When President Donald J. Trump walked into the Capitol on Tuesday evening to give his first speech to a joint session of Congress after his first month in office, the mood among the political establishment was apprehensive. Before the speech, the news cycle churned with stories about how the president was set to moderate his previous stances. The usual suspects on the Left were given far too much air time to wax on (and incorrectly) about how it was essential for Trump to make critical changes to his public image.
And then, the president stepped up to the dais and began speaking. As he spoke, it became apparent that Trump would be Trump after all.
The speech was pitch-perfect: it was in keeping with Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention; it comported with his inaugural address. It continued the themes of national rejuvenation through fundamental political change that made Trump’s bid for the presidency a winning proposition.
The speech was unnerving to analysts (at least those analysts not employed by CNN) because Trump finally “sounded presidential.” Of course, to most Trump supporters, Trump sounded as he always did. It’s just that, for the first time since he announced his candidacy in 2015, the media was actually listening to Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, Trump’s speech did three remarkable things to the opposition.
First, Trump’s presence eroded Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s notoriously implacable desire to get as many presidential signatures as possible. For the first time in my lifetime, the Texas Democrat did not hound the U.S. president for his autograph as he walked down the aisle to the podium. As a former Hill staffer, that in and of itself is a coup for President Trump.
Second, the speech sent the Democrats literally running for the exits.
Third, in the chaos that ensued, the Democrats chose former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to deliver their response to Trump’s address.
That’s right: Steve Beshear, a septuagenarian, white, southerner who represents a past that the Democrats should be trying to forget, gave the rebuttal to Trump’s inventive and original speech. The contrast could not have been more stark if it had been planned by the Trump team and the RNC leadership. The response to the State of the Union (which, let’s face it, that’s what the Trump speech essentially was) is usually given by a rising star within the opposition party. Looking at the Republican responses to President Barack Obama’s last few State of the Union addresses, one could see that the GOP was trying to elevate individuals they felt best represented their party to the voters. Marco Rubio, Joni Ernst, and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers were just a few of the Republicans who responded to Obama.
The Democrats’ response is telling. Between Tom Perez’s recent controversial election as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the selection of Beshear to answer President Trump, it is clear that the Democratic Party is in the wilderness. With Trump’s dynamic leadership of the country, it will be some time before the DNC will be coming in from the cold.
The speech had everything that a Trump supporter loves—especially policy (you read that right, Never Trumpers). It also had heart, as evidenced by the moving tribute to Ryan Owens, the Navy SEAL who died in Yemen during Trump’s first week as president. Trump was consistent in his calls to combat crime, to defeat the Islamic State, and to rebuild our failing infrastructure. These were the same themes he spoke of with regularity on campaign trail.
Further, he touted his successes (of which, there were many). All that the Democrats could do was to remain seated (to be fair, most of them are approaching their 70s), borrow the costumes from the most recent “Star Trek” television series and wear them in a sign of solidarity (or unoriginality, however you want to view it), and boo when President Trump announced that he had placed a five-year ban on lobbying for people in the executive branch.
Man, the Democrats sure are the Party of the People, aren’t they? By the way, Trump said this while also consistently championing workers’ rights (no wonder the AFL-CIO has been so kind)!
Even still, once the speeches were over, the media coverage was surreal. While most of the coverage lauded the president’s “tone,” it was clear that those touted as the smartest people in the room still don’t get it. People like Chris Wallace of Fox News said that, with this speech, Trump had finally become the President. Most of the media coverage seemed to agree. I couldn’t help but wonder if they really believed that or if the pundit class knew they just needed to change the narrative away from being the constant target of President Trump’s ire.
Make no mistake, friends: Donald Trump was himself during the speech. Don’t let the talking heads fool you into thinking that he has changed. Trump was confident, bold, informed, and unapologetic. The speech he gave was no different than his previous famous speeches from the convention and the inauguration. The only thing that’s changed is the media’s perception.
The media has finally come to grips with the fact that Trump cannot be stopped, the Democrats really are a spent force, and for the first time in a very long time, the monopoly of the media is being effectively challenged. Tuesday night proved that Trump meant every word he said on the campaign trail. It also proved that he was right and everyone who opposed him on the Left and the Right were mostly wrong.