Opinion: Speech shows Trump can be ‘presidential’ after all


Tuesday night proved once again the biggest impediment to Trumpism is none other than Donald Trump.

The proof was in the negative: The president’s first address to a joint session of Congress was most striking for its departure from so much of his usual rhetoric, and consequently the very different way in which it was received. The substance was pretty much the same as what we’ve become accustomed to hearing from Trump: Build the wall, rebuild our infrastructure, enforce our immigration laws, enforce law and order domestically, cut taxes, make trade more “fair,” destroy ISIS but otherwise take a step back from the world stage, put people back to work.

President Donald Trump arrives Tuesday to deliver an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo - Pool/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump arrives Tuesday to deliver an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo – Pool/Getty Images)

What was different was the style. There were no cheap shots at opponents, no shots at the media. There was very little bragging and self-aggrandizement, replaced by calls for unity. The speech was most reminiscent of his brief remarks after the election was called in the wee hours of Nov. 9. When he does this, he catches people off-guard — to his benefit. (If you had Trump saying the words “Black History Month” before “Make America Great Again,” please email me your Powerball picks.)

This is not to say everyone — on the left or the right — will have agreed with Trump. There was orthodoxy as well as heresy for conservatives in particular. But his delivery was far more “presidential,” as most people understand the term, than a lot of what we’ve seen from him. It was the kind of speech that can win him allies rather than enemies.

Some people seem to think the paeans to being “presidential” are a distraction, or even a ruse to get Trump to stop being Trump. I mean this sincerely, as someone who doesn’t even want Trump to get his way on every issue: The best way for Trump to fulfill his agenda would be to sound a bit more like a conventional politician. Not in substance, but in style.

The tweeting, the barbs toward the press, the rough-hewn rhetoric — all this puts the president and his administration in an adversarial position rather than one that can focus on building coalitions to accomplish his agenda.

Trump at his best, and Tuesday night was a pretty good example of that, wrong-foots enough people to keep them from uniting against him. Trump at his worst gives people an excuse to oppose him rather than grudgingly going along with him.

There is reason to believe Trump is finally settling into the job. The past week or so has been much calmer and more normal than the first few weeks of his presidency. The key for him will be maintaining that.

Again, don’t confuse calm and normalcy for agreement. News flash: President Obama pushed a lot of policies that a lot of people found extremely disagreeable. But he was able to keep moving forward because he pursued his sometimes-radical goals in a very conventional manner. Trump at this point need not worry about losing his most ardent supporters by changing his tone. He very much has to worry about not having enough support to accomplish his agenda if he doesn’t change his tone. Tuesday night’s speech was a step in the right direction.

One thing I don’t expect to change about Trump: He is always going to be the kind of executive who outlines aspirations in broad terms, leaves it to others to fill in the details, and then goes about the business of selling whatever they produce as exactly what he’d outlined at the beginning. There were precious few specifics in his speech, but there was much reiteration of what he wants in broad terms: Build the wall, rebuild our infrastructure, enforce our immigration laws, enforce law and order domestically, cut taxes, make trade more “fair,” destroy ISIS but otherwise take a step back from the world stage, put people back to work.

But his ability to sell those results will depend in large part on whether people are willing to keep listening to him. He’s shown he can go about his business in two very different ways. The way he chose with Tuesday night’s speech is the one that’s most likely to bring him success.

Reader Comments 0

166 comments
ssinf
ssinf

Boy, can't wait for Kyle's next column, given the complete crap show that took place over the weekend. Presidential.....forsooth!

unique domino
unique domino

Trump's speech was soggy, redundant, lacked specifics, and full of empty promises.  His executive orders are weaker than Milquetoast and Chris Wallace from Fox News even said he's done nothing to fulfill his promises for his 100 day plan and he has around 70 days left.  Where's the replacement plan for the ACA?  Where's the renegotiated China trade deal and I'm a great negotiator folks?  Where's Mexico's payment for the wall and it's going to be a great wall folks?  When is he going to tear up the Iran nuclear deal?  I can go on and on citing his promises and he's done nothing except big barking, tweeting, and blaming others...

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Am I the only one in the United States that realizes that it is well within the rights of President Trump to accept a hundred million dollar campaign donation from the Russians in exchange for over 50% of US controlled uranium mining, by established precedence, and there isn't a damn thing the democrats can say about it?


Why haven't we crushed these wormy little people?

Doom a classical liberal
Doom a classical liberal

@AndyManUSA#45


Could be they can't say anything because Hilz was taking money from various foreign govts to her foundation to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. 

Leftandright
Leftandright

So basically he didn't trip walking down the isle and read slowly from a teleprompter and he's presidential? How our standards have fallen.

zayuwi
zayuwi

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breckenridge
breckenridge

I think there was strategic significance in much of his speech because it challenges the establishment to support what's best for America.

If you think building a wall between Mexico and our southern border is a good idea, and using import tariffs to pay for it, you are an enemy of conservative fiscal policy.  Tariffs are a terrible idea that will cost every American money.

 

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@breckenridge  Breckenridge, you're no conservative in any way shape or form. Maybe you can peddle your misrepresentation elsewhere but no one here buys it.

WWYT?
WWYT?

Whatever.  He still continues to make things up, exaggerate,  and well, just lie. His rubes aren't even smart enough to fact check him.  Nor do they care.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

For the libs this will be four hard long years of butt pain and likely four more if Trump, can only get a few of his key agenda priorities implemented. It will be fun to watch history being made by the far-left passing into obscurity.

