By the way, anyone who tells you that the State of the Union speech had a "conciliatory" tone is obviously working from the prepared text.
It's not just that -- as The Wall Street Journal's blog notes -- the prepared text had Bush congratulating "the Democratic majority" but Bush actually congratulated "the Democrat majority." (Referring to the opposition party as "the Democrat Party" has been a wingnut tic for a generation.) It's the fact that he delivered the vast majority of the speech in his now-familiar hectoring, berating tone, implying that we'd damn well better see the world his way and do as he says. He has some nerve doing this, given the fact that he's had way for six years and has run the country into a ditch.
Bill Clinton delivered six of these speeches to opposition Congresses, one just after being impeached, and he managed to maintain a "happy warrior" tone throughout, an enthusiasm for the idea of getting things done. Bush -- childish enough to like the idea of undermining the graciousness of what his speech shop wrote for him about Nancy Pelosi with a code-word cheap shot at her party -- rarely if ever seems like a guy who simply wants to succeed (or wants America to succeed); it's always vitally important to him that Democrats either bend to his will or fail.
That's why Jim Webb's hard-hitting Democratic response hit the right note. Webb was responding to the actual president we've had for six years: the sullen, stubborn Bush. Democrats now know that there's never any possibility of compromising with Bush, never a chance at dialogue, and Webb is just the guy to deliver that message:
Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.
This is called "fighting fire with fire."
...And no, I'm not saying Webb and Bush are exactly analogous. Webb's has been an honorable life; Bush hasn't done anything right in his life, ever, except win status for himself. And Webb's challenge to Bush genuinely seemed to be uttered in sorrow -- he doesn't seem to savor the prospect of vanquishing his opponent, unlike Bush.