You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Trump tries something new: Sounding ‘presidential’


Tuesday night proved once again the biggest impediment to Trumpism is none other than Donald Trump.

The proof was in the negative: The president’s first address to a joint session of Congress was most striking for its departure from so much of his usual rhetoric, and consequently how well it was received. The substance was pretty much the same as what we’ve become accustomed to hearing from Trump: Build the wall, rebuild our infrastructure, enforce our immigration laws, promote law and order domestically, cut taxes, make trade more “fair,” destroy ISIS but otherwise take a step back from the world stage, put people back to work.

What was different was the style. There were no cheap shots at opponents, no shots at the media. There was very little bragging, replaced by calls for unity. The speech was most reminiscent of his brief remarks shortly after the election was called. When he does this, he catches people off-guard — to his benefit. (If you had Trump saying the words “Black History Month” before “Make America Great Again,” please email me your Powerball picks.)

This is not to say everyone — on the left or the right — will have agreed with Trump. There was orthodoxy as well as heresy for conservatives in particular. But his delivery was far more “presidential,” as most people understand the term, than a lot of what we’ve seen from him. It was the kind of speech that can win him allies rather than enemies.

Some people seem to think the paeans to being “presidential” are a distraction, or even a ruse to get Trump to stop being Trump. I don’t even want Trump to get his way on every issue, but I have to think the best way for Trump to fulfill his agenda would be to sound, stylistically, a bit more like a conventional politician.

Trump at his best, and Tuesday night was a pretty good example of that, puts people off-balance just enough to keep them from uniting against him. Trump at his worst gives people an excuse to oppose him.

There is reason to believe Trump is finally settling into the job. The past week or so has been much calmer and more normal than the first few weeks of his presidency. The key for him will be maintaining that.

Don’t confuse calm and normalcy for agreement. President Obama pushed a lot of policies that a lot of people found extremely disagreeable, but he found some success because he pursued them in a mostly conventional manner. Trump at this point need not worry about losing his most ardent supporters by changing his tone. But he very much has to worry about not having enough support to accomplish his agenda if he doesn’t.

One way Trump probably won’t change: He will always be the kind of executive who outlines aspirations in broad terms, leaves it to others to fill in the details, and then tries to sell whatever they produce. While there were precious few specifics in his speech, there was much reiteration of what he wants in broad terms.

His ability to sell his administration’s results will depend in large part on whether people are willing to keep listening to him. He’s shown he can go about his business in two very different ways. The way he chose with Tuesday night’s speech is more likely to bring him success.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Can we see past our own cultural blind spots?

Michigan is set to become the 26th state to join the federal government in criminalizing female genital mutilation, even as two Detroit area doctors and one of their wives await trial for inflicting the procedure on a number of young girls. FGM, which is common in some parts of Africa and the Middle East, involves using a razor to remove all or part...
Opinion: You can’t take the low road to the high place

The other day, a Muslim saved a terrorist. It happened just after midnight Monday in London. The terrorist, according to authorities, was Darren Osborne, 47, from Cardiff, Wales, who drove a rented van 150 miles to the British capital, where he jumped a sidewalk and plowed into a crowd of worshipers outside a mosque as people were attending to a man...
Opinion: Let us plunge toward our fast-unfolding future

WASHINGTON — In 1859, when Manhattan still had many farms, near the Battery on the island’s southern tip The Great American Tea Company was launched. It grew, and outgrew its name, becoming in 1870 The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, which in 1912 begat the first A&P Economy Store, a semi-modern grocery store. By 1920, there were...
Opinion: … because fathers deserve more than just one day

I know Father’s Day was last weekend and all, but this weekend I’m making an overdue visit to the parental units, so this is where my thoughts still are. Dad sang a lot of songs to us as we were growing up, accompanied by his trusty ukulele. His repertoire was mostly traditional folk songs like “The Ballad of the Boll Weevil&rdquo...
Opinion: Health care plan would dig big Ga. budget hole
Opinion: Health care plan would dig big Ga. budget hole

Since its inception in the late 1960s, Medicaid has been a lifeline for the nearly 2 million Georgians who depend on it for vital health services. The modest medical coverage provided by Medicaid goes to the most vulnerable in our society. In fact, 92 percent of Medicaid goes to children, seniors or the disabled. Medicaid is administered by the state...
More Stories