Low expectations are a hell of a drug.
I don't mean this as criticism of Trump. It was by far the best speech of his presidency and, probably, his political career. Not only was it disciplined -- a quality in rare supply in the president's public speaking -- but it was hopeful, inclusive and, as far as political speeches go, unselfish. Had he adopted this tone the day he was sworn in, he would have avoided quite a few problems.
The response to the speech was far more significant than the speech itself, and it tells you a lot about politics and ideology in the age of Trump.
The left's reaction was predictable: dismiss the positive and demagogue the rest. The same people who praised
The response from the right is more intriguing.
The vast majority of conservatives and
It's a bit like when a loved one has a drinking problem or some other pathology. When they get their act together, even for a day or two, parents and siblings take heart and say, "This is the first day of the rest of his life." Or, "Now things are going to be different."
It's an understandable response.
But both the head-in-the-sand denial of the left and the "we're cooking with gas now!" cheerleading from the right encourage people to ignore the substance.
In short, this was not a particularly conservative speech. To be sure, there was much for conservatives -- including yours truly -- to applaud. But outside of the protectionism and a few points about immigration, the substance could have been delivered by any moderate Republican or moderate Democrat (if one could be found).
Yes, Trump talked about cutting taxes and paring back regulation. If you go back and read State of the Union addresses by
This, too, is not fundamentally a criticism of the president. Candidate Trump promised not to touch existing entitlements and to create a new one for child care. He promised protectionism. He vowed to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. He rarely pushed social conservatism on the campaign trail, and he didn't talk about it at all on Tuesday night. Fair enough.
Again, what is remarkable is not what he said, but what people heard. Consider the Tea Party Express, the biggest of the tea party PACs.
"Since 2012, Tea Party Express has hosted the official
Maybe I'm crazy, but I'd bet that if President Obama (or a President