I agree with everyone that it was the best Trump speech yet. It’s been mystifying for a while why Trump wouldn’t just do a few simple things to sound a little more unifying and normal, and tonight he did them. He denounced bigotry, struck an optimistic tone, invoked the American story, associated himself with many sympathetic people in the balcony and ended by saying God created us equal. None of this is difficult to do or costs Trump anything. Indeed, Trump delivered his core message, in way that was domesticated to the presidency. A key question is whether if he gets out of his own way a little bit and let’s the haze of constant controversy lift, his polices will actually have some of the cross-partisan appeal you might except.
It was truly bizarre to see Republicans standing and cheering the passages on protectionism and infrastructure spending, but this is the change Trump has wrought in the party. We still don’t know where Trump will end up policy-wise on these matters–he seemed to tip-toe up to endorsing a border adjustment tax, but he didn’t go all the way, and he mentioned the $1 trillion number on infrastructure without explicitly saying it would all be more spending. He was also vague on the Obamacare replacement. I thought his endorsement of a tax credit might be significant, but I’m told it doesn’t really push the debate on Capitol Hill one way or the other.
A few other observations:
–The over-promising was remarkable even in a forum where every president over-promises.
–Besides Gorsuch, there was zero social conservatism in the speech.
–He kept circling back to immigration. I’m an immigration hawk, but the issue isn’t as quite as central as Trump and his speechwriters seem to believe.
–Politically, it’s extraordinary to have a Republican president talk of restoring American jobs and Democrats feel compelled to sit on their hands,
–If Trump isn’t a fiscal conservative, he does seem a pretty comprehensive de-regulator and the passage on FDA reform was terrific.
–Trump clearly helped himself tonight, but he’ll need to live up to the tone and deliver demonstrable progress toward some of the promises.