Even if you never liked the scowl, the dismissive shrug, the “believe me” add-ons, the ever-extended right hand with an OK sign or a “3” sign or whatever that emphasis-maker is, you must admit President Trump’s tone was pretty good.
Whether his Tuesday night address to Congress really represents the pivot from professional promoter to polished pol that many have anticipated ever since he announced for president in 2015 can’t yet be determined.
But clearly his speech was a reset of sorts. Almost, I must say, reasoned and reasonably well delivered.
“I’m here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength,” he said.
“My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make child care accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clean water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure.”
Wait. What? This is Donald Trump?
This is a huge contrast with his past big speeches. This sounded like common sense.
There was little self-aggrandizement such as when he announced his run: “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever made.”
There was no “I alone” can fix the country’s broken systems, such as we heard when he accepted his party’s nomination for president in summer 2016.
There was no mention of the “American carnage” referred to in his inaugural address.
Even his obsession with crowd size, polls, Hillary, and the press took a night off.
This instead was his vision thing, his rescue America plan, his bold agenda of tax reform, regulatory reform, defeating ISIS, creating jobs, repairing infrastructure, replacing Obamacare with “better health care,” building the “great, great wall” and renewing the American spirit.
Ah, the American spirit.
Barack Obama’s first address to Congress in February 2009 focused on recovery from recession. But it, too, encouraged all to “summon that enduring spirit of America that does not quit.”
Trump’s speech invoking the American spirit comes as the much of the country (especially the popular vote crowd) is focused on recovery from the biggest electoral upset since Truman beat Dewey and amid fears related to loss of health care and growth of hegemony.
It comes amid reported Trump-backed budget boosts for military and deep cuts for the State Department, especially aid to foreign nations – a clear message to get tough with the rest of the world and put America first.
And it was delivered directly to the core of the very Washington establishment Trump trashed the day he took office, rapping those who “reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.”
Tuesday night he seemed comfortable with that establishment and it -- at least the GOP side -- seemed comfortable with him.
Democrats mostly sat on their hands. Sort of like during the last election.
I suspect Trump’s performance moves his numbers, which, let’s be honest, is what Tuesday night was largely about.
Gallup daily tracking shows 54 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s job performance, up from 45 percent the day he took office.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last week showed 51 percent believe the country’s on the “wrong track." The same poll in `09, when President Obama first addressed Congress, put the “wrong track” number at 40 percent.
I’m betting that number also changes.
But the larger issue is whether an administration that started by pushing policies to punish – travel ban, deportations, repeal health care – can, as promised, push policies to help, to bring back jobs, to unify, to pivot in ways that embrace more than just the president’s base.
And for that to happen requires a level of effort well beyond one speech. Believe me.