I’ll dissent from Rich’s tweet, with the caveat that his Corner post or column defending his position will probably end up being more persuasive. Anyway, Rich says it was a fine speech:
A fine speech that vastly exceeded the ridiculously low expectations created by the media
— Rich Lowry (@RichLowry) January 9, 2019
I don’t think it was. There were a few anecdotes. There were some perfectly fine or defensible points. But there was nothing new — and nothing that made news. There was nothing that will move actual votes in Congress. Several claims will get amplified and mocked, like the supposed concession to Democrats by switching from concrete to steel.
And, not that it matters at this point, but it wasn’t well-delivered, moving, or otherwise compelling as a matter of writing or rhetoric.
Meanwhile, politically and psychologically, it was a surrender. He wants to talk about super-scary terrorism, not humanitarian crises. He wants to make it a crisis that warrants him assuming military powers. This address got him no closer to that.
In fact, I think it made things worse for him in the long run. Because he will end up reverting to the narrative he prefers. Who doubts that he will end up changing the messaging in the next twelve, 24, or 48 hours from now? But how can he plausibly invoke a national-security crisis a week from now, if he didn’t make that case from the Oval Office? He shifted almost entirely from terrorism to drugs and crime. He’ll shift back.
Last, he failed to make the case for why right now is different. He has run the GOP-controlled government for two years. And yet he waited for this moment to do this. He offered no reason for why he needed to wait, for why this moment is worse than when he could have dealt with this “crisis,” or for why the government needs to be shut down to force a fix he could have dealt with sooner.