially after many other such reform bills, panels, studies, commissions, select committees, etc.) and rewrites the economic history of the past decade --- and does so with such seeming intensity that one wants to join him in the land of political make-believe.

The President needs to come to terms with some basic realities: People aren't stupid. Politicians aren't children. Civility doesn't mean acquiescence. And facts are stubborn things.