Doom a classical liberal
Doom a classical liberal

@SGTGrit @Doom a classical liberal @Doom a clasical liberal


He's pretty good at it. The difference is that he has one 's' in clasical. He followed me over from Bookman's site. 


Funny thing is that he emailed Jay several times pleading with Jay to let me(him) back on Jay's blog. Jay was bragging about it on his site until I caught wind of it from another blogger and had to email Jay and let him know it was my troll begging to be let back on his site and not me. 


Its a weird sort of obsession he has with me but nevertheless its still kinda funny. 

Doom a classical liberal
Doom a classical liberal

@SGTGrit @Doom a classical liberal @Doom a classcial liberal


I've already got a solution. I emailed Kyle a little while ago and also emailed the AJC. Plus I'm going to change my profile pic to a pic that he can't possibly copy. The troll can copy my anarcho capitalist flag but he can't copy a personal pic that only I have even if he copies my handle letter for letter. That'll solve it

Doom a classical liberal
Doom a classical liberal

"Has the sick psychopath racist bigot rapist narcissist liar bully Fascist hypocrite Hitler wannabe Trump who cheated to steal the election with the help of the Russians, the FBI, voter suppression"


No doubt about it. Trump derangement syndrome is alive and well- as is the tired old race card for the progs. Some things never change. 

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Doom a classical liberal " Some things never change. "

Let's see if  the biggest liar of the campaign and the first month in the office of the president  will change. The moral blindness of his supporters almost certainly will not change.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

So he gets a gold star sticker for making some people briefly forget what a 24 karat jerk he is? Ok, I can live with that.

Doom a classical liberal
Doom a classical liberal

@Visual_Cortex


Bugs the heck out of ya that he looked presidential I see. Its all good. He can be as much a jerk as he wants as long as he gets the economy moving and rolls back regulation. 



stogiefogey
stogiefogey

My favorite line in last evening's address to Congress - and there were a number of really good ones - was 'I am not the President of the world, I'm the President of the United States', a spot on dig at #44 who was so fond of apologizing for America.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

That’s why I got asked on some of these morning TV shows about the change or the change in tone. I said, “I didn’t see, really, any change at all. The president at the podium last night is the president I serve with every day,” and I’ll tell you, we just finished a meeting. He asked me to send you his regards, Rush. But we just finished a meeting with the congressional leadership, and we are rolling our sleeves up at the president’s direction and going to work on putting into practice the whole agenda that he laid out beginning with repealing and replacing Obamacare, cutting taxes, ending illegal immigration, rebuilding our military infrastructure. I think his speech to the nation and the Congress last night has created real momentum now for us to begin to move the Congress and to move the nation forward. - Vice President Pence


I nailed another one.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@AndyManUSA#45


Too much Rush for you. But I'll give Trump some credit for last night speech. But the hard work has just begun. Its time to roll up those sleeves because Congress will not unite on its own

independentiii
independentiii

People are so desperate for Trump to 'act' presidential, for a change, they seem to think one good speech will make up for 2 years of bad speeches, insulting tweets and lies.

We can all hope, but I won't be putting any money on it.  A 70 year old man will not change his basic behavior.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@independentiii


I have been making the same point as well. Can't teach an old dog new tricks. Trump will revert to Trump. End of story.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

@McGarnagle @independentiii  The Trump you believe he'll revert to is the Trump who got elected last November, so his fan base is probably OK with that.

I'll agree, however, I liked the more polished Trump we saw yesterday, hopefully that Trump will hang around awhile.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

The Democrats in that chamber last night are totally capable of that kind of rude, ill-mannered behavior. But there’s another aspect of this, and that is they were sitting on their hands, in addition to every other reason, because they think that’s what their voters demand that they do. And sitting on their hands, disrespecting Trump, not applauding, is how they continue to receive campaign donations.



Their base is rabidly insane. They can’t afford to have their base stop sending them money. So there were many reasons to explain the Democrats’ behavior. Ill-mannered rudeness, meanness, arrogance and so forth. But don’t discount the fact that they were also doing that because that’s what they think their voters expected them to do. Make no mistake about that. - El Rushbo


Great minds think alike.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@Resist Trump @AndyManUSA#45 That is an alternate fact, fidel. Yes, obozo's TV numbers were 54 million but 8 years later there are a lot more people live streaming it, numbers which cannot be tabulated.


Try being honest for once.

RufusATL
RufusATL

@AndyManUSA#45 And to further respect President Obama, some Repulsive's even yelled "Liar" during his speech.  Is that what you mean by respect, AndyBoy?

David
David

I'm still very skeptical of Trump, but he actually spoke Presidential last evening. While my advice to him will fall on deaf ears due to his oversized and massive ego, please knock off your unnecessary insults to our allies (we will need them one day), our "intel" and the FBI (we need them everyday), and yes our media (we need them everyday to keep this guy factual), and focus on working with all of Congress on his good ideas (he has some) and compromise when there are better options. This isn't a dictatorship Donald!

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 obama couldn't dodge the draft because Kenya didn't have one.


Once a birther nut always a birther nut

Shirley
Shirley

@Hedley_Lammar Sweetheart - the draft ended here, too. You forget, Obama was still young and vigor when he took office. He didn't have to creatively dodge military service like Trump, Clinton, Bush, and some the other "Old Dogs"