By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – If you hadn’t been paying attention since 2008 you could have gotten a feel for the Obama years from this speech alone. It was eloquent at times, pedestrian at others; passive one moment, aggressive the next. And this increasingly nasty campaign was very much on the president’s mind.

The address included an admission that his 2008 campaign vow to unite a divided nation has gone unfulfilled. “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency – that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” he said.

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Still, the president couldn’t resist this zinger aimed at the Congress: “Some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for thirty years, are sitting in this chamber.”

That drew an audible harrumph from the members.

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After claiming credit for progress on issues like health care reform and economic recovery (“gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either,” he quipped), the president’s address became a ringing defense of his unpopular foreign policy, and a slap at his harshest Republican critics. “Our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians,” he said. “That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.” (Donald Trump, call your office.)

And at times the speech was an emotional plea for rejection of some of the more caustic Republican campaign rhetoric: “We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion… That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.”

If nothing else, the president proved at least one thing tonight. He may be a lame duck, showing the wear and tear that afflicts everyone who holds the world’s worst job for this long.

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But for better or worse, he still cares.

Jon Keller